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India needs to focus on boosting its agricultural exports, says Bill Gates

Updated : August 09, 2018 06:35 AM IST

India needs to ramp-up its trade with other countries to capitalise on its strong agricultural market and support farmers, said Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft on Tuesday.

"So agriculture has been an area where a number of countries including India have to think how willing are they to be a part of that global trading system," Gates told CNBC-TV18 in an interview.

India is known for high levies on agricultural imports as a means to safeguard the livelihood of its massive farmer population. Recent droughts and falling commodity prices have also triggered a hike in Indian import duties. In February, the government doubled levies on sugar to 100 percent, while chickpeas saw an increase to 40 percent.

Gates, a huge supporter of global trade, said countries need to share the benefits of their local produce with other deprived nations.

"There is huge benefits to trade, if one country is growing too much of a crop, the fact that you can send it, say to Africa, where it is needed otherwise when you get a bumper crop then you get a price collapse because you don’t have that global demand," said Gates, who is also the co-chairman of Gates Foundation.

Talking about the ongoing trade war concerns, Gates said the retaliatory tariffs imposed by the countries would lead to too many levies, resulting in sluggish global economic growth.

"... the rhetoric that okay, we will use trade tariffs for somebody to do something, that can escalate and so we could end up with a lot of tariffs and all the plans people had made about assuming that global supply chains would work and that they are able to do exports and imports, that alone will be quite a burden on economic growth," Gates said.

India officially entered the ongoing global trade war in June when it announced retaliatory tariffs against Washington's steel and aluminum import duties.

The government's proposed tariff hikes on 29 US products — including almonds, apples, walnuts and certain stainless steel products — are worth $241 million and were meant to go into effect on August 4 but they are likely to get postponed until next month amid ongoing negotiations with US officials.

"For job creation and in all of these things, you always have to say okay, the poorest countries are the ones who are barely getting by so it is always interesting to think how do we avoid them suffering. Even Indian farmers want their crops to be exportable," said Gates.
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