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Spotlight | Multiple requests for clarification! India's trade barriers challenged at WTO

The Indian Express reported on May 24 that the World Trade Organization (WTO) Import Licensing Committee met on May 21st. The statement issued by the committee shows that Japan and China have formally raised concerns over the import licensing measures for notebook computers announced by India on August 3 last year but soon withdrawn.

India's measures challenged by many at WTO

India's measures may already be affecting laptops and tablets made by U.S. companies in China, as nearly 90 percent of India's imports of tablets and personal computers will come from China. But other countries targeting India's fast-growing tablet market are increasingly questioning any move by India to similarly restrict imports.

The WTO Licensing Committee recently met to discuss improving the transparency of members' import licensing systems, encouraging members to make use of the WTO's Import License Notification Portal, which was launched on October 31 last year.

During the meeting, the Licensing Committee discussed three trade issues related to India. China and Japan raised concerns about India's measures on personal computers, tablets and other electronics; while Indonesia questioned India's import surveillance on viscose staple fiber; and Chinese Taipei and Thailand raised the issue of discussing India's import surveillance on pneumatic tires.

Earlier, the US had challenged India's approach at the WTO, to which India responded by saying that the current regime was put in place to “regulate and monitor imports (of specified information technology hardware products)” to ensure supply chain resilience and address national security concerns.

In December last year, New Delhi also responded to this question by stating that the issuance of licenses was “inherently automatic” and that India did not intend to extend the application of the import management system beyond the latest list of products.

India made a surprise announcement on August 3 last year that it would immediately implement import licensing requirements for imported laptops, tablets and personal computers. However, it soon said it was abandoning plans to require import licenses for products such as personal computers, and postponing until November 1, 2023 the implementation of import licensing requirements for other categories of electronic equipment.

At the WTO (World Trade Organization) Committee on Market Access on October 16, 2023, the parties had discussed the issue of India's import restrictions on computers, tablets and other electronic products.

During the meeting, the Chinese side raised specific trade concerns on the matter. The Chinese side sought clarification from India on the fast-changing measure that it might implement an import registration management system instead of a licensing requirement and the purpose of such a policy.

The United States also expressed concern about this issue because, if implemented, it would have a significant impact on trade in these products, including U.S. exports to India.

At the WTO meeting, the U.S. also expressed concern about the way these restrictions were crafted and argued that this creates uncertainty for exporters and downstream users because no detailed information is provided on how these requirements will operate.

At the same time, the U.S. welcomed the news of the delay in implementation, but asked India to resubmit the requirements given their potential impact on trade and WTO requirements. The U.S. side added that the sudden announcement of the import licensing requirements without notice or public comment will make U.S. companies think twice about doing business in India.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) said in a statement in August last year that the USTR is concerned about this import restriction in India and wants to engage in dialogue to ensure that the new regulations do not adversely affect U.S. exports to India.

South Korea, for its part, has emphasized that the measures proposed by India do not appear to be in line with WTO rules and therefore may create unnecessary trade barriers. South Korea noted that while implementation has been delayed, once implemented, it will pose significant challenges. Therefore, Korea requested India to reconsider the measures and provide detailed clarifications and information, including a timetable.

Declaration: This article comes from the Ningbo stationery industry Association.If copyright issues are involved, please contact us to delete.

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