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India to address WTO concerns over laptop import curbs

India will be addressing concerns raised by some countries at the World Trade Organisation regarding laptop import curbs, according to a senior government official with knowledge of the matter.

The official reiterated, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that the government’s proposed mechanism is an import monitoring system that has not yet gone into effect.

The question of a trade dispute does not arise because the system is still not in place, the official said.

During a trade briefing last week, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade said that an “import management system” would come into place on Nov. 1 to issue the required licences for laptop imports.

India had notified import restrictions on laptops, tablets, all-in-one personal computers, ultra-small form factor computers, and servers earlier this year on Aug. 3 with immediate effect, requiring importers of these products to apply for licences from the government for future consignments.

However, the move was delayed in its implementation by three months, giving companies time to apply for a licence.

Concerns Raised at the WTO
The United States, China, South Korea and Chinese Taipei have reportedly raised concerns about India’s decision to impose import restrictions on laptops and computers at a meeting of the WTO’s Committee on Market Access on Monday, according to a PTI report.

The U.S. had said that the decision is creating uncertainty for exporters and downstream users and would impact the trade of these products, including U.S. exports to India, upon implementation, PTI reported, quoting sources.

Meanwhile, South Korea highlighted that the proposed measures by India seem inconsistent with WTO rules and could consequently create unnecessary trade barriers, the report said.

It further asked India to reconsider the implementation and provide detailed clarifications and information on this issue, including the timeline of implementation.

While there could be concerns about a trade barrier against China in particular, this must be read in the context of the reason given by the Indian government, which states that the system is only a monitoring mechanism, said Saon Ray, professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.

“India has imposed a monitoring system against security concerns, making this a limited domestic concern. This is not a barrier based on standards but on grounds of domestic security,” Ray said.

In FY23, India’s imports of personal computers were $5.3 billion, representing 0.7% of total imports. Bloomberg

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