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US questions India’s import licensing requirement for IT products

The US has sought details from India on its “importing licensing requirement” for laptops, tablets, and computers, which is to kick in on November 1, and also wants it to clarify what objective it seeks to achieve through the measure.

In a representation to the WTO committee on import licensing on October 18, Washington also asked if India wanted to expand the use of the import licensing beyond the listed products and whether it put out a public notice and provided a comment period before making the announcement.

“On September 26, 2023, Indian officials announced that on November 1, 2023, importers will only be required to register on an `import management system’ in order to import regulated products. However, no change was made to the original notification (of August 3),” the US pointed out.

Several companies, including US-based Apple, Dell, and HP, were rattled when, on August 3, 2023, India published a notification defining imports of laptops, all-in-one personal computers, ultra-small form factor computers, and servers as “restricted” and providing that their import would require a valid license for restricted imports. The next day, another notification was issued delaying implementation until November 1, 2023, to give the industry more time to adjust.

Authorisation system
Following hectic negotiations with the industry, the government, on October 19, announced the operationalisation of a liberal online authorisation system to automatically issue import authorisations once importers entered the value, volume, and country of sourcing for the proposed imports. These authorisations, with no restrictions on quantities or sourcing, are to be valid until September 30, 2024, and the data collected during this monitoring phase would lead to future decision-making, officials said. The August 3 notification, however, was not withdrawn.

The US, in its representation, asked India to specify the data to be collected and how it would be used. “Will the information impact the process for granting licenses? Is India considering the use of quantitative restrictions based on the information supplied?” it stated.

India announced the import restrictions largely to check security risks that may arise from high imports from countries such as China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, per some officials. A slowdown in imports of IT products, which were at about $8.7 billion in 2022–23, could also uplift the production-linked incentive scheme for boosting domestic production. The Hindu BusinessLine

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