India faces backlash from trade partners over new import rules for laptops and computers

wto meeting

New Delhi: India’s decision to impose import restrictions on laptops, tablets, and other personal computer (PC) products has drawn criticism from several of its trade partners, including the US, China, Korea and Chinese Taipei. They raised their concerns in the meeting of the Market Access Committee of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on October 16. The meeting was chaired by Renata Crisaldo of Paraguay in Geneva.

The trade partners argued that India’s new import rules would affect the trade in these products, including their exports to India, a Geneva-based official said. They said the decision would create uncertainty and difficulties for exporters and the ‘downstream’ sector, which includes users and service providers.

India’s new import rules require importers to obtain a license and permission from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) for importing laptops, tablets, and other PC products from November 1. The government has taken this step with the aim of promoting domestic manufacturing and addressing the security flaws in the hardware of foreign devices. The government also wants to keep a close eye on the origin and quality of the imported products.

However, the trade partners claimed that India’s measures were not in accordance with WTO rules, which prohibit unnecessary trade barriers and discrimination among WTO members. They said India’s measures could violate the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), which eliminates tariffs on a wide range of IT products. India is a signatory to the ITA since 1997.

India imports these products worth about US$7-8 billion every year, according to official data. The country imported personal computers, including laptops, worth US$5.33 billion in 2022-23, compared to US$7.37 billion in 2021-22. The US, China, Korea, and Chinese Taipei are among the major exporters of these products to India.

wto meeting

Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal defended India’s decision last week, saying that India would not impose licensing requirements on imports, but would only monitor incoming goods. He said India had notified its measures to the WTO and was ready to engage with its trade partners on this issue. He also said that India’s measures were aimed at enhancing its digital security and boosting its domestic industry.