The World Trade Organisation has set up two new dispute panels against India on July 29, accepting requests made by Taiwan and Japan. The separate panels come after India refused a request from the WTO to combine all grievances to be addressed by a single panel.
This the third such panel after the organisation accepted request from the European Union on the same issue. All three allege that tariffs imposed by India on imported information and communications technology (ICT) products, infringe on WTO norms.
"Yes, the WTO dispute settlement body has agreed to set up the panels as requested by Chinese Taipei, and Japan in a meeting. This was the second request of these countries," an official source told PTI.
Japan and Taiwan posted separate second requests after India blocked their first attempt at the WTO. As per norms, a second request cannot be ignored or dodged.
Notably, the issue may take a year to a year-and-a-half to resolve even after the panels are formed; and the COVID-19 pandemic may further slow the process. If the panel rules against India, the country can appeal in the WTO’s appellate body. This body has not functioned since December 2019.
The countries first approached the WTO in May 2019 against import duties imposed by India on electronic goods such as telephones for cellular networks; machines for reception, conversion and transmission or regeneration of voice, images or other data; and parts of telephone sets.
They alleged that duties on these products infringe on WTO norms under which India has committed to zero percent bound tariffs.
On its part, India has denied the allegations, and pointed out that the ICT products in question are part of the WTO’s Information Technology Products (ITA-2) agreement, while New Delhi is only part of the ITA-1 pact signed in 1997.
India reiterated that it is “committed to ITA-1 and abiding by it over the years”, but would not commit to “any obligations beyond the scope of India's ITA-1”, maintaining that “products arising out of technological progression could not be covered under ITA-1, minutes of the meeting held in March showed.
The matter was taken to the WTO after India, Japan and Taiwan failed to clear disputes during bilateral consultations, as WTO norms warrant.(With inputs from PTI)