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India appeals against WTO panel report on tech tariffs

The EU complaint to WTO challenged the introduction of import duties on products such as mobile phones and components, base stations, integrated circuits, and optical instruments

India appeals against WTO panel report on tech tariffs
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

India appealed against a report of the dispute settlement body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which stated that the country’s import duties on certain information and technology products violate global trading norms.

In its appeal circulated to WTO members on 14 December, India said it had sought a review by the appellate body “to reverse, modify, or declare moot and of no legal effect, the findings, conclusions, rulings and recommendations of the panel”. 

In May, New Delhi had filed an appeal in a similar dispute case initiated by Japan regarding the tariff treatment that India accords to certain goods in the information and communications technology sector. 

The case brought by the European Union challenged the introduction of import duties on a wide range of ICT products such as mobile phones and components, base stations, integrated circuits, and optical instruments. In its 2 April 2019 complaint filed in the WTO, the EU claimed that New Delhi’s imposition of tariffs violated certain provisions of the WTO. 

According to an Economic Times report, India increased its import duty on some ICT products from 7.5% to 15% in 2017, which was later raised to 20%.

The dispute panel of the WTO on 17 April agreed with the EU. 

Besides the EU, Japan and Taiwan had claimed that India was applying duties on imports of certain ICT products in excess of the zero-bound duty rate set out in India’s WTO schedule.

In its appeal against the report of the dispute settlement panel, India said, “The products which, as the EU alleges, should be given tariff-free treatment were never covered under the ITA and hence were not negotiated. Even if the products were covered under the ITA, the ITA was a sui generis agreement with broad and generalized coverage, as opposed to a request-offer negotiation.” 

The appeal has been filed by India in the WTO’s appellate body, the final authority on such trade disputes. 

“Further, the concessions under the ITA were available to all WTO Members, and not only to the ITA participants. Accordingly, ITA does not follow the multilateral principles of reciprocity and mutually advantageous arrangements, and India has not received any reciprocal benefits in exchange for the alleged concessions,” India said. 

New Delhi’s appeal against the ruling can take up to a year if the appellate body starts hearing the case now. It may, however, take longer as the body is currently not functioning due to disagreements over appointment of its members. 

“Given the ongoing lack of agreement among WTO members regarding the filling of appellate body vacancies, there is no appellate body division available at the current time to deal with the appeals,” the Geneva-headquartered global trade body said in a statement.


Ahamad Fuwad is the head of the bureau at Press Insider. Fuwad has commissioned, penned, and edited stories across digital and print publications over a journalism career spanning nine years. An accomplished multimedia journalist, he has had stints at DNA, The Free Press Journal, and The Quint. More

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