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Laptop and PC import curbs for national security : India to WTO

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NEW DELHI : India has told the World Trade Organization (WTO) that its decision to restrict the imports of personal computers, laptops and other IT hardware products aims to prevent deceptive practices, collect trade statistics or market surveillance, protect human, animal and plant life and safeguard national security.

In October, India launched a new system of authorisation for import of these electronic goods to monitor their shipments, after the government’s sudden decision to put in place a licensing scheme was opposed by industry. The US, China, South Korea and Taiwan had raised concerns on the issue at the WTO. “Monitoring is important as a handful of countries such as China, Singapore and Hong Kong account for more than 80% of the imports,” said an official.

India told the multilateral watchdog that the administrative purpose of the measure is to “protect public morals, quota administration, regulate imports of arms, ammunition or fissionable materials and safeguard national security”. Protection of patents, trademarks and copyrights, and the prevention of deceptive practices was the other purpose of this measure.

New Delhi’s notification to the WTO assumes significance as the US said the measure prompts its firms to think twice about doing business in India and it would impact its exports while China and Taiwan sought the purpose of this policy. Beijing had asked India to clarify its changing measures and the purpose of this policy and South Korea said that the measure seems inconsistent with WTO rules and could create unnecessary trade barriers.

India imported IT products worth $8.7 billion in FY23 against $10.3 billion in FY22 and $7.1 billion in FY21. As per the new system implemented on November 1, importers are allowed to bring in shipments of IT hardware from overseas on a mere ‘authorisation’ upon detailing quantity and value.

The government has cleared about 110 applications as part of the new import management system. Dell International Services India, Apple India, HP India Sales Pvt Ltd, Lenovo (India), ASUS India, IBM India, Samsung India Electronics, Xiaomi Technology India, Cisco Commerce India, Siemens Ltd and Bosch Ltd are some of the countries that have received the authorisation.

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