At WTO meet, Delhi objects to EU & Taiwan rush to corner India on import tariff hikes

India this week raised objections at a World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting against the European Union and Chinese Taipei “rushing” to the intergovernmental body against import tariff revisions effected in 2019, ThePrint has learnt.

According to a trade official based in Geneva, the Swiss city where the WTO is headquartered, India said the “parties in a dispute should work together”.

Last year, the EU and Chinese Taipei dragged India to the WTO when the Modi government imposed increased import tariffs — ranging from 7.5 per cent to 20 per cent — on a number of information and communications technology (ICT) products such as mobile phones and components, integrated circuits, headsets and cameras.

According to the complainants, India has applied duties on seven ICT products in excess of the 0 per cent binding rates laid out under WTO norms.

Under WTO dispute settlement norms, the first step is to seek consultations between the parties. If that fails, then the complainant can request for a dispute panel to be set up. India, the official said, had taken exception to the EU and Chinese Taipei’s “rush” to appoint the panel.

“India made a statement criticising complainants for rushing forward to ensure the appointment of panellists in their two disputes with India over its tariffs on certain high-tech products,” the official added.

“India is of the view that parties in a dispute should work together at every stage of a dispute and that agreement of the parties to the selection of a slate of panellists is an entrenched principle aimed at securing the legitimacy of panels,” the official said.

India believes the “undue hurry” to ensure the appointment of panellists seems to be linked to the fact that the current WTO director-general will leave his post on 31 August.

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At the meeting between the disputing parties in Geneva, India also said the WTO secretariat should have proposed nominations for the panel to the parties for their consideration, but failed to do so, describing this as “unacceptable”, the official said.

Meanwhile, in June, Japan also joined the EU and Taiwan — India recognises Taiwan as Chinese Taipei in acknowledgment of Beijing’s ‘One China’ policy — in the dispute against India.

Like Taiwan, it has also sought a separate WTO dispute panel for the case.

Weighing in on the matter, a second Indian government official said New Delhi does not want the case to turn into a full-fledged dispute and is keen on settling the matter through consultations.

Both India and the EU held consultations in May 2019 but failed to settle the matter.

According to sources, the matter was discussed at the last India-EU Summit that was held this July, when both sides decided to launch a high-level trade and investment dialogue.

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