The US wants further clarification from India on its reasons to implement the import authorisation mechanism for laptops, computers and tablets, and how the system will play out in the future, sources have said. The issue is likely to be pursued by US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai in New Delhi during her visit from January 12 to 14.

“Washington is not satisfied with the explanation offered by India so far on reasons behind putting in place the import management system for certain identified IT hardware items. As the import authorisations issued are valid only till September 30 2024, there is also uncertainty on what happens after that. The matter is likely to be taken up by the USTR in her meeting with Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal later this week,” a source tracking the matter told businessline.

On January 12, she will hold a bilateral meeting with Goyal, following which the two will co-chair the 14th India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting. Tai will also meet industry representatives during her visit. 

India’s shift to a new `import management system’ for monitoring shipments of electronics such as laptops, tablets and PCs since October 1, 2023 -- under which importers have to apply to the the Directorate General of Foreign Trade for automatic import authorisations -- is likely to feature prominently on Tai’s agenda.

As many US-based companies, including Dell, HP and Apple, have a considerable presence in India, the US government has been in touch with the Indian government since August 2023, when the initial notification on imposing import restrictions on IT hardware products was issued

“The import authorisations for the identified items are issued by the the Directorate General of Foreign Trade in India are automatic and fast and there are no curbs on the quantity of imports. But the US wants more clarifications on the system and what lies beyond September 30 2024 to address industry apprehensions about the curbs becoming more stringent,” the source said.

India already explained to the US at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that the import management system was aimed at ensuring supply chain resilience and addressing national security concerns. It also assured that there are no plans as of date to expand the list of items.

While putting in place the import management system, the government had indicated that it would address India’s security concerns, especially those related to imports from China. A substantial part of the $7-8 billion of laptops, tablets, and computers imported annually are sourced from China.