The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has set up two more dispute settlement panels, this time at the request of Japan and Taiwan, targeting import duties imposed by India on a number of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products including mobile phones.

The two new dispute settlement panels against India takes up the number of panels constituted to examine the same tariff-related issue to three as the EU had a panel established at the WTO last month.

“The Dispute Settlement Body of the WTO, in its meeting on Wednesday, agreed to the second requests made by Japan and Taiwan for setting up individual dispute panels against India’s tariffs,” a Geneva-based official told BusinessLine .

The EU had suggested in the last meeting of the DSB that India should agree to one consolidated panel combining its complaint with that of Japan and Taiwan to save time and resources, especially at the time of Covid-19, but India had not accepted it.

India’s argument

Japan submitted its first request for a panel in June 2020 but India had managed to bloc it on the grounds that the complaint seriously undermined India’s sovereignty.

The goods covered by Japan in its complaint include telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; base stations; machines for the reception, conversion and transmission or regeneration of voice, images or other data, including switching and routing apparatus; and parts of telephone sets and other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data.

“Japan has echoed the EU’s argument against the tariffs and has said that these products fall within the scope of the relevant tariff lines for which India has set the bound rate of zero per cent and that India is applying duties in excess of the bound rate,” the official said.

Taiwan, too, said that India is applying tariffs on ITC goods falling under five tariff lines in excess of the zero per cent bound rate set out in its WTO schedule of commitments and that for some products, the applied tariff rate was as high as 20 per cent.

Both Japan and Taiwan said that consultations with India held in May 2019 failed to resolve the dispute, prompting them to submit their requests for panels.

India argued that all three complainants were seeking to get the country to take on commitments under ITA-II which it never agreed to and take advantage of an error made by it when transposing its tariff lines to the updated HS.

Taiwan joined the EU and Japan in their request for single panel to rule on the three claims, which are based on the same legal arguments.