WTO: US, China ask India to roll back telecom tariffs

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on June 09, 2020

But New Delhi stays firm on its stand that the items are not covered under the IT Agreement

The US, China, Japan and four others at the World Trade Organization have once more asked India to roll back its Customs tariffs on telecom and other products such as mobile phones and cameras, which they allege are inconsistent with its multilateral commitments.

“New Delhi defended its duties at the meeting of the Council for Trade in Goods at the WTO on Monday and reiterated that the items were not covered under the IT Agreement and hence no rules were flouted,” according to a Geneva-based trade official.

While discussing the issue of India's Customs duties on telecommunications and other products, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and the US pointed out that the matter had been repeatedly taken up at various councils including the Council for Trade in Goods and the ICT Committee in the past many years.

They said that the application of tariffs, which was as high as 20 per cent for some items, above India’s bound rates (tariff ceilings committed to at the WTO), was inconsistent with India’s WTO commitments. “The countries called on India to provide duty-free access for the ICT and telecommunications equipment products for which India has a WTO commitment to do so,” the official said.

India argued that items such as telephone sets, including telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks, transmission apparatus for radio-broadcasting or television, television cameras, digital cameras and video camera recorders and microphones, loudspeakers, headphones and earphones, among others were not covered under WTO's Information Technology Agreement (ITA) as these did not exist in 1996 and the tariff lines were not included in the pact.

The EU, Japan and Chinese Taipei had earlier lodged a dispute against India at the WTO on the issue and requested the formation of a panel. The WTO’s dispute settlement process, however, is in a state of disarray with the Appellate Body rendered non-functional. With the US putting a stop to the appointment of judges at the Appellate Body, the top decision-making body of the WTO has not been functioning since December 2019.

Published on June 09, 2020

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