US Raises Concerns Over India’s ICT Import Restrictions

On Friday, the United States reiterated its ongoing scrutiny of India’s policies regarding the restriction of imports of specific information and communications technology (ICT) products, encompassing laptops, tablets, and servers. The US Trade Representative (USTR) underscored this stance in its National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers for the year 2024. The report highlighted concerns regarding the increasing number of content takedown requests directed at US firms since 2021, often suspected to be politically motivated.

The complexity of India’s customs system, coupled with discretionary administrative practices, was flagged as a significant issue in the report. Ambiguities surrounding definitions related to brand ownership, date markings, non-retail containers, and multi-unit packaging for alcoholic beverages were also noted.

Regarding ICT imports, US exporters expressed unease over the absence of prior stakeholder consultations. Last August, India implemented restrictions on certain ICT imports, mandating a valid import license for each product.

According to American stakeholders, obtaining import licenses for remanufactured goods is burdensome. The application process is described as excessively detailed, with quantity limitations on specific parts and significant delays between application submission and license approval.

For chemical products subject to quality control orders (QCOs), the USTR urged India to issue clear guidelines to customs authorities, ensuring smooth QCO exemptions and implementation to prevent unnecessary import delays.

India’s decentralized government procurement practices drew attention as lacking a unified policy framework, resulting in variations among different ministries within the central government.

The US also pointed out barriers to digital trade, notably data storage requirements hindering service providers’ ability to combat fraud and ensure global network security. Transparency issues persist concerning new and proposed laws and regulations, compounded by inconsistent notification practices to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and non-uniform notice and comment procedures.

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