Thursday, 14 February 2013

U. S. drags India to WTO over bias in solar policy- fundamental principle of non- discrimination at the core of the whole trading system

The United States, on Wednesday, filed a challenge with the World Trade Organization ( WTO) over elements of India’s national solar programme, which, it said, discriminates against foreign solar products in violation of a core global trade rule.

The case comes as a number of governments, including the United States, are supporting development of clean energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to cut greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for global climate change.
“Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports the rapid deployment of solar energy around the world, including with India,’’ U. S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement announcing the request for consultations with India, which is the first step in bringing a WTO dispute.
Shared objective
“Unfortunately, India’s discriminatory policies in its national solar programme detract from that successful cooperation, raise the cost of clean energy, and undermine progress toward our shared objective,’’ Mr. Kirk said.
The U. S. action targets India’s national solar programme, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. That programme, launched in 2010, appears to discriminate against U. S. solar equipment by requiring solar energy producers to use Indian- manufactured solar cells and modules and by offering subsidies to those developers for using domestic equipment instead of imports, the U. S. trade office said.
“What we’re talking about here is the most fundamental principle of non- discrimination at the core of the whole trading system,’’ a U. S. trade official told Reuters.
That principle requires countries to treat foreign goods and services the same way they treat domestic goods and services, the U. S. official said. U. S. law- makers praised the action, which, they said, addressed a trend seen in China, Argentina and other countries.
“India isn’t playing by the rules, and the USTR is right to go to the WTO to hold it accountable for its local content requirements,’’ House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said. India has argued its solar policy measures are legal under the WTO government procurement rules that permit countries to exempt projects from non- discrimination obligations. — Reuters

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