India's national solar plan a WTO issue

NEW DELHI, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- The United States has requested the World Trade Organization to resolve a dispute with India over the domestic content requirement in India's solar program.

"These domestic content requirements discriminate against U.S. exports by requiring solar power developers to use Indian-manufactured equipment instead of U.S. equipment," U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said of the WTO complaint filed Monday, Press Trust of India reports.


"These unfair requirements are against WTO rules, and we are standing up today for the rights of American workers and businesses," he said.

Under India's Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, which began in 2010, the south Asian nation aims to increase its solar power capacity to 20,000 megawatts by 2022. About 2,000 megawatts is currently installed.

Froman noted the action was being taken "in support of the rapid global deployment" of renewable energy.

"These types of 'localization' measures not only are an unfair barrier to U.S. exports, but also raise the cost of solar energy, hindering deployment of solar energy around the world, including in India," Froman said.

A request for consultation is the first step in the WTO dispute settlement process. Under WTO rules, if the matter is not resolved through consultations within 60 days of the request, the United States may ask the WTO to establish a dispute settlement panel.


The United States filed a similar complaint last year against the first phase of India's solar program, but negotiations to settle that complaint have failed to progress, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, based in Washington, said in a statement Monday it strongly supports the U.S. government's decision to move forward with its WTO case against India.

"Localization barriers are a growing threat to U.S. solar exports and clearly violate WTO rules," said Rhone Resch, president and chief executive of the association, which has 1,000 member companies.

India's commerce minister, Anand Sharma, defended the solar mission's domestic content requirement, saying India has to create its own manufacturing base.

"India must have those capacities. Otherwise, we will end up importing for the rest of our lives," Sharma told reporters following a speech in Mumbai Tuesday, Press Trust reports.

He said the solar mission involves considerable subsidies and public money should not be used pay for imports.

The minister hinted India might respond with a counter action.

"We may also have an application that we may move to the WTO," Sharma said, without providing details.

Monday's action follows a diplomatic row between the two countries, after a U.S. grand jury indicted an Indian consular official in January, accusing her of visa fraud and making false statements about a domestic worker.


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