US to drag India back into WTO solar wrangle


The U.S. will tell the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute settlement body (DSB) next month that India has failed to comply with a ruling on solar power, triggering a fresh round of litigation according to an agenda issued on December 20, Reuters has reported.

Renewable energy has become a contentious area of trade friction as major economies compete to dominate a sector that is expected to thrive as reliance on coal and oil dwindles.

India unveiled its national solar program in 2011, seeking to ease chronic energy shortages in Asia’s third-largest economy without adding to already-chronic pollution levels.H

However, in doing so the nation attracted the criticism of the U.S., which complained to the WTO in 2013, saying the Domestic Content Rules (DCR) of the solar program wer discriminatory, citing the fact that U.S. solar exports to India had fallen by 90% from 2011 levels.

The U.S. won the case last year, when WTO appeals judges ruled India had broken the trade rules by requiring solar power developers to use Indian-made cells and modules.

Such “local content” requirements are banned because they discriminate in favor of domestic firms and against foreign competitors.

Under an agreement with the U.S., India had until December 14 to comply with the ruling, and it told the DSB earlier this week that it had done so.

“Indian authorities have held extensive internal stakeholder consultations since the adoption of the rulings and recommendations of the DSB to fully comply with them,” India said in its statement to the DSB.

“Accordingly, in compliance with the findings and recommendations of the DSB in this dispute, India has ceased to impose any measures as found inconsistent in the DSB’s findings and recommendations.”

But an agenda for the DSB’s next meeting on January 12 showed the U.S. plans to raise the dispute again, citing WTO rules on non-compliance with trade rulings.

If India is found not to have complied, Washington could ask the WTO for permission to impose trade sanctions on India. But the WTO dispute system is struggling to process a large number of highly complex disputes, so the legal process is likely to continue for a year or more.

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