By Dhruv Gupta
The Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is entrusted with the responsibility of investigating allegations relating to unfair imports and increased imports from other countries into India and defending India’s interest in trade remedial actions initiated by other countries against India.
On 17th December 2018, the DGTR issued “Manual of Operating Practices for Trade Remedy Investigations” and “Handbook of Operating Procedures for Trade Defence Wing”. The Manual notes the standard operating procedures of the DGTR in trade remedy investigations conducted by India. Handbook, on the other hand, captures the practice and procedure adopted by DGTR in responding to trade remedy investigations initiated by other countries against India.
These publications, which were launched by the Minister for Commerce & Industry, Suresh Prabhu, intend to bring clarity, transparency, awareness, consistency and predictability with respect to Indian practice in the area of trade remedies.
India is a leading user of trade remedial measures, especially anti-dumping duties. This is reflected by the 656 measures imposed so far by India, of which 277 measures are still in force with respect to 142 products.
However, the DGTR has often faced criticism from foreign exporters and from domestic producers in India for arbitrary decision making, unpredictability, lack of transparency and, most importantly, long delays.
Indian exporters are also largely unaware of the DGTR/government’s role and support in trade remedy investigations faced by them in other countries. The issuance of the manual and handbook is expected to change this perception. This step is in continuation of a series of steps that the DGTR has been taking under the leadership of the designated authority Sunil Kumar, who took charge in September 2017.
Over the period of November 2017 to December 2018, the DGTR has published 17 trade notices covering issues regarding treatment of business confidential information, collection of import data from government agencies like DGCIS, registration by interested parties as well as new and streamlined application formats, questionnaire formats and checklists for applications, all of which ease the process of filing for initiation of investigations as well as quicken the proceeding itself.
This issuance of a number of trade notices is in contrast to the running record for previous years: one trade notice in 2016, three in 2015 and none in 2014. The reasons for rejection of applications seeking to continue the imposition of anti-dumping duty (sunset review applications) are now being published on the website of the DGTR.
The long-held view that initiation of an investigation to examine the continuation of anti-dumping duty beyond 5 years period is automatic and mandatory is no longer correct in view of recent actions of the designated authority, which have been upheld by the Delhi High Court.
The manual, which runs into 617 pages, is expected to become the new code for Indian industry seeking imposition of trade remedial measures, foreign producers/exporters participating in Indian investigations, trade lawyers and the DGTR officials alike.
Manual of this magnitude raises the standard of Indian Trade Remedial practices to the calibre of developed countries such as Australia, the European Union and the United States, who maintain similar manuals/guides explaining their practices in trade remedy investigations. The DGTR has made the manual and the handbook accessible to the public at large by publishing it on their website.
Providing public access to such a valuable resource also introduces accountability on the part of DGTR officials themselves and standardisation of investigative practices.
At the same time, by issuing the handbook, the DGTR has brought in clarity to the pro-active role played by the government in trade remedy investigations being conducted against India by other WTO member countries.
All in all, a welcome step into the new year!
(Dhruv Gupta is Partner at law firm Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan. The views are the author’s own.)