Singapore and Canada have expressed interest in joining consultations in a case filed by Japan in the WTO’s dispute settlement body against India’s import duties on certain information and communication technology products, including mobile phones. According to a communication of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), both countries have stated that they have a substantial trade interest in information and communication technology (ICT) goods.
On May 14, Japan dragged India to the WTO over the import duties imposed on certain electronic goods including telephones for cellular networks; machines for reception, conversion and transmission or regeneration of voice, images or other data; and parts of telephone sets. It alleged that imposition of import duties on these products by India infringes WTO norms as India has committed zero per cent bound tariffs on these products.
While bound tariffs or duties refer to the ceiling over which a WTO member country cannot impose import duty, the applied tariff is the duty which is currently in place. In a separate communication, Singapore said it “desires to be joined in India’s consultations with Japan”.
“This is because Singapore, as one of the world’s largest exporters of ICT products, with export value of USD 120 billion annually, has substantial trade interest in this matter,” it said.
Similarly, Canada has said that during 2016-2018, India’s imports from Canada of ICT products have aggregated at USD 28.7 million. “This reflected 31.2 per cent of India’s total imports of ICT products from Canada. ICT is an important sector for Canada’s economy which relies on access to global markets. “Over 2016-2018, Canada’s global exports of all ICT products averaged USD 11.3 billion and accounted for 2.8 per cent of all Canadian exports,” the north american country said in its communication.
As per WTO rules, seeking consultation is the first step of dispute settlement process. If the bilateral consultations requested by the complainant with India do not result in a satisfactory solution, it can request the WTO to set up a dispute panel to pass a ruling on the matter.
Singapore and Canada require approval from India and Japan to join the consultation process. A WTO member country can file a dispute if it perceives that another country’s trade policies or actions are violating global trade norms.
India’s bilateral trade with Canada and Singapore stood at USD 7.23 billion and USD 17.7 billion respectively, in 2017-18. Chinese Taipei has also expressed interest in joining these consultations. Besides Japan, last month, the European Union (EU) too dragged India into WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism over imposition of import duties on certain ICT products, alleging breach of global trade norms.