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America Inc supports US move against India's solar policy

February 11, 2014 10:31 IST

The US solar and manufacturing industry has supported the Obama Administration's move to challenge in the WTO the domestic content requirements in India's fast-growing solar products market.

"We strongly support today's decision by US Trade Representative Michael Froman to move forward with a WTO case against India's solar local content requirement. Localisation barriers are a growing threat to US solar exports and clearly violate WTO rules," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Over the past three years, the US has provided India every opportunity to remove restrictive and unfair marketplace requirements. In the absence of any meaningful effort by India to find common ground, it's now time for the WTO to finally resolve these long-festering issues, Resch said.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) too came out in support of the decision of Froman.

"India's forced localisation policies unfairly discriminate against manufacturers of a wide array of products, including solar cells and modules," said NAM vice president of International Economic Affairs, Linda Dempsey.

"The NAM welcomes announcement by Froman as an important step toward leveling the playing field for solar equipment manufacturers and workers in the US. We look forward to similar concrete action to address Indian government policies that are discriminating against other products and sectors."

A senior USTR official said the latest move would save some 10,000 American jobs.

"We hope that by demonstrating our concern and our resolve for the American jobs - more than 10,000 American jobs that are at stake in the solar industry sector - and our concern to stand up for American businesses and for American workers when provisions that we consider to be inconsistent with WTO rules are at stake, by demonstrating that resolve we are hopeful that India will modify its provisions and that we can resolve this dispute without having to go to other stages in the dispute settlement mechanism," the official said.

The US export before this and other measures came into play in 2011 were $119 million and have fallen off precipitously since then.

"But what's more important is that the size of the Indian market and India's national solar programme is committed to increase 20-fold over the coming decade. So it's a very important market. It's the second-largest export market for American solar producers," the official said.

According to another USTR official, India's domestic content requirements discriminate against US sales of modules and thin film by requiring solar power developers to use Indian-manufactured solar cells and modules.

"Discriminating against imported products by requiring the use of domestic products to gain some advantage is against WTO rules," he said.

"Thus, with the use of these domestic content requirements, our solar power industry, representing more than 12,000 American jobs supported by this industry, will be denied the opportunity to compete on a fair and level playing field with Indian manufacturers," the official argued.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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