According to reports, in a move to counter the US gripe against compulsory local sourcing for solar projects, India is digging up cases where American states have mandated domestic sourcing .
At a meeting earlier this week of the WTO Committee on Trade Related Investment Measures, India said water utilities in many US states — South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia among others — have made domestic sourcing of ductile iron pipes and fittings compulsory for use in water projects.
New Delhi’s charges come two weeks after it sought clarifications from the US at a WTO subsidies committee meeting on local content requirements in renewable energy programmes in Michigan, California and Texas.
India’s arguments can play a decisive role in the case the US has lodged against India at the WTO for making it compulsory for all investors in programmes under the National Solar Mission to buy some of the inputs locally.
“It is appalling that the US has raised a dispute against India for local content mandate when it has been using it for so long in multiple areas. New Delhi has patiently prepared its case against all such instances and will now fire from all sides,” a Government official told Business Line.
Ironically, at the moment India does not have much commercial interest in the areas where the US has set local content norms, but removal of restrictions could open new vistas for business.
“We are mainly trying to point out to the US that we are not the only ones trying to encourage domestic industry through local content norms. It is hypocritical to point fingers at us when they are doing the same,” the official said.
India asked the US to explain how these measures could be considered consistent with the TRIMs Agreement that prohibits sourcing restrictions without ample justification.
Interestingly, the US has used the same argument in its case against India for domestic sourcing under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. The Mission, which seeks to promote use of solar energy and also build local capacities, made it compulsory under the first phase for all investors to use solar modules manufactured in India and source 30 per cent of the inputs locally.
India’s defence is that since the power will be purchased by an arm of public sector NTPC, it qualified as government purchase and was, therefore, exempt from the TRIMs rules.
The US, however, is determined not to allow India to extend the domestic sourcing norm to solar thin films (exempt so far) in its second phase as American companies are major suppliers of thin films for solar projects in the country.
“Once a larger debate on local content being mandated by various countries in different projects starts at the WTO, it will be easier for India to persuade the US to drop its case,” the official said.