US Pushes India To Reverse Key Policy

The United States still worries about India’s compliance with its WTO responsibilities and any new regulations it may issue. Therefore, it lobbied India to alter its laptop licensing regime.

There was concern that Apple, Dell, and HP may see a dip in sales after India adopted new regulations in August mandating licenses for all imported laptops, tablets, PCs, and servers. Nevertheless, New Delhi quickly reversed the policy, stating that it would only monitor imports and decide what to do next after a year.

The abrupt policy shifts in India have long been a source of anxiety for American officials, who argue that these shifts make doing business in the country risky. Despite favoring domestic businesses over international ones, India insists it announces policies that benefit all stakeholders and welcomes investment worldwide.

Although both sides generally portrayed bonhomie in public, the agreements contained some direct language. The U.S. government was not happy that India’s laptop import policies changed “out of the blue” without warning or discussion, which was “incredibly problematic” for American businesses and their $500 million yearly exports.

According to research firm Counterpoint, the laptop and personal computer industry in India is worth $8 billion annually.

According to Travis Coberly, a U.S. trade ambassador in New Delhi, Indian authorities had admitted the policy’s abrupt introduction was an error. India’s IT minister addressed neither the decision’s reversal nor the U.S. emails.

According to three anonymous Indian officials, including two from the Commerce Ministry, New Delhi did not change its policy in response to pressure from the United States. Instead, it decided after realizing that domestic production of laptops and tablets wasn’t a big deal yet. The U.S. State Department criticized the policy, saying American companies saw it as excessively restrictive and at odds with India’s efforts to improve its investment climate.