India Scraps Laptop License Rule After US Discussions

21 March 2024

India Rolls Back Laptop Licensing Policy After U.S. Intervention

In a swift policy turnaround, India has rescinded its recent laptop licensing regulations following persuasive behind-the-scenes lobbying by U.S. officials. The initial policy, which required companies such as Apple, Dell, and HP to secure licenses for all imported laptops, tablets, PCs, and servers, sparked fears of potential sales slowdowns due to bureaucratic delays. However, the Indian government has now opted to merely monitor imports and reassess the policy after a year.

The reversal came after U.S. trade representatives and officials expressed deep concerns about India’s sudden policy shifts, which they argue create an unpredictable business environment and could potentially violate WTO obligations. Despite public displays of cooperation, internal communications obtained through a U.S. open records request reveal the extent of U.S. apprehension. The abrupt introduction of import restrictions was described as “out of the blue” and “incredibly problematic,” affecting an estimated $500 million in annual U.S. exports to India’s market—a market research firm Counterpoint values at around $8 billion annually.

During a meeting with Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on August 26, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai emphasized the need for stakeholder consultation and urged India to withdraw the licensing requirement. The private discussions contrasted with the more measured tone of the public readout from the meeting.

Despite Indian officials’ admission that the rollout was mishandled, they maintain that the policy reversal was not due to U.S. pressure but a realization that local manufacturing of laptops and tablets is currently insubstantial.

The U.S. continues to closely monitor India’s scrutiny of imported devices, ensuring compliance with WTO obligations and minimizing negative impacts on trade relations. Meanwhile, India’s Commerce Ministry has acknowledged U.S. security concerns but has not provided details on the decision reversal or the content of the U.S. emails.

This incident underscores the delicate balance India seeks to maintain between fostering foreign investment and supporting local industry—a balance that continues to be closely watched by international stakeholders.

India reversed a laptop licensing policy after U.S

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