The US on Wednesday filed a challenge with the WTO over elements of India’s national solar program, which it said discriminates against foreign solar products in violation of a core global trade rule.
The case comes as a number of governments, including the US, are supporting development of clean energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to cut greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global climate change.
“Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports the rapid deployment of solar energy around the world, including with India,” US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk said in a statement announcing the request for consultations with India, which is the first step in bringing a WTO dispute.
“Unfortunately, India’s discriminatory policies in its national solar program detract from that successful cooperation, raise the cost of clean energy and undermine progress toward our shared objective,” Kirk said.
The US action targets India’s national solar program, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission.
That program, launched in 2010, appears to discriminate against US solar equipment by requiring solar energy producers to use Indian-manufactured solar cells and modules and by offering subsidies to those developers for using domestic equipment instead of imports, the US trade office said.
“What we’re talking about here is the most fundamental principle of non-discrimination at the core of the whole trading system,” a US trade official said on condition of anonymity.
That principle requires countries to treat foreign goods and services the same way they treat domestic goods and services, the official said.
US lawmakers praised the action, which they said addressed a trend seen in China, Argentina and other countries.
“India isn’t playing by the rules, and USTR is right to go to the WTO to hold it accountable for its local content requirements,” US House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said.
Indian government officials were not immediately available in Washington or WTO headquarters in Geneva for comment.