India’s Laptop Import Restrictions Draw Criticism from US, Korea, and China

The United States, China, and Taiwan have raised concerns about India’s decision to impose import restrictions on laptops and computers. The move aims to promote local manufacturing and discourage imports, in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” plan. According to research firm Counterpoint, India’s electronics imports — including laptops and computers — stood at $19.7 billion in April-June. Around two-thirds of the total amount is imported from China.

But the restriction has received widespread opposition from global tech giants like Apple, Intel, and Google. These brands claim the new rules will hinder their ability to sell products in India and ultimately hurt consumers. They have requested the intervention of the US government to push India to reconsider the new import rules and find a mutually beneficial solution.

In a letter to the US Department of Commerce, the tech giants said that the imposition of import licenses would have severe consequences for their businesses and would deprive Indian consumers of access to competitively priced devices. They also pointed out that the new import regulations were announced without consultation. They urged the US government to push India to retract its restrictions on laptops and PCs. The tech giants also emphasized the importance of India’s role as an electronics manufacturing hub and stressed that the new import restrictions would undermine this goal.

The letter also cited that the new regulations will affect trade flows and increase uncertainty for exporters. It noted that the new restrictions would impact critical sectors such as LEDs, LCD screens, and automotive electronics, which are already experiencing challenges related to infrastructural, supply chain, and skill gaps. The companies expressed that addressing these problems should be prioritized before India considers similar restrictions on other product categories.

Moreover, the tech giants pointed out that the opacity of India’s new import restrictions would be a step back to the era of licensing raj and would run counter to New Delhi’s ambition to become a global electronics manufacturing powerhouse. They also argued that this regressive action will stall innovation and jeopardize jobs.

The new import requirements are set to come into effect on November 1. Still, the government has promised to give a three-month transition period, allowing existing stocks of laptops and PCs to enter the market. During this time, the government will assess requests for exceptions to the new import licensing rules. The exemptions may include research, testing, benchmarking, evaluation, repair, and re-export. The government has also outlined the minimum local content requirement for laptops and computers to be exempt from the new regulation. The minimum local content is expected to be 70 percent. This requirement will apply to domestic and foreign companies, including contract manufacturers like Foxconn and Wistron, responsible for assembling most of the popular smartphones from Apple and Samsung. It will also be applied to companies that sell products in bulk to the government and for specialized government use.

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