India-US Solar Issue: WTO’s Dispute Panel to Meet Next Week

India and the US have already completed their bilateral consultations on the matter. The consultations were followed after the US filed a complaint in the WTO in February last year alleging discrimination by India’s national solar mission against American products.

The WTO’s dispute settlement panel, which is examining a complaint by the US against India’s domestic content requirements under its solar power programme, would meet next week in Geneva.

“The first substantive meeting of India and the US officials with the panel would be held in the first week of next month,” an official said. India and the US have already completed their bilateral consultations on the matter.

As per the procedure of the World Trade Organisation, consultation is the first stage of a complaint filed with the global trade body.

According to the official, the US was satisfied with the bilateral deliberations, “that is why they have gone for setting up of a panel under the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism”.

Consultations give the parties an opportunity to discuss the matter and to find a satisfactory solution without proceeding further with litigation. If consultations fail to resolve the dispute, the complainant may request adjudication by a panel.
The US had alleged that India’s programme appears to discriminate against US solar equipment by requiring solar energy producers to use locally manufactured cells and by offering subsidies to those developers who use domestic equipment.

It is also alleged that forced localisation requirements restrict US exports to India markets. On January 11, 2010, India launched its national solar policy – the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. India has an ambitious target of generating 20,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022. US companies sees this target as a great business opportunity for them. Because of this, they want India to remove the clause of local content requirement.