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India notifies WTO of Draft Quality Control Solar Photovoltaic Systems, Devices and Components Goods Order 2017

India has, in accordance with the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, through the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (“MNRE”) notified the World Trade Organization’s (“WTO”) Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, for circulation of a draft quality control order (G/TBT/N/IND/59) on solar photovoltaic systems, devices and components amongst other member countries and interested international standardizing and conformity assessment bodies to elicit their comments.

The draft order, which will be called Solar Photovoltaics, Systems, Devices and Components Goods (Requirements for Compulsory Registration) Order, 2017, seeks compulsory registration with the Bureau of Indian Standards (“BIS”) under the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986, for every manufacturer and distributor of specified solar photovoltaic systems, devices or components. Imported solar photovoltaic systems, devices and components would also have to conform to standards specified under the BIS as well as bear the BIS standard certification mark notified for such systems, devices and components. Products that do not conform to the specified standards will be deformed beyond use and disposed of as scrap. The order will come into force on the expiry of one year of its publication in the Official Gazette.

The draft order follows a February 2016 WTO panel report on India’s domestic content requirement for solar products, which found discrimination (not covered under government procurement derogation) against imports with respect to solar cells and modules under India’s domestic content requirement measures under certain phases of its Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. Paragraph 4 of Article III of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (National Treatment on Internal Taxation and Regulation) requires that products of member states imported into the territory of another member state be accorded treatment no less favourable than that accorded to like products of national origin in respect of all laws, regulations and requirements affecting their internal sale, offering for sale, purchase, transportation, distribution or use.

Member countries have a minimum 60 day period for providing their comments.