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US, India in talks to settle solar panel and visa issues: US official

06 February 2016

The United States and India are in talks to solve long-standing disputes over India's curbs on solar panel imports and US discrimination against Indian IT professionals ahead of a WTO ruling on the solar panel dispute, a US trade official said on Friday.

Washington moved the WTO for dispute settlement three years ago, claiming that the domestic content requirement in India's national solar power programme illegally discriminated against imported solar panels and related products.

While the WTO's views are yet to be known, US trade representative spokesman Andrew Bates said the talks were aimed at reaching an out-of-court resolution before any public announcement by the Geneva-based trade body.

While the media had in August last year reported that a WTO dispute settlement panel had confidentially notified Washington and New Delhi that it would rule against India in the case (See: WTO rules against India in solar panel dispute with US: report), the world trade body has twice delayed the public announcement of a ruling in the case.

A WTO announcement of its decision is scheduled for next Wednesday.

"The United States initiated this dispute for the purpose of advancing the rapid deployment of clean, affordable energy in India and around the world," Bates said. "India has now been asked to speak with the United States regarding the issue, and in light of ongoing discussions, the release of the WTO panel's report ruling has temporarily been delayed."

The US alleges that the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission subsidies were available only if developers used equipment produced in India, which violated a key global trade rule.

While the Indian programme aims at easing chronic energy shortages, the Obama administration argued that the rules are a barrier to solar products made in America and elsewhere but also effectively raised the cost of generating solar power in India and were extending the country's dependence on fossil fuels.

Green groups, including the Sierra Club, Greenpeace USA, and Friends of the Earth had last year urged the Unites States trade representative to drop the challenge, saying it would hurt efforts to combat climate change by undercutting India's development of a domestic solar industry.

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