India's national solar mission is WTO-compliant: commerce secretary

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, launched in India in 2010 to promote generation of renewable energy and reduce the energy shortage in the country to some extent, is compliant with multilateral trade rules, commerce secretary Rajeev Kher said today.

Responding to the fresh challenge posed by the United States to India over its national solar programme at the World Trade Organisation, Kher said New Delhi will respond to the US challenge.

''Our current policy is WTO compliant. We will participate in the discussions sought by the US,'' Rajeev Kher told news persons at a press conference on Tuesday.

US trade representative Michael Froman said on Monday that his country was launching a second challenge at the World Trade Organisation against domestic sourcing rules in India's National Solar Mission.

''India's domestic content requirements discriminate against US exports by requiring solar power developers to use Indian-manufactured equipment instead of US equipment,'' Froman said at a press conference.

Kher said the US move was on expected lines. ''The US had initiated consultations on domestic content in the solar mission last year. Now they have challenged the second phase. It has not come as a surprise,'' Kher said.

The US is upset over a widening of the coverage of the domestic sourcing requirement clause in the second phase of the mission launched recently. Most importantly, the inclusion of thin films in the expanded domestic sourcing list has annoyed the US as most of these come from US sources.

A dilution of the local sourcing clause will help US manufacturers gain a bigger foothold in India's its fast-growing solar products market.

In the second phase of the National Solar Mission, however, the Indian government has freed half the projects from local sourcing conditions.

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, launched in 2010, aims at promoting generation of renewable energy and partly solve the energy shortage faced by the country.