More reports on: Trade

South Africa calls for BRICS strategy to counter WTO threat to solar sector

13 October 2016

South Africa has called for a joint front of BRICS to work out a strategy against World Trade Organisation's (WTO) regulation that thwart efforts of developing countries at developing their manufacturing sector and has backed India's local sourcing rules in solar equipment manufacturing.

South Africa's trade and industry minister Rob Davies stated this at a press briefing ahead of a meeting of trade ministers of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) in Goa.

''BRICS nations need to compare notes on how to re-construct their renewable energy programmes to ensure that the localisation requirements do not technically flout WTO rules,'' the Hindu BusinessLine quoted South Africa's trade and industry minister Rob Davies as saying.

Without naming the US, Davies said his country will firmly oppose attempts being made by ''some of the major countries'' to introduce new restrictions on localisation at the WTO.

The US had dragged India to the WTO, objecting to the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission's compulsory local content requirements in the manufacture of solar cells and modules. The WTO ruled that the local sourcing did not fall under the ambit of government sourcing as the product procured were solar cells and modules that were used by private producers.

He said the WTO may have ruled against India, but the fact remained that localisation was important for development. ''Localisation of inputs used in renewable power programmes is an important policy objective for South Africa and other developing countries. We are studying the Indian case very carefully,'' he said.

''We (India and South Africa) have the freedom in place (to procure locally in case of government purchases) as a result of not being signatories to the Government Procurement Agreement at the WTO. We need to retain that policy space,''  he said.

Developed countries practice double standards when it comes to trade rules, Davies said, adding that developing countries need to come together to protect their rights.

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