The government will take a decision after September on the existing import management system on certain IT hardware products such as laptops and tablets after evaluating the import data, which it is monitoring, an official said.
In October last year, India put in place an import management system under which importers of these products have to seek authorisation from the government.
The system is aimed at monitoring shipments of laptops, tablets and computers into the country without hurting market supply or creating a cumbersome licensing regime.
The importers are allowed to apply for multiple authorisations and those authorisations would be valid up to September 30, 2024. The authorisations will be issued for any number of consignments for imports till September next year.
About the post-September 2024 scenario, the official said: "We are monitoring the imports, we are looking at the data. So whatever that data will throw, further steps will be based on that".
On November 1, 2023, the government cleared 110 of the total 111 applications, including those of Apple, Dell and Lenovo, which sought permission for imports of these IT hardware products worth nearly USD 10 billion, on the first day of implementation of the new system.
"The government has already given authorisations for imports more than what it used to be imported annually. So which are the companies, what kind of supplies are coming, that has to be looked into before taking a decision," the official added.
India is also promoting domestic manufacturing of these goods and has taken several steps such as rolling out a production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for large scale electronics manufacturing.
The remarks assume significance as the US on January 12 during the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting raised the issue of India's new import requirements for computers, tablets, and asked New Delhi to ensure that the current online system and related policies do not restrict trade in the sector.
When asked about the discussion on the issue with the US, the official said India informed them that this is just an import monitoring system.
"We have told them that we are not against imports but if certain imports are coming from countries which may jeopardise our security, we will have to look at that," the official added.
India has also conveyed its willingness to continue engaging on the issue with the US and other interested stakeholders. The US side urged India to ensure that the end-to-end online system currently in operation and related policies do not restrict trade going forward.
Commenting on the issue, economic think tank GTRI said that the case for local laptop manufacturing in India is compelling as China dominates the personal computer and laptop market with an impressive 81 per cent share, amounting to a staggering USD 130 billion (as of 2022 data).
"Such over dependence on one country poses future supply risk as Covid has demonstrated. In this context, India's efforts to bolster local production of mobile phones, laptops, etc are in the right direction. However, India must avoid incentivising superficial shell assembly companies," Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI) Co-Founder Ajay Srivastava said.
On these grounds, the US must support and not oppose India's import restrictions on laptops, he added.
Trade expert and Hi-Tech Gears Chairman Deep Kapuria said that the 14th US-India Trade Policy Forum was held at the most opportune time when India's short to medium and long term economic goals are well articulated.
"To become the third largest economy of the world in the next five years and achieve an export target of USD 1 trillion each for goods and services by 2030, India needs to build closer trade and economic ties with the US, the world's largest economy," he said.
For India, the decision to mutually recognise results from accredited conformity assessment bodies utilising International Laboratory Accredited Cooperation and International Accreditation Forum MRAs (mutual recognition agreement) is a major gain as this would help large number of Indian exporters in reducing the compliance cost, Kapuria, who is also former chairman of NABCB (National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies) said.