U.S. Lobbying Prompts India to Reverse Laptop Licensing Policy Amidst Trade Concerns

Updated : March 21, 2024, 02:31 PM IST

  • India reverses policy requiring licenses for laptop imports after U.S. lobbying efforts.
  • Concerns raised over compliance with WTO rules and potential impact on $500 million worth of U.S. exports.
  • Emails reveal U.S. officials’ alarm over sudden policy changes and efforts to influence Indian government.


India has reversed its policy mandating licenses for imports of laptops, tablets, personal computers, and servers after behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts by U.S. officials. However, concerns linger regarding New Delhi’s compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and the potential impact on trade relationships, according to government emails and U.S. trade officials seen by Reuters.

The policy, implemented in August, initially required companies like Apple, Dell, and HP to obtain licenses for all shipments of imported tech equipment. This move sparked fears of potential delays in sales processes. However, within weeks, the Indian government retracted the policy, opting instead to monitor imports and assess further action a year later.

Emails obtained through a U.S. open records request underscore the level of concern the Indian regulations provoked in Washington and highlight the success of U.S. lobbying efforts in persuading Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to reverse its stance.

U.S. officials expressed dismay over the suddenness of India’s policy changes, describing them as “incredibly problematic” for the business climate and the approximately $500 million worth of annual U.S. exports potentially affected by the regulations. Despite the typically cordial relations between the two countries in public, the documents revealed blunt assessments of India’s actions.

The lobbying efforts were not without tangible results. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, during a meeting with Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal in August, advocated for the rescindment of the requirement, emphasizing the negative impact on the trade relationship. Furthermore, U.S. officials noted that Indian authorities acknowledged the hasty rollout of the laptop licensing policy as a mistake, attributing their change in stance to pressure from American companies operating in India.

While the Indian government maintains that its policies are formulated in the interest of all stakeholders and to encourage foreign investments, concerns remain over the unpredictability of regulatory changes and their impact on business operations. The reversal of the laptop licensing policy marks a rare instance of U.S. lobbying success in influencing Indian trade regulations.

However, Indian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, assert that the policy reversal was not influenced by U.S. pressure but rather stemmed from a recognition that local manufacturing of laptops and tablets was not yet significant.

As both countries navigate these trade dynamics, the monitoring of India’s scrutiny of imported devices continues, with a focus on ensuring compliance with WTO obligations and minimizing adverse effects on the trade relationship.

The emails and diplomatic exchanges between the U.S. and Indian governments offer a glimpse into the complexities of international trade negotiations and the delicate balance of interests at play between major economies.


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