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Import Licensing Concerns in Indonesia, India, Nigeria Raised at WTO Committee Meeting

Thursday, October 30, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The World Trade Organization’s Import Licensing Committee reports that its meeting last week featured a call for more transparency from some WTO members as well as discussions of specific concerns. The WTO Import Licensing Agreement sets out rules aimed at preventing trade distortions that may arise from the inappropriate operation of import licensing procedures and seeks to ensure that any administrative procedures for obtaining such licenses are simple, neutral, equitable and transparent, particularly given past concerns about the use of border measures such as import licensing requirements to restrict imports.

According to a WTO press release, the committee chairman noted that 16 members have not submitted any notifications under the agreement since joining the WTO and an additional nine have not submitted the required annual questionnaires on import licensing procedures. On the other hand, Russia, Samoa, Tajikistan and a few other members have recently submitted their first import licensing notifications.

Specific import licensing concerns raised at the meeting included the following.

- The European Union asserted that Brazil has put in place a non-automatic import licensing regime for imports of industrial nitrocellulose that operates as a de facto ban and urged that these restrictions be lifted immediately. However, Brazil said that it has imported nitrocellulose regularly over the past five years in both high and low concentration forms, mainly from Europe, and that it has refused only a handful of import licensing requests during that time. Brazil added that nitrocellulose is hazardous and poses risks regardless of concentration levels and that the licensing requirements are imposed for legitimate safety and security reasons.

- The U.S. reiterated its concerns about import licensing requirements in Indonesia for cellphones, handheld computers and tablets, including a rule requiring importers to commit to the domestic manufacture of these goods within three years. Indonesia said it will be submitting a new notification regarding its import licensing requirements that it hopes will address some of the confusion raised by the earlier notice.

- The EU said it has received industry complaints regarding a new licensing regime in India that sets import quotas and minimum prices for marble and marble products. India said the restrictions are justified under WTO rules on the conservation of exhaustible natural resources,

noting that the cutting and processing of marble has adverse effects on the environment.

- The U.S. cited concerns about end-use certificate requirements for imports of boric acid into India, but both sides indicated that they are continuing to discuss this issue.

- The EU said Nigeria’s new import licensing procedures for imports of fishery products appear to have been adopted to reduce imports and asked for clarification on why these procedures are needed. Nigeria responded that its fish import policy is still being formulated and that it is continuing consultations with concerned stakeholders on the policy.

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