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India snubs USTR“s gripe against soda ash exports

The Indian government has taken issue with the office of the United States Trade Representative on the notice to review its generalised system of preferences (GSP) on a clutch of Indian exports. On 9 …

The Indian government has taken issue with the office of the United States Trade Representative on the notice to review its generalised system of preferences (GSP) on a clutch of Indian exports. On 9 February, the government sent a letter to the USTR saying that there is no case for the withdrawal of GSP on these items. On 19 January, the USTR had put out a notice of request for public comments concerning the withdrawal. All affected parties were required to submit their replies by 16 February. The notice was based on a complaint made by the American National Soda Ash Corporation (ANSAC) that the Indian government had failed to provide the United States equitable and reasonable access to India“s soda ash market. Accordingly, it had requested that India“s benefits under the GSP programme be withdrawn. The 31 items shortlisted by the USTR gave India an export earning of US$1 billion in 1999. According to the government“s response, the soda ash case is not a trade issue but an anti-trust case involving a preliminary injunction by the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission against cartelisation by ANSAC. It also cites the 1990 decision of the Europeon Commission which said that ANSAC was an unlawful cartel and was, thus, denied entry in its market. Besides, the government has said, the MRTPC injunction is against ANSAC while its members are free to export soda ash to the country. The Indian government has also informed the USTR that India has consistently reduced barriers on the import of soda ash into the country. While all licensing restrictions on soda ash imports into India were removed on 1 April 1990, the effective customs duty rate has been brought down from 148.80% in September 1990 to 38.5% in 1999-2000. As a result, soda ash imports into India have increased from 4,947 tonnes in 1992-93 to 196,997 tonnes in 1999-2000. Even in general terms, India has consistently improved access to its market as regards to a wide range of items, leading to a significant step up in Indo-US bilateral trade, the government said.

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