UPDATE 1-Indian steel policy draws Japanese-led criticism at WTO

(Adds details from meeting)

India’s decision to put minimum
prices on imported iron and steel and to impose emergency
“safeguard” tariffs on some steel imports drew wide criticism at
a meeting of the World Trade Organization’s Goods Council on
Friday, a WTO official said.

Japan led the criticism of India, and its concerns were
echoed by Taiwan, Canada, Australia, the European Union and
South Korea. China, the world’s biggest steel producer,
commented on India’s restrictions on trade in apples but did not
join the criticism on steel, the official said.

Japan’s representative told the closed-door meeting that the
minimum import prices announced by India on Feb. 5 on more than
170 products had significant adverse impact on Japan’s exports,
and were clearly inconsistent with WTO rules, the official said.

Japan also criticised the “safeguard” tariff that India
imposed on hot-rolled flat products to protect its own industry
from a damaging surge in imports of those products.

The world steel market has been hit by massive oversupply
from China, by far the world’s dominant producer, coupled by
falling demand around the world.

Chinese crude steel output hit a record 70.65 million tonnes
in March, while exports were up 30 percent from a year ago.

Meanwhile Indian steel imports jumped 18.2 percent, adding
to pressure on the government from firms such as JSW Steel
, Tata Steel and Kalyani Steels to
step up protection against competing supplies from China, as
well as Russia, Japan and South Korea.

The U.S. representative at the WTO meeting also raised
concerns about India’s import tariff increases on 96 budget
lines, including manufacturing inputs and across the information
technology sector, the WTO official said.

India had also raised the customs duty on medical devices
and pharmaceuticals, put compulsory registration orders on some
electronic products, and required that some foreign products get
re-tested in India to standards that were identical to foreign
standards, the U.S. representative told the meeting.

India’s representative said India took its WTO obligations
very seriously and said it was premature to bring up minimum
import prices at the WTO’s Goods Council before discussing it at
subsidiary committees, the WTO official said.

The concerns about safeguards and tariff increases would be
relayed to New Delhi, India’s representative said.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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