US takes India to WTO on solar energy

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States said Monday it was taking India to the WTO to open up its solar industry, raising a new dispute weeks after a bitter feud over a diplomat's arrest.

The United States asked for talks under the World Trade Organization to change India's requirements for the use of domestic content as part of the energy-hungry country's plan to boost solar power.

"This kind of discrimination is against WTO rules and we are determined to stand up for US workers and businesses," US Trade Representative Michael Froman told reporters.

Mr Froman insisted that the action was consistent with calls by President Barack Obama's administration to work with India on renewable energy. The world's two largest democracies have both identified climate change as a major area for cooperation.

"Domestic content requirements detract from successful cooperation on clean energy and actually impede India's deployment of solar energy by raising the cost," Mr Froman said.

Under the WTO process, the Geneva-based body would set up talks between the United States and India to find a solution. If the consultations do not succeed within 30 days, the United States could ask the WTO to set up a panel to settle the dispute.

The move comes after US authorities in December arrested a New York-based Indian diplomat on charges of underpaying her servant and lying on her visa application, setting off one of the worst rifts in years between the countries.

The row abated a month ago when the diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was allowed to return to India just as she was being indicted. Indian lawmakers and commentators accused US authorities of humiliating the diplomat through a strip-search.

Mr Froman said that the Obama administration valued relations with India and considered discussion of disputes to be part of "maturing" trade ties.

"Today's action addresses a specific issue of concern and in no way detracts from the importance we attach to this relationship," Mr Froman said.

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