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India Restricts Laptop Imports to Boost Local Industry and Reduce Dependence on China

Published: 8.8.2023

The Indian government has taken decisive action to boost the local electronics industry and promote domestic manufacturing. A recent measure restricts the imports of various IT hardware, including personal computers, laptops, palmtops, data processing machines, and large/mainframe computers, with immediate effect. The main target of this decision appears to be China, as over 75 percent of India's total imports of laptops and personal computers in the 2022-23 period came from the neighboring country.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) issued a notification outlining the restrictions on imports falling under specific categories of the Harmonised System of Nomenclature (HSN) Code 8471. However, imports under the baggage rules will remain unrestricted.

This move is expected to support the government's renewed production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for IT hardware, which aims to strengthen domestic production capabilities in the electronics sector. The PLI scheme, revised in May with an outlay of Rs 17,000 crore, focuses on boosting the manufacturing of laptops, servers, and personal computers, considering the significant imports in these segments from China.

The restriction on laptop and computer imports could lead companies like Apple, Samsung, and Acer to increase their manufacturing and assembly operations within India. The impact on consumer prices will depend on how licensing norms are implemented.

Under the new regulations, imports of laptops, tablets, all-in-one personal computers, and ultrasmall form factor computers and servers will require a valid license. However, imports of these items purchased from e-commerce portals through post or courier will be exempt from the licensing requirement, though duty will still apply.

Imports essential for capital goods and those up to 20 items per consignment for specific purposes like research, development, testing, benchmarking, evaluation, repair, re-export, and product development have also been exempted from import licenses. But these imports must be strictly used for the stated purposes and not for sale. After fulfilling their intended purpose, the products should either be destroyed beyond use or re-exported.

The notification specifies that a license for restricted imports will not be needed for the repair and return of re-imported goods that were repaired abroad, as per the Foreign Trade Policy.

The impact on consumers is uncertain, as prices of laptops and computers may increase due to local manufacturing costs being passed on to consumers. However, competition from domestic manufacturers could potentially drive down prices.

The Indian government's decision to restrict imports of laptops and computers is a significant step towards promoting domestic manufacturing in the IT hardware industry. The industry's response to these restrictions remains to be seen, but it is evident that the government is committed to fostering local production in this sector.

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