India wins U.S. solar case at WTO but impact disputed

GENEVA (Reuters) - India won a World Trade Organization challenge to solar industry incentives in eight U.S. states on Thursday, although the United States told the panel the ruling would have little or no impact.

India brought the dispute to the WTO in 2016 after a successful U.S. challenge to India’s own solar power policies, which Washington said had cut U.S. solar exports to India by more than 90%.

The WTO panel upheld India’s claim that California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and Washington had broken the rules by incentivizing the use of local content, thereby discriminating against Indian and other imported solar suppliers.

But the WTO’s ruling included U.S. arguments which suggested India’s complaint would have little, if any, effect.

“First, India appears to have no significant trading interest in the measures at issue in this dispute. Second, most of the measures at issue are no longer in legal effect or are due to expire within the next two years, as India is aware,” the United States said.

“Third, records confirm that nearly half of the measures at issue have fallen into general disuse and are essentially moribund,” it added.

In its legal arguments, India said that it was not relevant whether there had been an actual financial contribution and that it could not be expected to wait until there was a payment under one of the disputed subsidies to bring a WTO dispute.

Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Alexander Smith