Green groups urge U.S. to back off Indian solar trade case

U.S. environmental groups are pressing President Barack Obama’s administration to back off a World Trade Organization case against India they say threatens the ability of the world’s second most populous country to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’re really worried about this proliferation of trade cases on renewable energy,” Ilana Solomon, trade representative for the Sierra Club, said in an interview on Thursday.

“With the climate crisis upon us, governments should have every tool at their disposal to incentivize renewable energy” and cut use of fossil fuels, Solomon said.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office in early February asked India for WTO consultations on its national solar program, the Jawaharal Nehru National Solar Mission.

That program, launched in 2010, appears to discriminate against U.S. solar equipment by requiring solar energy producers to use Indian-manufactured solar cells and modules and by offering subsidies to those developers for using domestic equipment instead of imports, the USTR said.

That violates a core WTO principle that requires countries to treat foreign goods and services the same way they treat domestic goods and services, U.S. trade officials have said.

With the formal 60-day consultation period ending on Sunday and no sign of a deal, USTR could soon ask for a WTO dispute settlement panel to hear its complaint.

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