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Govt curbs import of laptops, tablets on security concerns

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The government has imposed restrictions on the import of laptops, tablets, all-in-one personal computers, and ultra small form factor computers and servers to address security concerns and give domestic manufacturing a boost, according to officials.

Since imports will now be allowed only against valid import licences, the government can keep a strict watch on imports, especially from China, and check inflows whenever it feels the need.

More exemptions

The import restrictions, notified by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade on Thursday, come with a number of exemptions, including for imports under `Baggage Rules’ for international travelers. 

“The idea behind the import restrictions (on items falling under HSN 8741) is not to bar imports but to regulate it to ensure that items which come into the country are compliant with India’s security concerns and don’t expose consumers to any risks,” an official source told businessline. These are not in violation of WTO norms as the multilateral body allows members to put in place policies that address their security concerns, he added.

“Keeping in view that some of the imported hardware could potentially have security related issues and compromise sensitive and personal data of users, it is important to source them from trusted and reliable partners. The safety of Indian citizens is the topmost priority,” the source said.

Citing possible security threat, the government, over the last few years, banned over 200 Chinese apps including popular ones such as TikTok, Shareit and WeChat.

May hit China

Although the import restrictions on laptops, tablets and computers imposed on Thursday are not country specific, it would affect imports from China as the country accounts for a substantial portion of the $7 billion of annual imports of the items.

The move would also give a leg-up to domestic manufacturers, including investors under the production linked incentive scheme, the source said. “A lot of MNCs have also set up manufacturing bases in India in the IT and electronics sector. We hope that our domestic manufacturing is also able to cater to needs,” he added.

While the notification comes into force with immediate effect, under the transition provisions of the foreign trade policy if the bill of lading and letter of credit have been issued or opened before August 3, those import consignments can be imported without licence till August 31. After that, importers will need licences.

“The import licensing portal is active. A few more columns may be required specifically for IT hardware which will be done in a day or two,” the source said. 

The notification also specifies various cases of exemptions from licencing requirements. The restrictions are not applicable to imports under baggage rules, under which one old and a new laptop is allowed in a baggage.

“Over and above this, exemptions from import licensing requirements are also provided for import of one laptop, tablet, personal computer, or ultra small form factor computer, including those purchased from e-commerce portals, post or courier,” the source said.

The government has further decided to exempt from import licence up to 20 such items per consignment for the purpose of R&D, testing, benchmarking and evaluation, repair and re-export and product development purposes.

The restricted items which are an essential part of a capital good, like a machine embedded with a computer, shall also be exempted from import licence.

For re-import of goods repaired abroad, licence for restricted imports shall not be required for repair and return of the items.

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