Sunday, April 28, 2013

Nepal-India Trade: State of non-tariff barriers

[This blog post is sourced from one of the studies (workshop presentation slides here) yours truly was involved in about a year ago while working at SAWTEE. I think sharing analytical excerpts from the comprehensive report will be helpful to interested readers and researchers. This blog post focuses on non-tariff barriers on Nepali exports to the Indian market. Here are earlier blog posts on the state of tariff barriers and para-tariff barriers; the issues surrounding pegged exchange rate between Nepal and India; the confidence on the Indian rupee in Nepal; and the size of Indian market for Nepal.]

State of non-tariff barriers

[Unless otherwise noted, most of the information in this section is sourced from Trade Policy Review of India by the WTO Secretariat, (WTO 2011)]

The Indian government requires importers to satisfy various procedural measures. According to Doing Business 2012, it takes 9 documents, 20 days and US$1070 per container to import goods into India.

Table 1: Import procedures in India

Import procedures Duration (days) Cost (US$)
Documents preparation 8 400
Customs clearance and technical control 4 120
Ports and terminal handling 5 200
Inland transportation and handling 3 350
Total 20 1,070

Source: World Bank

Meanwhile, the following import documents are required to import goods in India for various purposes, including imports for consumption, warehousing, transshipment, transit, re-importation, and imports for special economic zones (SEZs):
  • Bill of entry/landing
  • Cargo release order
  • Certificate of origin
  • Commercial invoice
  • Customs import declaration
  • Inspection report
  • Packing list
  • Technical standard certificate
  • Terminal handling receipts
Importers need to file a bill of entry either electronically (Electronic Data Interchange system—EDI) or manually. They also need to fill in supporting documents such as packing list, and bill of lading/airway bill if the bill of entry is processed manually. Furthermore, import licence, whenever it is applicable, must be obtained from the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) and sanitary and phytosanitary certificates from the Ministry of Agriculture. Custom declaration should also be submitted.

For goods imported under a preferential trade agreement or under an export incentive scheme and for qualification for duty reduction, additional documentation such as country of origin (COO) is required. It applies to most of the Nepalese goods exported to India. According to the Indian Customs’ rule, the bill of entry may be filed prior to the arrival (within 30 days of arrival) of goods to allow for faster clearance. Furthermore, a landing charge (for loading, unloading, and handling) of 1% of the c.i.f. value is added to the c.i.f. value to compute transaction value.

Goods imported for consumption in the Indian market are cleared after payment of applicable duties and charges. But, for imports cleared for warehousing, a bill of entry, filed with all supporting documents as required for goods for home consumption is required. The applicable duty is determined by Custom and is paid at the time of ex-bond clearance, for which an ex-bond bill of entry[1] has to be filled. The final duty rate is determined when an import declaration is presented for warehoused goods to be imported into the domestic tariff area (DTA). The warehoused goods may be moved from one warehouse to another without payment of taxes (including inter-state taxes). Inter-state tax would be payable only if the movement from one warehouse to another constitutes an inter-state sale on which case the transaction would be subjected to sales tax, entry tax (charged by some states[2]), and octroi if goods are sold to a warehouse located in the State of Maharashtra.

There could be delay in clearance of goods exported to India for the following reasons, for which a custom officer may raise doubt:
  • A significantly higher value at which identical or similar imports at (or about) the same time, in comparable quantities and comparable commercial transaction, were assessed
  • The sale value involves an abnormal discount/reduction from the ordinary competitive price
  • The sale involves special discounts limited to exclusive agents
  • There are mistakes in the declaration of goods such as description, quality, quantity, country of origin, and year of manufacture or production
  • The import declaration is incomplete, e.g. lack of brand, grade, and any other specification that could have a bearing on assessing the value of the goods
  • Fraudulent manipulation of documents
Rules of origin (ROO)

Preferential rules of origin are applied under regional and bilateral trade agreements. The maximum foreign content requirements range from 30 percent to 70 percent. For Nepal, it is 70 percent and change in 4-digit tariff classification. The other criteria to determine origin is sufficient transformation and change in tariff classification. There are also product specific ROO under the SAFTA (for 180 products).

Table 2: India’s ROO under PTAs, 2011

Preferential trade agreements Maximum foreign content requirements Minimum cumulative local content requirements
South Asian Free Trade Areas (SAFTA)a
60% of the f.o.b. value (LDCs:  70%;  Sri Lanka:  65%) and change in tariff classification
50% of the f.o.b. value, 20% of the f.o.b. valueb and change in tariff classification
South Asia Preferential Trade Arrangement (SAPTA)
60% of the f.o.b. value (LDCs:  70%)
50% of the f.o.b. value (LDCs:  40%)
70% of the f.o.b. value and change in four-digit tariff classification 
Least developed countries (LDCs)
70% of the f.o.b. value and change in tariff classification for not wholly produced or obtained category 
70% of the f.o.b. value and change in tariff classification for not wholly produced or obtained category 
n.a.    Not applicable.
a    Product specific ROO apply.
b    Domestic value content in the exporting country.
Source: WTO. 2011. Trade Policy Review India: Report by the Secretariat. Trade Policy Review, Geneva: World Trade Organization (WTO).

Import restriction depending on import price

The imports of certain goods (24 tariff lines) are subject to import restrictions depending upon their import price (see Table 2). These imports are restricted (i.e. subject to a license) when the c.i.f. price is lower than the minimum price. According to the Indian authorities, the minimum import prices are set taking into account domestic and international prices and quality (WTO 2011).

Table 3: Items whose import is free, subject to minimum import price, 2010/11

HS code Description Minimum import price
0802.90.11 Betel nuts:  whole IRs 35/kg
0802.90.12 Betel nuts:  split
0802.90.13 Betel nuts:  ground
0802.90.19 Betel nuts:  other than above
4012.11.00 Retreaded tyres, of a kind used on motor cars, US$175/unit for buses, lorries, bigger size vehicles, and light commercial vehicles
4012.12.00 Retreaded tyres:  of a kind used buses or lorries
4012.13.00 Retreaded tyres:  of a kind used on aircraft US$25/unit for passenger vehicles
4012.19.10 Other tyres:  for two wheelers
4012.19.90 Other tyres
4012.20.10 Used pneumatic tyres:  for buses, lorries, and earth moving equipment US$175/unit
4012.20.20 Used pneumatic tyres:  for passenger automobile vehicles US$25/unit
6802.10.00 Tiles, cubes, and similar articles US$50/kg
6802.21.10 Marble tiles
6802.21.20 Marble monumental stone
6802.21.90 Other monumental or building stone
6802.91.00 Marble, travertine, and alabaster
6802.92.00 Other calcareous stone
6810.11.10 Cement bricks US$50/kg
6810.11.90 Other building blocks and bricks
6810.19.10 Cement tiles for mosaic
6810.19.90 Other articles of cement
6810.91.00 Articles of cement:  prefabricated structural components for building or civil engineering
6810.99.10 Concrete boulder
6810.99.90 Other articles of cement
Source: WTO. 2011. Trade Policy Review India: Report by the Secretariat. Trade Policy Review, Geneva: World Trade Organization (WTO).

Import quotas

India maintains import quotas for marble and similar stones (HS 2515.11.00, 2515.12.10, 2515.12.20, and 2515.12.90) and for sandalwood (HS 4403.99.22). Quotas are established annually and administered on an MFN basis and it does not maintain bilateral quotas. Imports of the products in 415 sensitive items (up from 300 items in 2007) are monitored by the authorities. The monitored sensitive items include milk and milk products, fruits and vegetables, pulses, poultry, tea and coffee, spices, food grains, edible oils, cotton and silk, marble and granite, automobiles, parts and accessories of motor vehicles, products produced by small scale industries, and other products (bamboos, cocoa, copra, and sugar).

Anti-dumping and countervailing measures

India imposes anti-dumping duties and countervailing measures to protect domestic industry from the impact of unfair trade practices. The anti dumping duties may remain in place for five years unless revoked earlier or extended by the relevant authority. According to the WTO, between January 2006 and 31 December 2010, India initiated 209 anti-dumping investigations against 34 trading partners (WTO 2011). The products involved included chemicals and products thereof, plastics and rubber and products thereof, base metals, and textiles and clothing. As of December 2010, 207 anti-dumping measures were in force, compared with 177 on 30 June 2006. According to the WTO, India did not take any countervailing actions during the same period. Measures were applied on 30 trading partners.[3] The majority were applied on China (67 or 32.4 percent of the total), Korea, Rep. of (19 or 9.2 percent), Chinese Taipei (19 or 9.2 percent), Thailand (14 or 6.8 percent), the EU or its members states (12 or 5.8 percent), and Japan, Malaysia, and the United States (9 or 4.3 percent each).


Indian standards are established based on the provisions of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Act 1986 and BIS Rules 1987. The BIS is responsible for formulating and enforcing standards for 14 sectors. These include production and general engineering; civil engineering (as of 1 January 2011); chemical (15 October 2010); electro-technical (1 July 2009); food and agriculture (9 June 2010); electronics and information technology (1 April 2010); mechanical engineering (1 April 2010); management and systems (1 Oct 2010); metallurgical engineering (6 July 2010); petroleum, coal, and related products (1 July 2010); transport engineering (1 January 2011); textile (1 April 2008); water resources (1 April 2010); and medical equipment and hospital planning (1 January 2011).[4] There were around 18,623 Indian standards as of 31 March 2010 and about 84 percent were harmonized with international standards.

Table 4: Standards imposed by BIS, 2007-10

Aug-07 Sep-08 2009/10a
Total number of standards in force .. .. ..
Total number of Indian standards in force 18,470 18,592 18,592
Per cent equivalent to international standards .. .. 84
..    Not available.
a    31 March 2010.
Source: WTO. 2011. Trade Policy Review India: Report by the Secretariat. Trade Policy Review, Geneva: World Trade Organization (WTO).

Certification and conformity assessment

Around 81 products are subject to the mandatory BIS certification mark.[5] As of May 2011 there were more than 1,000 products under voluntary certification. The requirements for the use of the BIS certification mark are the same for domestic and imported products. Foreign producers who wish to export products subject to mandatory certification must obtain a license from the BIS. Foreign manufacturers must set up a liaison/branch office in India to obtain a license if the BIS has not signed a MOU with the country where the manufactured goods originate. The fees under the Foreign Manufacturers Certification Scheme, in place since 1999, are INRs1000 for the application, US$300 for processing, US$2,000 for marking, and a unit rate fee, which varies according to the product. The BIS license is granted to the factory address at which the manufacturing takes place and the final product is tested to assess compliance with the relevant Indian standards. After receiving a license the user must pay an annual fee of INRs 1,000, as well as a quarterly fee for units of production marked. The latter is fixed according to product.


Packaged commodities must bear a label securely affixed. These labels should include the: name, trade name or description of food contained in the package; ingredients used; name and address of manufacturer or importer; net weight or measure of volume (in accordance with the metric system based on the international system of units) of contents; item/package sale price (MRP INRs __) (inclusive of all taxes); month and year of manufacture or packaging; date of expiry[6]; license number where relevant; and name, address or e-mail if available of person or office to be contacted in case of a complaint.

For products containing natural flavoring substances, the common name of the flavors should be mentioned on the label. The label should also indicate the animal origin of gelatine in products that contain it. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has recently notified the quantitative ingredient declaration requirement as an additional labeling requirement for food. More specific labeling requirements exist for specified products, such as infant milk substitutes and infant foods, bottled mineral water, and milk products.
Labels must be in Hindi (Devnagiri script) and in English. In certain instances, they must be written in the language of the locality where the product is ultimately sold. This increases distribution costs, since India has 16 official languages, and food processing companies often do not know which pallet of food products will be transported to a specific State. The requirement that packaging must specify the maximum retail price of the product, including taxes, is a further complication, since sales taxes are levied at the state level.

Sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS)

The main institutions involved in the establishment and implementation of SPS measures for food items are the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying, and Fisheries; the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage; the Bureau of Indian Standards; and other state government agencies.

The imports of animal products into India require sanitary import permits issued by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries and the permits must be obtained prior to shipping from the country of origin. The Department approves or rejects the application after an import risk analysis on a case-by-case basis. Permits are valid for six months and may be used for multiple consignments. A sanitary import permit is not a license, but a certificate verifying that India's sanitary requirements are fulfilled. Some imports of animal products also require an import license issued by Director General of Foreign Trade. The imports of animal products are only allowed through designated ports where animal quarantine and certification services are available (Amritsar, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai). Imports of fish products are allowed through the port of Vishakhapatnam (in the State of Andhra Pradesh) and the land custom station at Petrapole (for imports from Bangladesh only).

Imports of plants and plant materials are regulated under the Destructive Insects and Pests Act 1914, the Plant Quarantine (PQ) (Regulation of Import into India) Order 2003, and international conventions. All plant and plant material consignments must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the national plant protection organization of the exporting country and an import permit issued by the officer in charge of the plant quarantine station. Products listed in Schedule VII of the PQ Order 2003may be imported without import permit but may be required to fulfill other conditions, such as fumigation. As in the case of imports of animal products, imports of plant and plant products may only enter the Indian territory through designated ports.[7]If commodities are found free from pests, they are cleared for import. If not, they must undergo fumigation with the accredited fumigation operators according to the Schedules V, VI, and VII of PQ Order 2003.[8] Fumigation is done at the importer's cost.[9]

[1] It is used for clearance from the warehouse on payment of duty and is printed on green paper. See here. Goods imported for home consumption are cleared under bill of exchange for same and for re-export purpose under ex-bond clearance.
[2] Entry tax on goods is levied in several states, including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bihar, Assam, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat.
[3] Australia; Belarus; Bulgaria; China; the EU; France; Germany; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Iran; Japan; Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Korea; Malaysia; New Zealand; Oman; Qatar; Russian Federation; Singapore; South Africa; Sri Lanka; Sweden; Switzerland; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; Turkey; the United Arab Emirates; the United Sates; and Viet Nam (WTO document G/ADP/N/209/IND, 19 April 2011).
[4] Bureau of Indian Standards online information, "Composition of Technical Committees". See
[5] For items subject to mandatory certification, see Bureau of Indian Standards online information:
[6] For products containing aspartame, it should not be more than three years from the date of packing.
[7] For the list of seaports, airports, and land frontiers in operation through which imports of plants are allowed, see Plant Quarantine (Regulation of Import into India) Order 2003, Schedule I.
[8] There are 357 registered fumigation agencies for methyl bromide fumigation and 157 for aluminum phosphide fumigation.
[9] Fumigation generally takes 24 hours with methyl bromide, and 7 to 10 days with aluminum phosphide.