US presses WTO dispute over India's restrictions on poultry

By Jim Webster

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, May 11 - U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said today that the United States has asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to establish a dispute settlement panel to rule on its assertion that New Delhi's restrictions on imports U.S. poultry meat and chicken eggs violates India's obligations under WTO trade agreements.

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Although India claims its that its measures are designed to preventing avian influenza, USTR said that its rules are inconsistent with the relevant science, international guidelines and the standards India has set for its own domestic industry, all contrary to WTO requirements.

The request for the dispute settlement panel was filed Monday after consultations with India on April 16-17 - the first necessary step in pursuing a case -- failed to resolve the U.S. concerns.

India asserts a to impose import restrictions on countries that report outbreaks of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), the only kind of avian influenza found in the United States since 2004. “India appears to have acted inconsistently with its obligations” under the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures “by failing to base its measures on international guidelines or a valid risk assessment and by failing to ensure that its measures do not unfairly discriminate against imports from countries such as the United States,” USTR said.

Kirk's move was welcomed by the National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. “Unfortunately, the government of India did not lift its unwarranted restrictions on U.S. poultry after consultations with the United States at the WTO in Geneva,” they said in a statement. “However, we are pleased that USTR is taking the next step. We support the dispute settlement process moving forward as soon as possible with the formation of this panel.”

The industry statement said that India has used a variety of non-tariff trade barriers to deny access to U.S. poultry for several years. “Although international health standards, in particular those of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), identify only highly pathogenic stains of avian influenza as warranting trade restrictions, India has long ignored those international norms and has banned  poultry imports from the United States or any country that reports any incident of avian influenza, even cases of low pathogenicity. This is a protectionist policy that is inconsistent with accepted international standards, and has no health or safety justification.”

Absent India's trade barriers were eliminated, the industry said it estimates conservatively that the value of U.S. poultry exports to India each year would surpass $300 million.


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