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United States files WTO ag trade case against India

Ron Kirk
Ron Kirk
The United States is requesting consultations with India under the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement provisions concerning India’s prohibition on American poultry meat and chicken eggs, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced today.

Kirk said in a news release that India claims the trade ban is aimed at preventing avian influenza, but it has not provided scientific evidence in line with international standards on avian-influenza control.

“India’s ban on U.S. poultry is clearly a case of disguising trade restrictions by invoking unjustified animal health concerns,” Kirk said. “The United States is the world’s leader in agricultural safety and we are confident that the WTO will confirm that India’s ban is unjustified.”

“Opening India’s market to American farmers will promote jobs here at home, while also providing Indian consumers with access to high quality, safe U.S. products,” Kirk said.

Consultations are the first step in the WTO dispute settlement process and parties are encouraged to agree to a solution at this stage. If the matter is not resolved through consultations, the United States may request the establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel.

USTR noted in the release that since at least February 2007, India has formally banned imports of various agricultural products from the United States, on the grounds that the government wanted to prevent outbreaks of avian influenza in India.

USTR also noted that the United States has not had an outbreak of high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) since 2004, and that international standards for avian-influenza control do not support the imposition of import bans due to detections of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), the only kind of found in the United States since 2004.

The WTO’s agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures recognizes that member nations have the right to adopt regulations to protect human, animal, or plant life or health, but also requires them to take certain steps to ensure that such regulations are not merely a cover for protectionism, USTR said.

The United States will claim that India's ban does not appear to be supported by scientific evidence or a valid risk assessment, USTR said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that over the last few years, the United States "has repeatedly asked India to justify its claim that a ban on poultry products from the United States is necessary."

"However, to date, India has not provided valid, scientifically-based justification for the import restrictions," Vilsack said. "I am hopeful for a swift resolution that allows Indian consumers access to safe, high-quality U.S. poultry and poultry products, and restores the economic opportunities our American farmers have earned."
Jim Sumner

Jim Sumner
The USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, the National Chicken Council and the National Turkey Federation applauded Kirk’s announcement.

“If India’s trade barriers were eliminated, the value of U.S. poultry exports to India each year would surpass $300 million, the groups said in a joint news release.

“In our view, India’s posture is thinly guised protectionism,” said USAPEEC President Jim Sumner.

“The Indian economy is growing rapidly, as is its standard of living and its consumption of poultry,” Sumner said. “It is projected that India will soon be the world’s most populous country, and its people must have continued access to an ample supply of affordable protein.”