U.S. Turns to WTO over India Concern

Farm import restrictions have pushed for creation of a dispute settlement panel at WTO to decide claims over India's restriction of imports.

Published on: May 14, 2012

India is restricting the importation of some U.S. farm goods, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk says the country isn't going to take it anymore. The United States has requested that the World Trade Organization establish a dispute settlement panel to decide U.S. claims regarding the government of India's "restrictions on imports of various U.S. agricultural products, including poultry meat and chick eggs."

India has asserted that its measures are aimed at preventing entry of avian influenza, the trade representative says India's measures are inconsistent with the relevant science, international guidelines and the standards the India has set for its own domestic industry.

WTO ACTION NEEDED: U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk says trade organization has been given a request for creation of a dispute settlement panel to decide claims over Indias restriction of imports.
WTO ACTION NEEDED: U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk says trade organization has been given a request for creation of a dispute settlement panel to decide claims over India's restriction of imports.

"It is essential that U.S. farmers obtain the reliable market access that India agreed to," Kirk says. "The United States holds its agriculture industry to the highest standards of safety and is confident the WTO will agree that there is no justification for India's restriction of U.S. exports."

A U.S. request for formal consultations with India on March 7, 2012 was made, and the two countries held discussions on April 16-17, without resolution of the matter.

Here's some background on the issue from the Trade Representative's office:

India is asserting it has the right to impose import restrictions on countries whenever they report outbreaks of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), the only kind of avian influenza found in the United States since 2004. The relevant international guidelines as well as the relevant science do not support the imposition of measures of the type India is maintaining on account of LPAI.

The WTO's Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures ("SPS Agreement") explicitly recognizes that WTO Members have the right to adopt measures to protect human, animal, or plant life or health. However, to ensure that SPS measures do not restrict imports unfairly, WTO Members agreed in the SPS Agreement to disciplines on such measures. India appears to have acted inconsistently with its obligations under the SPS Agreement, including 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.