US wins poultry case against India at WTO

India has been given 12-18 months to implement steps to lift the ban; failing which it would be heavily penalised

 
By Shreeshan Venkatesh
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015

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An appellate body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled against India in a long-standing case over poultry imports from the United States of America. A dispute panel in Geneva stated on Thursday that India violated international trading norms by banning imports of poultry meat and eggs from the US. The ruling was in response to India’s appeal against a verdict given earlier by a US court.

As it happened

In 2007, India had imposed the ban under the Indian Livestock Importation Act, 1898, as a safeguard measure against the spread of low pathogenic strains of avian influenza. While India claimed that the import restrictions were consistent with international rules on animal health, the WTO panel agreed with the US and declared that India’s measures were arbitrarily discriminatory and not in line with international standards.

The panel found that the impositions were “significantly more trade restrictive than required to achieve India's appropriate level of protection” and that “the United States had identified alternative measures that would achieve India's appropriate level of protection”. The panel further found that India’s measures violated core provisions of WTO’s agreement on sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards.

On March 6, 2012, the US had initiated proceedings in the WTO against India’s import ban. In October 2014, the WTO had ruled in favour of the US while stating that the Indian restrictions were not based on scientific principles and lacked sufficient supporting evidence. The ministry of commerce, in consultation with the ministry of animal husbandry, had appealed against the October 2014 verdict on January 26, 2015, and Thursday’s ruling is in response to this appeal.

The European Union, Australia, China, Japan, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Vietnam, Argentina and Brazil were the third parties in the dispute.

Jubilant US

The Obama administration said the decision was a major victory and that it would open doors for American farmers. In a statement, US Trade Representative Michael Froman stated, "I welcome this win, which will help us eliminate unjustified trade barriers, so US farmers can sell high-quality US agricultural products to customers around the world."

India yet to respond

India has been given 12-18 months to implement necessary steps to lift the ban. Delay beyond 18 months could lead the US government to impose trade sanctions on India equivalent to the losses sustained by the US.

India annually produces 3.5-4 million tonnes of chicken, making it the fourth largest producer of chicken in the world after the US, China and Brazil. According to conservative estimates issued by a US study in 2012, removal of import restrictions could give the American poultry exports a fillip of US $300 million. Incidentally, the US has witnessed widespread outbreaks of avian influenza in the midst of a global resurgence of the virus. India has also been affected as H5N1 avian influenza was confirmed in at least five states since late last year. According to World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), 620,272 birds have been culled in India since November 2014 due to avian influenza (H5N1). Fortunately, there have been no reported cases of human infections in the country.
 


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