The U.S. is requesting consultations with the government of India under the dispute settlement provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) concerning India’s prohibition on certain American agricultural exports, including poultry meat and chicken eggs. India claims that this trade ban is aimed at preventing avian influenza, but it has not provided scientific evidence in line with international standards on avian-influenza control.
“Last week President Obama created the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, demonstrating that the United States simply will not stand by while our trading partners unfairly disadvantage American farmers, workers and businesses,” said Ambassador Kirk. “As we have shown through the creation of this new unit, and the Obama Administration’s strong record of enforcing trade agreements and WTO commitments, we will continue to insist that all of our trading partners around the world play by the rules and uphold their WTO obligations.”
“India’s ban on U.S. poultry is clearly a case of disguising trade restrictions by invoking unjustified animal health concerns. 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.”
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.
Since at least February of 2007, India has formally banned imports of various agricultural products from the United States, supposedly to prevent outbreaks of avian influenza in India. India instituted this ban even though the United States has not had an outbreak of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (“HPAI”) since 2004. In addition, 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 AI found in the United States since 2004.
Over the last few years, the United States has repeatedly asked India to justify its claim that a ban on products from the United States is necessary. To date, India has not provided valid, scientifically-based justification for the import restrictions.
The WTO’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (“SPS Agreement”) explicitly recognizes that WTO Members have the right to adopt regulations to protect human, animal, or plant life or health. However, the SPS Agreement also requires WTO Members to take certain steps to ensure that such regulations are not merely a cover for protectionism. India appears to have acted inconsistently with its WTO obligations in this case. In particular, India’s ban does not appear to be supported by scientific evidence or a valid risk assessment.