US Requests WTO Panel in Poultry Dispute with India

According to a USTR press release, the US is pressing ahead with a request for the establishment of a panel in DS430 to decide upon US claims “regarding the Government of India’s restrictions on imports of various U.S. agricultural products, including poultry meat and chicken eggs.” (I have discussed the dispute and the request for consultation previously.)

Although the panel request is not yet up on the WTO website, the USTR press release provides the following background:

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.

[…] 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.

Benn McGrady offers some thoughts on this development over on the O’Neill Institute Blog.  Referring to the other dispute recently initiated by India against the US over CVDs on certain steel products from India, McGrady notes, that “[t]his consultation [CVD] was initiated by India shortly after the consultation concerning agricultural imports was initiated by the US, suggesting something of a tit-for-tat claim and counterclaim dynamic”. In fact, recent reports continue to suggest that India could soon file another dispute against the US over certain visa fees imposed by the latter, which would only further the perception of such a dynamic at work between the two countries. McGrady also makes a reference to India’s protest against the US placing it on the “Priority Watch List” in the US Special 301 Report (Recall also the voices of protest against India’s first compulsory license issued earlier this year). As of now, such a reactionary dynamic seems to be confined to the realm of WTO disputes, however, it will be interesting to see if it ends up defining India-US economic relations in other areas (such as the proposed bilateral investment treaty, for example).

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US Requests Consultations with India at the WTO

USTR Ron Kirk has announced that the United States will request consultations with India under the WTO dispute settlement procedures over India’s import prohibition on poultry meat and chicken eggs. India’s reason for this trade restriction seems to be the prevention of avian influenza. The United States, however claims that it has not provided scientific evidence in line with international standards on avian-influenza control. Under the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding, if consultations fail to resolve the differences a WTO panel may be composed to adjudicate the matter. Kirk goes on to note that

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.

and:

We are extraordinarily frustrated with India’s continued non-application of internationally recognised scientific standards. Our American poultry, it is safe. There is no reason for them to deny us access,

As noted previously, India has also commenced a dispute against Turkey. This makes it one each as a complainant and a respondent.

Update: Shortly after the above USTR notification, the WTO confirmed that the United States has initiated the dispute formally.

Update 2: I was going through the website of the Indian DG for Foreign Trade, and I believe that the measure being challenged by the US may be a notification issued by the Min. of Commerce in March 2007. The notification prohibits imports of certain birds, and products deriving from them, based on the risk for Avian Influenza (both highly pathogenic and low pathogenic strains). The notification is available here