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Call to Initiate WTO Consultations with India

by 5m Editor
12 December 2011, at 9:12am

US - The USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) and the National Chicken Council (NCC) encourage US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to begin consultations with the government of India in the World Trade Organization (WTO) for India’s longstanding prohibition on the import of US poultry.

Despite being one of the 23 founding countries of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, which became the WTO) in 1947, India has done as little as any nation to open its border to trade or to abide by multilateral trade rules. We believe this is ironic, because the purpose of the GATT/WTO has been to liberalize trade through market access and fair and predictable trade rules.

India has used a variety of excuses and has erected trade barriers over many decades to deny access to US poultry. Primarily, since 2006 India has had a ban on poultry imports from any country that has reported any incident of avian influenza, irrespective of its pathogenicity. This protectionist posture is inconsistent with accepted international standards, and has no health or safety justification. While international protocols such as those adopted by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), as well as the health rules of most countries engaged in international trade, clearly distinguish between low-pathogenic AI and highly pathogenic AI, India makes no such distinction.

"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. 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."

"US broiler chicken companies and the farm families that grow broiler chickens are committed to the responsible production of food that is safe, affordable and abundant for consumers in the US and around the world," said NCC President Mike Brown. "As the middle class in India continues to expand, and the market moves more toward commercial poultry, the US should be afforded the opportunity to compete fairly with our products in this growing market."

While there are important principles at issue here, there are also important trade possibilities. The US believes that if India were to open its market and to apply international rules fairly, the US poultry industry could compete effectively. The current Indian market for poultry is about 2.6 million metric tons annually, and is growing at 8 per cent to 10 per cent per year. It is estimated that if trade with India were liberalized, annual US poultry exports could exceed $300 million.

The organizations believe that India’s actions constitute a clear disregard for international trade rules and its obligations under those rules. Therefore, they have formally requested that USTR and USDA engage in consultations with India under article XXIII of the GATT and to initiate dispute settlement if India does not bring its import regime into compliance with international rules and standards.