US heads for WTO showdown as negotiations with India fail

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Washington DC – The United States on Friday requested that the World Trade Organization (WTO) take the next official steps to mediate its dispute with India on imports of US agricultural products, according to an announcement from the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

Ambassador Ron Kirk of the USTR said in a statement that Washington requested the WTO “to establish a dispute settlement panel to decide US claims regarding the Government of India’s restrictions on imports of various US agricultural products, including poultry meat and chicken eggs.”

Ambassador Kirk said, “It is essential that US farmers obtain the reliable market access that India agreed to,” adding, “the United States holds its agriculture industry to the highest standards of safety and is confident the WTO will agree there is no justification for India’s restrictions on US exports.”

The USTR office said the formal consultations with India were requested on March 7. The request for panel formation came after the failure of talks, which were held on April 16-17.

Referencing the Indian assertion that its measures are aimed at “preventing entry of avian influenza,” the USTR argued, “India’s measures are inconsistent with the relevant science, international guidelines, and the standards India has set for its own domestic industry.”

For more than five years, India has prohibited imports of certain agricultural products from the US as a precautionary measure to prevent an outbreak of avian influenza in the country.

Ambassador Kirk, in his remarks prior to the consultations, refuted Indian claims that the trade ban is aimed at preventing avian influenza, as India had not provided scientific evidence in line with international standards on avian-influenza control, he argued.

Up to 45 days are now allowed for a panel to be appointed, plus an additional 6 months for the panel to conclude its deliberations, as the Dispute Settlement Body of the WTO awaits the panel’s recommendations. (IATNS)

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