US Chicken Import Row: WTO Cedes India’s Request

INDIA - In what could bring an end to India’s lingering dispute with the US on restrictions on chicken imports, New Delhi has secured the establishment of a compliance panel at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
calendar icon 23 May 2017
clock icon 4 minute read

The panel will determine whether it has complied with a previous ruling faulting import prohibitions on poultry due to bird flu concerns.

“New Delhi had requested that a panel be established to show that the new measures are in conformity with India's WTO obligations. The US had disagreed that India’s revised avian influenza (AI) measures comply with the WTO’s findings. The request has been accepted,” an official privy to the meeting of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) told The Hindu BusinessLine on Monday.

India’s first request for a panel was blocked by the US at a meeting of the DSB on April 19, prompting India to submit its second request. The US had said it saw no valid legal basis for India’s assertion of compliance and that inconsistencies found by the WTO in its original rules remain.

A compliance panel at this time would not contribute to prompt resolution of the dispute, it had asserted.

Restrictive measures

New Delhi had lost a case at the WTO in 2015 filed by Washington against restrictive AI measures that prevented the American industry from selling poultry products, including chicken legs, in the Indian market. The US had said that the restrictions were not based on scientific validation.

Following the ruling, India made two rounds of changes in its rules on bird flu to bring it in line with the DSB’s ruling and take care of specific concerns raised by the US. The US, however, remained dissatisfied with the changes.

India, on Monday, told the DSB that a series of measures adopted between mid-2016 and February 2017 brought it in line with the WTO’s ruling. In particular, the measures allow import of poultry and poultry products from pest-or disease-free areas and areas of low pest or disease prevalence, India said.

Concerns were also raised by India about the US decision to seek WTO authorisation to retaliate against India for not complying with the ruling without first seeking a compliance panel review of India’s implementation efforts.

It said the US refused to enter into a sequencing agreement which would have allowed a compliance panel to rule while safeguarding US rights to retaliate in the event of a finding of non-compliance.

The US said India continued to maintain a complete ban on US poultry products and that it regretted India was focusing on litigation rather than achieving compliance.

The compliance panel that has been set up will now go through the representations of both countries and come out with its ruling.

Making inroads

The US poultry industry is interested in making inroads into the Indian market for chicken legs (which are not preferred by American customers). According to industry estimates, the US could potentially take away 40 per cent of the market of domestic breeders, who produce 3.5 million tonnes of chicken annually.

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