Following U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk’s announcement today that the United States has requested the World Trade Organization (WTO) to establish a dispute settlement panel to decide U.S. claims regarding the Government of India’s restrictions on imports of various U.S. agricultural products, including poultry meat and chicken eggs, the National Chicken Council, USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, and National Turkey Federation issued a joint statement strongly supporting USTR’s action.  While India asserts that its measures are aimed at preventing entry of avian influenza, India’s measures are inconsistent with the relevant science, international guidelines, and the standards India has set for its own domestic industry, USTR said.

“Unfortunately, the government of India did not lift its unwarranted restrictions on U.S. poultry after consultations with the United States at the WTO in Geneva.  However, we are pleased that USTR is taking the next step.  We support the dispute settlement process moving forward as soon as possible with the formation of this panel,” the joint statement read.

In its announcement today, USTR said “it is essential that U.S. farmers obtain the reliable market access that India agreed to. The United States holds its agriculture industry to the highest standards of safety and is confident the WTO will agree that there is no justification for India’s restrictions on U.S. exports.”   The United States requested formal consultations with India on March 7.  The United States and India held consultations on April 16-17, without resolution of the matter, USTR noted.

Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) who helped lead the congressional effort earlier this year to encourage USTR to take the WTO action against India said, “I appreciate the United States Trade Representative’s commitment to resolving this dispute which has disadvantaged American farmers.  It has become clear that the formal dispute resolution process of the WTO is the only way we are going to achieve the level of access to the Indian market that the Indian government is treaty-obligated to provide.”

Forty-seven Congressmen signed the letter to USTR.

USTR reiterated in its statement today that 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.  The WTO’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) explicitly recognizes that WTO Members have the right to adopt measures to protect human, animal, or plant life or health.   However, to ensure that SPS measures do not restrict imports unfairly, WTO Members agreed in the SPS Agreement to disciplines on such measures.  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.