WTO panel accepts India-US request

India and the US have once again asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to delay a panel report on New Delhi’s compliance with the judgement issued in its poultry dispute with Washington, that India lost, as the two hoped to sort out the matter bilaterally.

“The panel now wishes to inform the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) that the parties have again jointly requested the panel to delay the issuance of its report. The panel has accepted the parties’ request, and accordingly, now expects to issue its final report by the end of March 2021,” as per a communication circulated by the WTO panel this week.

New Delhi has maintained that it has taken all measures possible to bring its avian influenza measures in line with what was asked for by the WTO dispute panel after it lost the case, in early 2015, filed by the US for blocking poultry imports from the country.

“Because of several changes in its sanitary and phytosanitary requirements and inspection procedures brought about for poultry, imports have started coming in from the US. But Washington still refuses to withdraw the request made to the WTO requesting permission to suspend concessions worth $450 million to India. If that is done, the entire dispute will be over,” the official said.

“With the US managing to get a foothold in the Indian market because of its strong-arm tactics at the WTO, it seems it is trying to wait some more to see if it can get some further concessions,” the officials added.

In the bilateral negotiations for a India-US mini-trade deal, poultry is an area where the US is keen on getting concessions and is trying to persuade India to lower import duties. The Indian poultry industry, however, is opposing the request tooth and nail as it is worried that lowering of import duties may lead to cheap chicken legs from the US displacing domestic products.

Following the WTO ruling in 2015 against India’s avian Influenza measures that blocked imports of poultry from the US, India revised its policies to bring them in line with the ruling. The US, however, refused to accept India’s revised measures and sought authorisation for imposing trade retaliatory measures to the tune of $450 million on Indian products.

India objected to the level of suspension of concessions or other obligations, and referred the matter to arbitration in July 2016, following which the matter was referred to arbitration. Simultaneously, the following year, India sought a compliance panel to look into whether it complied with the DSB’s rulings and recommendations by adopting measures that are consistent with its WTO obligations.

“Once India convinces the US to withdraw its request for imposing retaliatory duties on India, both the arbitration and the compliance case can be ended,” the official said.

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