Today, Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and Representative John Carney (all D-Del.) commended the Obama Administration's recent action to protect the Delmarva and U.S. poultry industries and take steps to ensure that U.S. agriculture products, including poultry meat and chicken eggs, have fair access to India's markets. Today, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it will request consultations with India, which is the first step in the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement process, for India's prohibition on U.S. agriculture products, including poultry. Late last year, Sens. Carper and Coons, together with a bipartisan group of 19 other Senators, sent a letter to USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk urging the Administration to resolve longstanding, non-scientifically based policies during Ambassador Kirk's upcoming meeting with India's senior government leaders. Rep. Carney led a similar bipartisan letter, signed by 46 other members, in the House of Representatives.
Since at least February of 2007, India has formally banned imports of various agricultural products from the United States, supposedly to prevent outbreaks of avian influenza in India. India instituted this ban even though the United States has not had an outbreak of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza ("HPAI") since 2004. India's trade policies have not conformed to the scientifically based World Organization for Animal Health standards on the viral disease avian influenza (AI). American poultry producers adhere to these globally recognized standards of food production.
"The Obama Administration did the right thing today to help protect American agriculture jobs and the livelihoods of American growers -- including poultry producers -- from unfair restrictions imposed by India on U.S. agriculture imports," Senator Carper said. "These unfair restrictions harm U.S. poultry producers, including the chicken producers in Delaware who export hundreds of millions of dollars in poultry products to countries like India every year. The United States has acted in good faith and followed the rules by implementing measures to ensure that the products we export are safe and healthy to consume. India's obstruction to fair foreign access to its markets is unacceptable. I hope that the actions taken today by the Obama Administration will encourage India to do the right thing, and ensure that American poultry producers and workers get a fair shake."
"It's a point of pride that Delaware has long been a global leader in the production of poultry products that adhere to the most rigorous and comprehensive of safety measures," Senator Coons said. "That's why it's been so frustrating that, like all American poultry, our products have been blocked from the growing Indian market. I applaud the steps taken by the Obama Administration today and hope that these negotiations will result in India ending its unjust embargo of American poultry. Delaware's poultry community is one of the largest employers in the state, providing jobs for thousands of Delawareans and generating billions of dollars for our economy. We must remain vigilant in the fight against obstruction of access to foreign markets. I will continue to work with my colleagues to end unfair business practices, both nationally and globally, that impede the economic growth of Delaware's agricultural sector. "
"Today's announcement is welcome news for Delaware's poultry industry," said Representative Carney said. "By banning U.S. poultry without supporting scientific evidence, India is taking advantage of the United States and not playing by the rules established by the World Trade Organization. I'm glad that the Obama Administration is seeking to fix this problem, and I hope that American poultry farmers will be able to export their high-quality products to India in the near future."
According to the USTR, consultations are the first step in the WTO dispute settlement process and parties are encouraged to agree to a solution at this stage. If the matter is not resolved through consultations, the United States may request the establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel.
The WTO's Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures ("SPS Agreement") explicitly recognizes that WTO Members have the right to adopt regulations to protect human, animal, or plant life or health. However, the SPS Agreement also requires WTO Members to take certain steps to ensure that such regulations are not merely a cover for protectionism. India appears to have acted inconsistently with its WTO obligations in this case. In particular, India's ban does not appear to be supported by scientific evidence or a valid risk assessment.
Over the last few years, the United States has repeatedly asked India to justify its claim that a ban on products from the United States is necessary. To date, India has not provided valid, scientifically-based justification for the import restrictions.
The National Chicken Council estimates that U.S. poultry exports to India could exceed $300 million annually if appropriate, fair market access was provided in accordance with India's obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization.
According to a study released earlier this year by the University of Delaware, poultry production and processing accounts for the largest share of Delaware's $8 billion agriculture economy, at $3.2 billion. Last year, Delaware exported $111.5 million worth of chicken and chicken products across the globe. The industry is a leading employer in Delaware, supporting more than 13,000 jobs in Kent and Sussex County.
Earlier this week, the Delegation authored an op-ed about its commitment to preserving Delmarva as a leading region for the U.S. poultry industry.