WTO’s Ruling Against India’s Ban on U.S. Agricultural Products May Finally Open Market for American Farmers
June 30, 2015

On June 4, 2015, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body ruled in favor of the United States and affirmed the WTO dispute settlement panel’s findings that India’s ban on various U.S. agricultural products violates WTO rules. The ban, which has been in place since 2007, applies to products such as poultry meat, eggs, and live pigs. 

India claimed that the ban was maintained to protect against avian influenza (commonly known as “bird flu”), but the United States successfully argued that (1) the most common type of avian influenza outbreak in the United States, low pathogenic avian influenza, does not warrant import prohibitions, and (2) even the outbreaks of high pathogenic avian influenza in recent months do not justify a ban on imports from the entire United States and should be limited to only where the outbreaks occur. The WTO agreed with the United States, and determined that India’s ban was not based on international standards or a risk assessment that takes into account scientific evidence.  The WTO also upheld the panel’s finding that India’s restrictions arbitrarily discriminate against U.S. imports, are more trade restrictive than necessary, fail to recognize the concept of disease-free areas and are not adapted to the characteristics of the areas from which products originate and to which they are destined. 

This is a major victory for U.S. farmers as it will help open the Indian market for their products and alert other WTO members that any avian influenza restrictions they impose are grounded in science, such as taking into account the limited geographic impact from outbreaks.  According to a press release issued by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, if India’s ban is lifted, U.S. exports of poultry meat alone “could exceed $300 million a year” and “are likely to grow substantially in the future as India’s demand for high quality protein increases.”