WTO Affirms U.S. Trade Enforcement Win for Delaware’s Farmers

Washington, D.C. – Today, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body has agreed with a previous panel report, handing the United States and farmers across the country a major victory in a dispute challenging India’s ban on various U.S. agricultural products.  India’s ban on products such as poultry meat, eggs, and live pigs was allegedly maintained to protect India against avian influenza. 

The WTO panel and Appellate Body overwhelmingly agreed with the U.S. that India’s ban is not based on international standards or a risk assessment, India discriminates against U.S. products in favor of Indian products, India’s measures are more trade restrictive than necessary because it is safe to import U.S. products meeting international standards, and India’s restrictions are not adapted to the characteristics of U.S. exporting regions. 

This victory will help address barriers to the Indian market for U.S. farmers, including those in Delaware’s poultry industry – which exported $137 million in products in 2013 – in particular. It also sends a helpful signal to other WTO Members that they must ensure that any avian influenza restrictions they impose are grounded in science and are not simply a disguise for protectionism.”  

“The WTO ruling is a welcome sign that trade barriers based on unscientific restrictions on American agricultural exports will not stand,” Sen. Carper said. “There is still work to be done to open some of the world’s fastest growing markets to American farmers, but this decision is a big step forward for enabling them to tap into the enormous market in India. In Delaware, we know all too well about being shut out of international markets. Poultry farmers in the First State, who create more than $4.6 billion in economic activity each year, face trade barriers in countries all over the world. In recent years we have been successful in addressing China and Mexico’s trade barriers that kept Delmarva poultry out of those important markets and it looks like we’re on our way to doing the same in India.”

“Delaware’s poultry farmers deserve to compete on a level playing field in markets around the world, and I’m glad the World Trade Organization is taking steps to end India’s unfair ban on American agricultural products, including poultry,” Senator Coons said.  “We’ve seen other countries use unscientific standards in order to block shipments of American agricultural products in the past, and I’m sure we’ll see it again, but the precedent set today by the WTO is clear.  This is a win for Delaware farmers and farmers across the United States.”

“The growing demand for chicken in India represents a critical export market for U.S. poultry,” Rep. Carney said. “This ruling is great news for farmers in Delaware.  We have been pushing for years to ensure that India plays by the rules by treating U.S. poultry exports fairly. This ruling shows how effective trade enforcement benefits real people.  But today’s decision is not the end of this fight. I plan to continue to closely monitor India’s actions to ensure that they fully comply with this ruling.”


For nearly eight years, India claimed it needed to restrict various U.S. agricultural products, including poultry meat, eggs, and live pigs, supposedly to prevent entry of avian influenza into India.  The United States has consistently explained to­ India that, as reflected in relevant international standards, there is no scientific basis to ban imports of U.S. agricultural products.  Specifically, the most common type of avian influenza outbreak in the United States, low pathogenic avian influenza, does not warrant import prohibitions.  Although the United States has suffered from outbreaks of high pathogenic avian influenza in recent months, even these outbreaks do not justify a ban on imports from the entire United States, and should be limited to only where the outbreaks occur. 

The WTO panel established to hear U.S. claims that India’s restrictions are inconsistent with WTO rules circulated a report on October 14, 2014.  The panel found India breached its obligations under the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement).  The Appellate Body upheld the panel’s findings that India’s restrictions:

  • are not based on international standards or a risk assessment that takes into account available scientific evidence;
  • arbitrarily discriminate against U.S. products because India blocks imports while not similarly blocking domestic products;
  • are more trade restrictive than necessary since India could reasonably adopt international standards for the control of avian influenza instead of imposing an import ban; and
  • 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.

A copy of the Appellate Body’s report may be found here.

The U.S. poultry industry, which employs over 350,000 workers and consists of nearly 50,000 family farms – has been particularly affected by India’s restrictions.  The industry estimates that U.S. exports to India of just poultry meat alone could exceed $300 million a year once India’s restrictions are removed – and are likely to grow substantially in the future as India’s demand for high quality protein increases.  Exports are important to the health of this industry.  The United States exports 20 percent of its poultry meat production with U.S. exports for poultry meat, eggs, and other poultry products worth approximately $6.5 billion to over 136 countries in 2014.