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FICCI wants EU norms raised at WTO review

Our Bureau

NEW DELHI, July 10

THE Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), as part of its recommendations, has urged the Government to take up the issue of higher than normal standards imposed by the EU in the WTO Trade Policy Review of European Union scheduled for July 24-26.

FICCI said that "technical regulations and standards (for both agriculture and non-agriculture items) have become a significant barrier to the market access for our exports, especially agri-exports, in EU.''

In the last trade policy review of EU in 2000, concerns were raised by a number of WTO members about the impact that such higher level of standards would have on market access. However, it noted that higher level of food safety standards continued to impinge our agri-exports. Some of the European Commission's (EC) directives on health and food safety were more onerous than those recommended by international standard setting bodies.

With regard to food safety, FICCI expressed serious reservations over the EU's new food legislation that provides for the use of "Precautionary Principle'' in matters of food safety, entered into force on February 21 this year. Under this principle, protective measures can be taken even if a health risk is only suspected of a product but not proven. The chamber said this would give EU wide-ranging powers to unduly restrict the imports of farm products into the region and favour its domestic producers.

In case of whisky, the chamber said, that there were certain technical barriers to trade which affected the exports of Indian whisky to EU countries. These relate to labelling and pack sizes. All the importing countries insist on labels to be printed in their local languages in addition to English.

It also pointed out some irregularities and the infirmities in the EC's procedure of anti-dumping investigations. In the past EC had initiated back-to-back and simultaneous investigations against India's exports. Giving an example, FICCI said that an ongoing anti-dumping investigation against Indian stainless steel bright bars notwithstanding, EC also initiated an anti-subsidy investigation against the same item originating in India. Often the EU's anti-dumping actions appear to be pre-mediated and non-concern is shown to the actual trade data produced by Indian firms.

The chamber added the current degree of market access for Indian exports in EU remained limited due to stringent standards, irregularities in anti-dumping investigations and numerous preferential trading agreements of EU. Hence, it was important to address these issues in the forthcoming trade policy review of the EU.

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