India is not only adopting protectionist measures in the agriculture sector, but also has put unjustified barriers to US dairy and meat products, a former top American trade official has alleged.

“India is very protectionist when it comes to agriculture and to a large extent because they’re concerned about rural economic and political instability,” Allen Johnson, the former Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the US Trade Representative, told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing yesterday.

He said India has very high agricultural tariffs. “Some of the highest in the world, averaging between — maximum bound rates are generally between 100 per cent and 300 per cent, with an average of about 120 per cent. Applied tariffs are about average 35 per cent”.

Difference between the bound and applied is called water.

“They use that water effectively for managing imports, basically. So if they want to avoid domestic food inflation, they lower the tariff. If they want to protect domestic prices, they raise the tariff. And they can do it within their WTO bound levels,” he explained.

Johnson said most US exports could face a bound level of up to 100 per cent.

Almonds, the top US export, faces a specific rate of Rs 35 per kg for shelled and Rs 57 per kg for unshelled.

“That’s equal, under recent prices, to about a 14 per cent tariff. Imagine what we could do if that didn’t exist, and it is our third largest export...,” he added.

“Other products, such as beef, pork, poultry are facing similar situations in that they have bound rates of 100 per cent and applied rates between 30 per cent and 100 per cent.

“Dairy, for example, has bound rates between 40 and 150 per cent and applied rates between 30 and 60 per cent,” he said.

Not only this, Johnson alleged, India has high sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, arbitrary export certificate requirements, restrictive maximum residue levels, unjustified animal disease controls, among other things.

“For example, in dairy, we’ve been effectively blocked since 2003 due to unwarranted import requirements. Both the US government and the industry believe these are not scientific.

And to add insult to injury, we actually import twice as much dairy from India as we export.

“Pork has had access denied due to unjustified import residue requirements that don’t have a scientific justification, as well as other requirements,” Johnson said.

US livestock, poultry and pork, have been denied access due to overly restrictive avian influenza standards, he added.

“They have a ban on low-path A I, which is inconsistent with international standards,” he alleged, adding that the US last month had initiated a WTO case on this.

(This article was published on March 14, 2013)
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