Agri Business

India locks horns with China at WTO

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on March 31, 2021

There has been a sharp decline in imports of Indian seafood, including shrimp, by China in 2020-21 CV Subrahmanyam   -  CV Subrahmanyam

Questions import barriers on shrimp, continued ban on buffalo meat

Locking horns with China at the WTO, India has questioned the fresh barriers on shrimp imports imposed by the country and also challenged the validity of the continued ban on buffalo meat from India, a Geneva-based official has said.

China defended its decisions by arguing that India did not share enough information to ensure traceability of shrimps. It cited continued risk of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in India for the ban on import of buffalo meet and said that the restrictions would be lifted only when the disease was effectively controlled. “At the recent meeting of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures, India expressed concerns about the new format of health certificate proposed by China for shrimp imports and pointed out that the viruses to be tested for do not pose any threat to human health,” the official said.

China seeks traceability

The restrictions on imports of the items could be viewed in the light of increased political and diplomatic confrontation between the two nations resulting in a spill-over on the trade front, with both sides imposing various barriers on flow of goods and investments. As per the new certification requirement, individual shrimp consignments have to be tested for all pathogens that have been listed by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), including WSSV (White spot Syndrome virus).

“The Indian representative pointed out that as its waters are not free from the listed viruses, it would be near impossible to issue health certificates in the new format and thus consignments from the country will not be considered fit for exports to China,” the official said.

India’s exports of seafood in 2019-20 were valued at about $6.8 billion and China’s imports, at $1.3 billion, accounted for approximately 20 per cent of it. However, there has been a sharp decline in imports of Indian seafood, including shrimps, by China in 2020-21, as per industry estimates.

On the issue of buffalo meat, India expressed its disappointment that China was not allowing shipments despite signing of an MoU in 2013 and the country clearing 14 centres in 2017 in India for exports.

India pointed out that the OIE allowed export of meat from FMD affected countries as long as they followed the Terrestrial Animals Health Code (animals are procured from within 10 km of the meat plant), which India followed.

If India and China do not settle the matter through discussions, New Delhi has the option of asking for a WTO panel to settle the dispute.

Published on March 31, 2021

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