Economy

‘China using pandemic as an excuse to block Indian imports’

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on October 24, 2021

India’s concerns find resonance with US and Australia

India has accused China of using the excuse of Covid-19 contamination as a pretext to block many Indian exports, particularly seafood, and has sought engagement with Chinese authorities on finding ways to bridge the huge trade balance in Beijing’s favour.

In its comments at China’s Trade Policy Review (TPR), a periodic exercise at the WTO to weigh the trade policies of member countries, New Delhi also complained about problems being faced by drug companies in obtaining registration for their formulations in China, according to a Geneva-based trade official. China’s last TPR was in 2018.

Non-transparent policies

“Several countries criticised China’s non-transparent trade policies and regulatory systems at the country’s TPR. India was particularly critical of the non-tariff barriers that the country is continuing to erect against Indian imports, especially at the time of the pandemic, and its lack of efforts towards bridging the trade gap between the two nations,” the official said.

Washington called on other WTO members to take action against China’s failure to fully adapt the open, market-oriented policies of the WTO either within the realm of the multilateral organisation or bilaterally, the official said. The Australian Ambassador pointed out that the country had received reliable information on instructions being given to Chinese companies by the authorities asking them not to purchase certain products from Australia..

China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao participated in the TPR online from Beijing with a team of 20 officials from 7 Chinese government agencies. The country received over 1,600 written questions from 40 WTO members.

The Indian delegate, at the TPR, said that it was alarming that during the pandemic, the use of SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) measures by China had risen steeply with the “unscientific’’ use of Covid-19 contamination as a pretext to block Indian exports, including seafood.

Indian pharmaceutical companies, too, were not able to get market approvals for their generics in China. The registration of formulations, which takes just 5-6 months globally, was taking up to three years in China, the Indian delegate said.

New Delhi sought a meeting with Chinese authorities to address the $46 billion trade deficit, the highest it has with any trading partner, as the problem was lingering for a long time. The Indian delegate pointed out that China had not yet fulfilled the promise made in 2001 of providing market access to 17 farm products. The Chinese Minister defended the country’s pandemic prevention measures and stressed that these were scientifically based and had not hit imports to the country.

Published on October 24, 2021

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