Dairy products: Denying market access not the only way to respect religious views, US tells India

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Calls for empowering people with information to make the right choice

New Delhi, August 18, 2018: The US dairy industry rejected India’s assertion that it banned dairy products derived from livestock fed on ruminant protein on religious grounds and argued that the same purpose could be served by empowering the people with the information they needed to make the right choice.

“Labelling, for instance, is a widely used method for ensuring that consumers are empowered with information they need to purchase the products that align with their values. To date, India has not yet accepted that proposal nor identified another viable resolution,” a representative of the US Dairy Export Council pointed out at the last hearing on the review of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) benefits to India. BusinessLine has gone through the minutes of the hearing.

Trade concerns

US dairy industry and medical equipment industry have objected to the continuation of GSP benefits — which allow duty free exports of 1937 products from India worth $5 billion — on the ground that the country puts in place market access barriers for US products. The US dairy industry claims that if India provided market access, its exports would increase by up to $100 million.

India, since 2003, requires dairy producers to certify that the products are not from animals fed on the innards of cow and sheep. While countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the EU have fallen in line with the requirements and have been giving the required certification, the US dairy industry has been resisting it according to thehindubusinessline.com.

“The US has to understand that India can’t hurt the religious sentiments of its people. We have said as much to the USTR team that visited New Delhi in July. Hopefully the USTR will take a fair view on the matter,” a government official told BusinessLine.

Feeding norms

According to the US dairy industry, for the past several years, the focus has hinged on US livestock feeding practices, the US dairy representative said. The Indian government’s animal feeding demands are uniquely restrictive, go well beyond OIE guidance, and do not have a scientific basis in addressing either a food safety or animal health risk, the representative said.

Multiple avenues

“Over the years, the US has proposed to India multiple avenues to address this feeding issue in a manner that would be compatible with the resumption of trade and take into account India’s concerns. The current proposal entails an offer that allows Indian consumers to decide for themselves which safe foods they wish to consume.… a government-imposed border requirement that completely bars market access for certain products is not the only possible method of respecting consumers’ religious views,” the representative said.

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