STC Number - 186

Phytosanitary import restrictions

Maintained by: India
Raised by: European Union; United States of America
Supported by: Canada; Chile; New Zealand
First date raised: March 2004 G/SPS/R/33, paras. 23-31
Dates subsequently raised: June 2004 (G/SPS/R/34, paras. 22-24)
October 2004 (G/SPS/R/35, paras. 45-46)
Number of times subsequently raised: 2
Relevant documents: G/SPS/N/IND/12; G/SPS/N/IND/12/Add.1
Products covered: 44 Wood and articles of wood; wood charcoal; 4415 Packing cases, boxes, crates, drums and similar packings, of wood; cable-drums of wood; pallets, box pallets and other load boards, of wood; pallet collars of wood.
Primary subject keyword: Plant Health
Keywords: International Standards / Harmonization; Plant health
Status: Partially resolved
Solution: Amendments to Plant Quarantine Order 2003 regarding solid wood packaging.
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 2004, the United States expressed concerns over India's new fumigation requirements which entered into force on 1 January and 6 February 2004. These regulations were not notified to the WTO until 4 March 2004 as G/SPS/N/IND/12 and Members did not have an opportunity to provide comments. With respect to almonds, phoshpine had been an effective treatment to control pests of concern to India prior to the imposition of the new regulations. This treatment was supported by scientific literature that had been presented to India for examination. India was requested to revise its measures accordingly. With regards to solid wood packing, India's measures deviated substantially from international standard ISPM 15, particularly in relation to requirements for physotsanitary documentation and the lack of scientific justification for treatment requirements. Under the new regulation, both the consignment and packing material were to be treated and by implication, untreated consignments, or those without phytosanitary certification would not be allowed to enter India. Furthermore, India's requirement that packing material be treated with methyl bromide for 32 hours exceeded ISPM 15 requirement of 16 hours. India was requested to provide scientific justification for this divergence or revise its measures accordingly.

The European Communities rejected India's claim that these measures conformed to international standards and therefore did not have to be notified. The lapse of two months in notifying the WTO after implementation of the measures denied countries the opportunity to comment on them. The European Communities requested India to defer the implementation of the new measures until the normal 60-day comment period expired. Canada shared the concern about the lack of adequate comment period and stated that Canada became aware of the new requirements when its pulse exports to India were rejected. India had temporarily agreed to accept Canadian pulse shipments without fumigation until 30 April 2004. However, India's refusal to consider alternatives to fumigation treatment was unacceptable, given that Canada's climate made fumigation unnecessary. Furthermore, Canada had been free of the relevant pests for 20 years and had been shipping products to India for several years without problems. Canada urged India to use the least trade-restrictive measures as stipulated in the SPS Agreement. Chile and New Zealand shared the concerns expressed by the previous countries above, particularly those related to certification requirements and the lack of adequate comment period.

India explained that the Plant Quarantine Order was intended to simplify India's existing plant quarantine regime, which previously had multiple instruments, including the Destructive Insect and Pest Act of 1914 and Order 1989 regulating imports of cotton, plants, fruits and seeds into India. The new Order repealed and replaced these instruments and filled a gap in the old plant quarantine orders, particularly related to emerging global agricultural trade issues such as GMOs, germplasm, transgenic plant material, live insects, fungi and bio-control agents. The Plant Quarantine Order of 18 November 2003, came into force on 1 January 2004 and the application of some provisions deferred to 1 April 2004. The regulations were made available on the website immediately after its publication and a number of India's trading partners had sought clarification bilaterally. The Plant Quarantine Order was amended on 6 February 2004 to increase clarity and take account of Member's concerns.

With respect to the US concerns, phosphine fumigation was useful for quality control but was not an effective treatment against quarantine pests in almonds. Nevertheless, India agreed to examine the research papers presented by the United States and requested that Members send their comments on the issue. On the issue of solid wood packing, India required treatment of the whole consignment if it contained agricultural produce but would accept treatment according to ISPM 15 otherwise. Phytosanitary certificates were required if the exporting country had not followed ISPM 15 treatment requirements. With regards to Canada's concerns, the new Order contained a temporary provision for the relaxation of specific conditions if problems arose in the clearance of consignments. Canadian pulse consignments imported between 31 December 2003 and 30 April 2004 would be cleared and this decision was also extended to all trading partners. While the new regulations were based on scientific principles, India agreed to consider alternative measures proposed by Canada if they could be proven to be effective. India had notified the WTO of these measures on 4 March 2004 and the final date for comment was 30 April 2004.

In June 2004, the European Communities raised concerns about India's import restrictions related to plant quarantine. While India had amended the wood packaging part of these measures and brought them into line with international standards, concerns remained about a range of other existing measures that had negative trade impacts. India had not produced scientific information to justify these measures. The European Communities understood that according to India's regulatory approach in this area many types of products were banned before PRAs were conducted to determine if a ban was justified. Since no international standards existed for many of the banned products, India should conduct a PRA prior to implementing a measure as required by the SPS Agreement. Canada, New Zealand and the United States echoed the EC concerns. Both Canada and New Zealand stressed that Members had not had an opportunity to comment on these measures, and indicated that their authorities were engaged in bilateral discussions with India to seek a resolution to this issue.

India stated that it had delayed implementation of these measures until the comments on G/SPS/N/IND/12 could be considered. The Ministry of Agriculture had also discussed the phytosanitary concerns of other Members on a bilateral basis, and in some cases had provided short-term solutions to the issues. For example, India had accepted all import consignments of plant and plant materials until 30 June 2004 to provide ample adjustment period to exporting Members. Some of the provisions of the Plant Quarantine Order 2003 had already been amended, including those on treatment of solid wood packaging materials, and these amendments had been notified to the Secretariat.

In October 2004, the United States recalled that India's requirements for methyl bromide fumigation for numerous products from the United States was raised in the last Committee meeting. The fumigation requirements were adopted in November 2003, but were notified only in January 2004, two months after the measure had come into force. Bilateral discussions were held with India where it was agreed that US almonds would be allowed under the previous import requirements until June 2005. Phosphine was a proven and effective treatment for quarantine and storage pests associated with almonds. Nonetheless, the United States was conducting further research to develop long-term solutions to address India's concerns. India replied that the United States had provided information and data on the efficacy of phosphine as a fumigant. However, until field data was available, US almonds would be allowed into India subject to fumigation at the port of entry.