India Prepares to Challenge U.S. on Trade Barriers

NEW DELHI: India will take up with the U.S. the issue of non-tariff barriers (NTBs)— or restrictions other than those related to tariffs— being faced by Indian businesses in exporting to the country at the next bilateral trade meeting. The Commerce Department is collecting inputs from various sectors on the restrictions they are facing in penetrating the U.S. market, which would be eventually taken up with the U.S. department of trade, a commerce department official said.

"Indian industries in various sectors such as agriculture, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, seafood and vehicles have been complaining about various barriers being faced by them in the U.S. market. We are trying to compile them so that they can be taken up with the U.S. government in a structured manner," the official told ET.

Now that the new UPA government is in place and the U.S. has a new trade representative, the next round of bilateral trade meeting between India and the U.S. is expected soon, the official added.

Studies carried out by Indian research agencies show that the most frequently applied NTB on Indian goods are technical barriers to trade (TBT), including safety and food safety measures.

For instance, while the U.S. allowed India to export mangoes after long years of negotiations, the high cost of irradiation (to ensure there are no fruit flies) and inspections by U.S. officials increase the cost of operation, rendering Indian mangoes non-competitive.

"There are other regulations too, like product characteristic requirements, marking requirements and labeling requirements which makes the process of exporting to the U.S. extremely tough," the official said.

The commerce department hopes to conclude the process of compilation of data on non-tariff barriers by August. "We will be in a position to take up our case with the U.S. in August," the official said.

The U.S., too, has initiated an investigation to find out how India's farm trade barriers affect exports from that country.

The U.S. is India's largest trading partner with bilateral trade touching $44.8 billion in 2008.

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