WASHINGTON – US Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced the US will take the first steps in the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement process to address India's ban on US poultry.

Kirk said the federal government is requesting consultations with the government of India concerning that country's ban on certain US agricultural exports, including meat and chicken eggs. India contends the ban is an effort to prevent avian influenza. The USTR said India has failed to provide scientific evidence substantiated by international standards on avian influenza control.

“India’s ban on US poultry is clearly a case of disguising trade restrictions by invoking unjustified animal health concerns," Kirk said. "The United States is the world’s leader in agricultural safety and we are confident that the WTO will confirm that India’s ban is unjustified."

"Opening India’s market to American farmers will promote jobs here at home, while also providing Indian consumers with access to high quality, safe US products," he added.

US poultry groups applauded the move. Jim Sumner, president of USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, said India's ban on US poultry is "thinly disguised protectionism.”

“The Indian economy is growing rapidly, as is its standard of living and its consumption of poultry," he said. "It is projected that India will soon be the world’s most populous country, and its people must have continued access to an ample supply of affordable protein.”

Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, said more than 100 countries import chicken from the US that is that is safe, affordable and abundant.

"As the middle class in India continues to expand, and the market moves more toward commercial poultry, the United States should be afforded the opportunity to compete fairly with our products in this growing market," Brown said. "For far too long, India has been using this non-tariff trade barrier to prohibit US poultry."

India has formally banned imports of various agricultural items produced in the US since at least February 2007, according to the USTR office. India imposed the ban to prevent outbreaks of avian influenza in India. However, the US has not had an outbreak of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) since 2004. Also, international standards for avian-influenza control do not support import bans due to the presence of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), the only kind of AI found in the US since 2004.

“India’s trade policies should conform to the scientifically based standards on avian influenza established by World Organization for Animal Health standards, as US turkey producers adhere to these globally recognized standards," said Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation.