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US considering legal tools to enter India farm market

business Updated: Aug 06, 2010 12:38 IST

The US has said it is exploring all options, including legal tools, to force India to open up its agriculture market, especially the dairy sector.

"We are exceptionally frustrated. I will tell you it's generally not our practice to comment publicly as to whether we are going to take legal action, but I would tell you we are exploring every alternative and every enforcement tool available to us to get India to open up their markets on a number of agriculture issues," the US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, told the US lawmakers on Thursday.

Kirk, who has been to India twice and soon would be travelling to New Delhi, said that he has raised this issue of opening up of the agricultural market, in particular those of dairy products, at the highest level.

"We have raised ... I was in India twice. Last year I met with them directly about it. Ambassador (Demetrois) Marantis (Deputy US Trade Representative) just came back. Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, who is our chief agriculture negotiator ... we have used every tool of diplomacy we have, but we are going to be examining everything else in our toolbox to see if we can't get them to behave differently," Kirk said.

Kirk was responding to a question from Senator Debbie Stabenow in this regard.

"For far too long, India has not been playing by the rules with dairy. There are many ongoing issues where they are, frankly, ignoring science. One of the most troubling is a situation with dairy and an issue that a number of us wrote you about earlier this year," Stabenow said.

"For over six years now, India has issued dairy certificates to block legitimate US dairy exports and refused to negotiate in good faith to find a resolution. This certification requirement is not based on sound science."

India has exported an average of $77 million worth of dairy products to the US over the last three years, while the US dairy exports are being blocked, the Senator said.

"So my question is, given the lack of progress with India over many years, what is the USTR doing to examine legal alternatives?" he asked.

Kirk said he completely agrees with the Senators assessment on India.