WTO refuses Indian request to throw out US trade dispute

GENEVA (REUTERS) - India has failed to persuade the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to dismiss a trade complaint brought by the United States, according to a preliminary ruling published on the WTO's website on Monday.

The United States launched the legal challenge at the world trade body in March 2012, contesting Indian restrictions on imports of poultry, pigs and related products.

India says its checks on US imports are justified by concerns about bird flu, but the United States argues the rules are a "disguised" illegal restriction on foreign trade and not backed by science.

India tried to have the US complaint dismissed on technical objections, including that the allegation was not precise enough and did not spell out the legal argument.

But according to the preliminary ruling published on Monday, the WTO's adjudicators dismissed India's technical arguments, saying "there can be no uncertainty on India's part".

This leaves the original US complaint intact, with a ruling likely later this year.

The WTO's decision strengthens the hand of the new US Trade Representative Michael Froman, who said last month that growing trade problems with New Delhi would be a major early focus of his tenure.

India and the United States are also at loggerheads over several other trade issues, ranging from fees charged on US business visas to India's support for the solar power sector.

Friction between the two countries is a major obstacle to a global trade deal being negotiated by all of the WTO's 159 members.

The deal aims to slash red tape that is costing trade hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

The WTO hopes ministers will sign the agreement at a meeting in Bali in December, but the United States and India are championing rival visions for the future of trade reform, splitting the trade body's membership and making it hard to reach a consensus.

The Bali deal is widely seen as the last chance to revive global trade negotiations after the failure of the Doha round of trade talks in 2011.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.