Parliamentary panel asks govt to protect dairy sector under India EU FTA

Source: TOI

NEW DELHI: A Parliamentary panel today urged the government to take adequate steps for protecting the interest of domestic dairy sector under the proposed India-EU bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).

"The Committee desire that the interest of dairy producers in the country which is paramount be protected from monopolistic, discriminatory and lopsided trade practices," the Committee on Agriculture said in the latest report tabled in Parliament.

It also urged the government "not only to ensure a level-playing field (to the local industry) but also prevail upon the EU to accord concessions for their domestic dairy producers."

The panel, which discussed the issue related to India-EU FTA while examining the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries' demands for grants for 2013-14 fiscal, hoped that the government would take adequate action.

India and the 27-nation bloc have been negotiating on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) since June 2007 and have missed several deadlines to conclude the talks due to differences on the level of opening up of the markets. The next ministerial meeting is scheduled for June.

When the committee sought to know about the proposed FTA with EU and the government's stand on dairy issue, it was informed that "India oppose any tariff concessions to EU for their dairy produce and the same has been conveyed to the Department of Commerce. The matter is under negotiation," the report said.

The Committee was told that EU is not permitting the import of dairy products from India citing sanitary and phystosanitary clause and alleged that Indian milch animals were not being maintained as per EU norms and Indian dairy products are "unfit for consumption in Europe".

The Committee was also informed that the EU on the contrary continued to export and sell its dairy products in India seeking protection under Geographical Indication (GI), while Indian products like 'lassi'(butter milk) and paneer (cottage cheese) were freely sold in Europe without giving any protection to India.

GI, among other things, helps in preventing unauthorised use of products. The European Union (EU) has protection for products like Gouda, Feta and Emmenthal under GI.

According to the report, the Department of Animal Husbandry has informed the Committee that procuring GI for Indian products like lassi and paneer "may not be feasible" since these products are generic products and their production is not limited to any particular geographical location.

So far, India has protected the dairy sector in all the free trade pacts it has signed including the ones with the Asean countries, Japan and South Korea.

Source: (TOI)