EU demands clarification from India on imported toy testing rules

The EU has raised concerns with the WTO over India’s recently changed import rules for toys. Under these, testing must be done through labs accredited by the country’s national standards body. In a 16 April statement, the EU has asked India to justify the change in policy, which was introduced last September. Previously, imported toys could be tested under international standards as an alternative to those laid out by India’s Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Testing could also be conducted by internationally accredited labs under the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA), not just those accredited by India’s National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). In the statement to the WTO, the EU questions the rationale for the changes. It says that India gives only short reference to the measure’s objective – safety of children – but has given no explanation of any urgent problems that prompted the change.

Trade burden

The EU argues the changes create a particular burden on importers contrary to WTO rules, specifically Article 5.1.2 of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreement. It says the obligation for imported toys to be tested by NABL approved labs is “costly and time-consuming” and, especially for importers, requires duplicate testing with “very limited or no” resulting effect on safety. The EU also says producers in exporting countries have had no time to adapt or to comment on the rule changes. This is because they came into effect on 1 September and were only notified to the WTO on 7 December. Under the relevant clauses of the WTO TBT agreement, that notification should have been made “immediately”. The EU also asks how easily and quickly overseas labs might get NABL accreditation and, indeed, whether any international labs had applied or gained this. It says delays in getting accreditation could correspond to “de facto in-country testing. This would be particularly concerning”.

Accredited labs

A search for NABL accredited labs on the organisation’s website found a limited number of non-Indian labs. While India has 4,300 labs with varying approvals, only 18 approved overseas labs could be found. These were distributed across the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. The EU also requested that India “clear up uncertainty” on how long testing reports would remain valid, making the case that this should be at least 36 months. Further Information is available at: EU statement

Chemical Watch, 25 April 2018 ; http://chemicalwatch.com

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