India failed to persuade the World Trade Organization (WTO) to dismiss a trade complaint involving poultry brought by the United States, according to a preliminary ruling published by the WTO on July 8. The WTO ruling was apparently made on May 28 but not made available until earlier this week.  The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) launched the legal challenge at the WTO in March 2012, contesting India’s restrictions on imports of poultry, pork, and other products.

India told the WTO that it justified its restrictions on U.S. poultry imports because the United States has avian influenza. USTR said India’s rules are a “disguised” illegal restriction on foreign trade and not backed by science.  India tried to have the U.S. complaint dismissed on technical objections, including that the allegation was not precise enough and did not spell out the legal argument. However, according to the preliminary ruling this week, the WTO’s adjudicators dismissed India’s technical arguments, saying “under the circumstances, there can be no uncertainty on India’s part at this state of the proceedings” as to which specific Indian rules the United States was challenging. It also said India’s defense would not be prejudiced by the way the U.S. challenge was presented. This situation leaves the original U.S. complaint intact, with a ruling likely later this year.

The case moved to the dispute panel settlement stage earlier this year after bilateral talks between India and the Untied States failed to resolve the problem.  The WTO established a panel in February 2013 to directly rule on the U.S. claims. In March, India filed its current request regarding the technical flaws of the complaint.

The WTO’s decision this week strengthens the hand of the new U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who told Reuters last month that growing trade problems with India would be a major early focus of his tenure.