London: The European Union's decision to ban the import of Indian mangoes is "ill-conceived and misguided" and could impact the 28-member bloc's negotiations on an FTA with India, a leading European trade body today said.
The Brussels-based Europe India Chamber of Commerce (EICC) issued a statement on the ban on Indian Alphonso mangoes and some vegetables which comes into force from May 1.
"The EU bureaucracy thinks that this decision will strengthen its bargaining position on FTA (Free Trade Agreement) and other bilateral issues with the new government but the EU's thinking is utterly 'misplaced' and very childish, and will only harden India's new government's attitude towards EU," warned Sunil Prasad, secretary-general of the chamber set up to promote bilateral trade, investment and economic relations between the EU and India.
The UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said the temporary EU ban was necessary due to the pests found in fruits and vegetables which could threaten Britain's salad crop industry of tomato and cucumber. "Indian mangoes and vegetables are imported to Europe for centuries and by banning these, the EU has once again shown its immaturity and utter nonsense in policy decisions.
"There are countries in Africa and Asia where cultivation and packaging process of imported mangoes are far worse than India and by singling out India, the EU has demonstrated its complete disrespect and unbalanced attitude towards the existing negotiation on an FTA," Prasad said. He expressed hope that the EU will rethink its decision and create a "conducive environment" where issues of bilateral trade can be discussed with the new government in New Delhi.
"Although WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures allows countries to set their own standards, it also says regulations must be based on science and they should be applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health.
"In this case there was no scientific justification to ban mangoes as there was no appropriate assessment of risks," said the official, who has been campaigning for a multilateral rule-based trading system.
"I urge the European Union to behave like a matured trading partner and withdraw the decision with immediate effect so that the damage is not beyond repair," he stressed, adding that he will also raise the issue with the EU Ambassador during his visit to New Delhi next week. Indian-origin MP Keith Vaz has also been campaigning against the ban on behalf of his constituents in Leicester, which hosts an annual mango festival.
Vaz has written to the European Commission president and is also planning to make a representation to the British Prime Minister David Cameron. Meanwhile, an e-petition titled 'Reverse Mango Import Ban' on the UK government website has crossed over 1,000 signatures as part of a campaign warning that the ban will severely impact importers and distributors across Britain.