The European Union has moved the World Trade Organisation (WTO) questioning restrictions by India on import of rough marbles and marble products on safety concerns and has sought to know the safety issues that marble imports posed for the country.
According to the EU, India has restricted import of rough marble and travertine blocks to 6,00,000 tonnes and that too at a minimum import price of $325 per tonne for 2013-14, unchanged from the previous year.
In a submission to the Import Licensing Committee of the WTO last week, the EU's representative wanted India to clarify how unrestricted import of marble and marble products would pose safety issues for the country and how the quantity of imports can be linked to security issues.
While WTO rules, per se, do not ordinarily allow imposition of import restrictions, it permits countries to do so if such imports result in a safety or security hazard.
In this context, the EU also asked India to specify how India itself handled hazards associated with stone quarrying, crushing as also the stone processing industry.
Countries wanting to impose import curbs on certain products often fall back on security of safety issues and the EU fears India's import curbs are just another non-tariff excuse to curb EU exports.
The EU said, since India had earlier stated that the minimum import price is justified for quality reasons, the country should indicate measures put in place to ensure commensurate quality for India's domestic industry.
According to EU, the main reason for India's import restrictions on marbles is protection of the local industry, which employs a large number of people, especially in Rajasthan.
The marble industry in Rajasthan employs more than 200,000 families, mainly from the backward classes, minorities and tribal groups.
India, meanwhile, said it has already explained its position to similar queries by other members of the WTO and will now provide detailed answers to the EU queries as well.