Trade Concerns on Food Safety and Animal/Plant Health Reviewed by WTO Committee
World Trade Organization members reviewed the following trade measures concerning food safety and animal and plant health at a March 16-17 meeting of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures held.
New trade concerns
Namibia, Swaziland and Botswana claimed that South Africa’s revised animal health requirements for exports of cattle, sheep and goats would limit livestock exports to South Africa and significantly impact the livelihood of small-scale farmers. South Africa said the objective of the measures is to align the standards with applicable international guidelines.
China has suspended imports of bovine products and genetic materials from the European Union since 2012 due to concerns about the Schmallenberg virus, a disease infecting sheep, cattle and goats. The EU argued that China’s import ban is unjustified since the disease is well under control and poses minimal risks. China responded that its experts have conducted risk assessments and concluded that the virus can easily spread across regions, and therefore trade restrictions cannot be limited to exports from certain areas. As no international standards are in place for the Schmallenberg virus, China argued that its import restriction is in line with the WTO SPS Agreement.
China restricts imports of poultry due to a particularly deadly strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza. The EU argued that this ban ignores the fact that HPAI is only present in a few regions. China responded that since certain types of HPAI have never been detected in its territory, its precautionary measures aim to prevent the disease from entering.
Brazil said that despite its efforts to comply with EU standards on residues of ractopamine, a feed additive that boosts growth and promotes leanness in pigs and cattle, the EU still bans imports of pig meat from the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina due to claims that its maximum residue level was exceeded. Brazil questioned the EU’s method for testing this residue and urged the EU to lift the restrictions.
Brazil asserted that Nigeria has prohibited all imports of frozen meat since 2007 due to deficiencies in the Nigerian refrigeration system. Nigeria responded that the treatment is applied to all WTO members and that it is currently reviewing its practices.
Issues previously raised
Twenty-three WTO members expressed concerns about proposed EU regulations that would define criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, chemical substances that may affect the human hormone system at certain doses. Concerns focused on the adverse effects on exports of agriculture products from developing countries. Many members argued that the proposed method based on the detection of a chemical substance, rather than assessing the risks to human and animal exposure, is overly restrictive. The EU responded that the results of its risk assessment will be ready by summer and that it will take trade effects into consideration in formulating its policy measures.
Russia questioned whether the EU’s measures to contain the spread of African swine fever, a highly contagious disease of pigs currently reported in Eurasia, are sufficient. The EU responded that it would not engage in a debate on the matter since it is also currently the subject of an ongoing dispute settlement case. Separately, the EU questioned China’s and Korea’s import restrictions due to ASF, and both said their restrictions aim to prevent ASF from entering their territories but that they are willing to speed up risk assessment.
The EU made a presentation on its new regulation to approve novel foods, which will take effect in 2018 and ease the procedure for approval of foods not sold in the EU before 1997. Peru, Colombia and Guatemala said the new regulation does not address developing countries’ trade concerns regarding traditional products.