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Agricultural Trade Restrictions in EU, China, Brazil Among Topics of WTO Meeting

Thursday, July 20, 2017
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

At a recent meeting of the World Trade Organization’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Committee, WTO members raised trade concerns regarding the following food safety and plant and animal health measures.

European Union. Dozens of members asserted that the EU’s proposed criteria to define endocrine disrupters would disrupt trade in many agricultural products that use pesticides when alternative, less-distorting measures could provide the same level of protection of human health. Some said the EU’s approach is overly restrictive and not based on scientific evidence, and others claimed it would not give exporters enough time to adjust their agriculture production and thus result in lost access to the EU market. The EU responded that the proposal has been approved by representatives of EU member states and that the European Commission will adopt it if it is not opposed within three months by either the Parliament or the Council.

China. Several WTO members said China’s new requirement for food exporters to provide official certificates issued by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine would pose significant uncertainties and higher compliance costs and asked China to delay its implementation. The U.S. added that the requirement for official certificates appears to be proliferating, which poses an “unmanageable degree of complexity” for exporters and importers and adds “cost and burdens to food trade.” China responded that it is now the world’s largest importer of food and agricultural products and that this requirement is designed to guarantee the safety of such imports. However, China added that a transitional period “may be provided as requested.”

Brazil. To ensure the safety of its meat and meat products after recent scandals involving irregularities in meat inspections, Brazil has updated its sanitary inspection regulation to fight economic fraud and improve food safety by imposing penalties ranging from heavy fines to a loss of federal inspection approval seals. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture established a compliance program to enhance prevention and correct misconduct that provides a certification to enrolled companies. However, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said the U.S. has no plans to lift its restrictions on imports of fresh Brazilian beef until there is additional progress.

India. Several countries said India’s mandatory fumigation requirement for cashews is problematic because the chemical required for fumigation (methyl bromide) is highly toxic and has been banned in many countries as part of their commitments to limit the use of substances that deplete the ozone layer. Members urged India to acknowledge other treatments that could achieve the same level of protection. India responded that it will continue to suspend this measure through Dec. 31, 2017.

Middle East. Bahrain said the Gulf Cooperation Council has suspended until further notice implementation of its proposed guide for control of imported foods, which classifies food items according to their potential to transmit food-borne diseases and requires a health control on all imported food.

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