STC Number - 226

Inspection regime for agricultural products

Maintained by: Panama
Raised by: Costa Rica
Supported by: Argentina; Canada; Colombia; European Union; United States of America
First date raised: June 2005 G/SPS/R/37/Rev.1, paras. 39-41
Dates subsequently raised: February 2007 (G/SPS/R/44, para. 63)
June 2007 (G/SPS/R/45, paras. 48-49)
Number of times subsequently raised: 2
Relevant documents: G/SPS/N/PAN/43, G/SPS/GEN/582
Products covered: 0401 Milk and cream, not concentrated nor containing added sugar or other sweetening matter.; 0402 Milk and cream, concentrated or containing added sugar or other sweetening matter.; 0403 Buttermilk, curdled milk and cream, yogurt, kephir and other fermented or acidified milk and cream, whether or not concentrated or containing added sugar or other sweetening matter or flavoured or containing added fruit, nuts or cocoa.; 0702 Tomatoes, fresh or chilled.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Food safety; Human health
Status: Resolved
Solution: Panama had established a new regulation, and on the basis of an analysis of this, Costa Rica concluded that its concerns had been resolved.
Date reported as resolved: 01/06/2007

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In June 2005, Costa Rica noted that, as developed in document G/SPS/GEN/582, Panama's new inspection system, notified in April 2005 as G/SPS/N/PAN/43, posed problems to several Costa Rican firms trying to export tomato paste, milk and animal products to Panama. Panama had changed its rules regarding the inspection of plants without prior notification to the WTO and provision of an adaptation period. Although Costa Rican enterprises already had certifications from Panama's Ministry of Health for exports of sweetened milk and animal products to Panama, now according to the new rules they also had to undergo inspection by the Ministry of Agriculture. Costa Rica had unsuccessfully requested Panama to avoid the second inspection. Costa Rica had also requested that Panama provide the risk assessment and scientific justification supporting this new requirement.
Argentina, Canada, Colombia, the European Communities and the United States reported experiencing similar difficulties accessing the Panamanian market. Argentina had sanitary difficulties in relation to FMD and bureaucratic difficulties which did not seem to be designed to protect animal health in Panama (see Panama- FMD restrictions). The European Communities had suddenly been faced with a new Panamanian health legislation referring, firstly, to a system which seemed to link obtaining an import licence for Panama to a payment and, secondly, to an inspection system which would be paid for by the exporting country. The United States recalled an issue raised at the March 2005 meeting of the Committee concerning the expansion of Panama's inspection programme to most food processing establishments and the non notification of this significant change in Panama's import regime. Canada had been experiencing problems with Panama's requirement for plant-by-plant approvals for meat exports and the recent changes to Panama's inspection regime.
Panama reminded the Committee that it was the first time that this issue of plant inspection was raised by Costa Rica before the SPS Committee. Panama's inspection regime followed the fundamental principles of the SPS Agreement and of OIE and IPPC standards. Risk assessment methods comprised two parts: the protection of Panama's health status and the functioning of the Ministry of Agriculture. The excellent quality of Panama's exports of cattle and dairy products was due to a stringent application of the SPS measures domestically and to imports. Because of its geographical situation as a hub for world trade, Panama was exposed to a greater risk of introduction of pest and animal diseases and therefore had to undertake a risk assessment prior to authorizing imports from countries affected by exotic diseases. The risk assessment undertaken by the Panamanian authorities would shortly be given to the Costa Rican delegation.
In February 2007, Panama recalled Costa Rica's concerns regarding its inspection regime, in particular with regard to dulce de leche and tomatoes, as detailed in document G/SPS/GEN/582. Following a number of bilateral meetings, in October 2006 Costa Rican officials had issued a communication indicating the resolution of these issues.
In June 2007, Costa Rica recognized that Panama had established a new regulation, and on the basis of an analysis of this, Costa Rica concluded that its concerns had been resolved.