STC Number - 4

Measures related to BSE

Maintained by: Argentina; Australia; Austria; Belgium; Brazil; Canada; Chile; Czech Republic; France; Germany; Italy; Netherlands; Poland; Romania; Singapore; Slovak Republic; Slovenia; Spain; United States of America
Raised by: Switzerland
Supported by:
First date raised: May 1996 G/SPS/R/5and Corr.1, paras. 6-9
Dates subsequently raised: October 1996 ( G/SPS/R/6 para. 53)
March 1997 (G/SPS/R/7 para. 56)
July 1997 (G/SPS/R/8 paras. 10-19)
October 1997 (G/SPS/R/9/Rev.1 paras. 15-17)
March 1998 (G/SPS/R/14 para. 14)
March 1998 (G/SPS/R/10 para. 9)
June 1998 (G/SPS/R/11 para. 29)
September 1998 (G/SPS/R/12 paras. 26-30)
November 1998 (G/SPS/R/13 paras. 17-18)
March 1999 (G/SPS/R/14 para. 8)
Number of times subsequently raised: 10
Relevant documents: G/SPS/N/AUS/56 G/SPS/N/AUS/57 G/SPS/N/CAN/18 G/SPS/N/CHL/1 G/SPS/N/CHL/6 G/SPS/N/CHL/31 G/SPS/N/CZE/14 G/SPS/N/CZE/14/Add.1 G/SPS/N/SGP/1 G/SPS/W/68 G/SPS/W/79 G/SPS/GN/5 G/SPS/GEN/71
Products covered: 02 Meat and edible meat offal; 0201 Meat of bovine animals, fresh or chilled.; 0202 Meat of bovine animals, frozen.; 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.; 0406 Cheese and curd.; 0410 Edible products of animal origin, not elsewhere specified or included.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Human health; International Standards / Harmonization; Risk assessment; Zoonoses
Status: Resolved
Solution: Consultations requested on 7/05/1998 (WT/DS133/1). DSU consultations pending. Slovak transit ban removed, mutually satisfactory solution found with regard to Slovak importation of Swiss milk and milk products; Chilean import measure modified; some other measures withdrawn/revised.
Date reported as resolved: 01/03/1999

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In May 1996, Switzerland presented information on its BSE situation, and noted that a number of countries had restricted imports of dairy products, although both the OIE and the WHO concluded that dairy products posed no risk in respect of BSE. In October 1996, Switzerland provided an update of its sanitary prescriptions, culling and veterinary measures to be adopted at the border. In March 1997, Switzerland indicated that although it was a country of low incidence of BSE, it had been subject to a number of BSE-related trade restrictions, some of which could not be justified under WTO rules. The Chairman agreed to hold informal consultations with interested Members on 21 March 1997.

In July 1997, Switzerland reported that although there had been some positive developments, problems remained. Switzerland addressed some questions to the Members concerned, stressing its interest to find rapid solutions through bilateral discussions. Argentina informed the Committee that it had replied to Swiss questions and would provide more information; Switzerland expressed satisfaction with this progress. Brazil noted that its import prohibition of bovine semen was based on the classification of bovine semen as a medium risk product, and on Brazil's BSE-free status. At the subsequent meeting of the relevant MERCOSUR working group in July 1997, Brazil would attempt to reclassify bovine semen as low risk.
Canada noted that there had been no changes to its import conditions for the importation of live cattle, bovine embryos, bovine semen, bovine meat or meat products from Switzerland, although a draft document on BSE policies was being discussed. Canada was receiving comments on its draft measure, which would be in accordance with the OIE Code. Canada was concerned with the lack of quantitative or qualitative parameters for the differentiation between countries with high and low incidence of BSE, and re-extended an invitation for bilateral discussions.

The United States stressed that it did not prohibit the importation of meat. BSE-related measures were subject to continued review based on scientific evidence, which, for example, had led to the opening of trade in bovine semen, although other matters remained unresolved. The United States remained open to scientific discussion in the area. Switzerland noted that the United States required certification for dried meat, and hoped that the reviewed US policies would be in line with OIE recommendations.

Romania informed the Committee that it had held bilateral discussions with Switzerland. Its policies were in line with OIE recommendations, and would be notified shortly. Switzerland expressed satisfaction with the results of bilateral talks. Poland noted that imports to Poland were carried out on the grounds of individual import permissions, but that no application had been received from Switzerland. Switzerland requested bilateral clarifications. Singapore indicated that countries exporting beef were required to certify BSE-freedom for six years. It believed this measure to be consistent with the SPS Agreement, and planned to notify it shortly.

The Czech Republic was concerned about continued occurrence of BSE in Switzerland, especially since the Czech Republic was BSE-free. However, imports of bovine semen, brain and embryos from Switzerland were not restricted. The Czech Republic would prefer to continue discussion at the level of veterinary experts. The European Communities noted that measures were taken on a national basis by EC member States, but were screened for conformity with EC law before being notified to WTO. In the case of BSE, this had taken more time than expected, and although there was no common position within the European Communities, changes to the policy were being considered. The European Communities indicated it was going beyond OIE recommendations, and indicated that it would be useful to continue discussions with the relevant experts.

In October 1997, Switzerland indicated that its BSE-situation was improving, but that numerous restrictions continued to affect Swiss exports of live cattle, genetic material, meat, and in certain cases milk products. Bilateral consultations were continuing. Switzerland questioned why the Australian quarantine requirements for the importation of bovine embryos and semen applied to Switzerland only, and whether countries with actual BSE incidents were subject to similar requirements. Switzerland also wondered why the objective of the new requirements was to "develop import requirements...based on international standards", whereas the notification indicated that no international standard existed. Australia replied that it had developed generic conditions for importation of ruminants and ruminant genetic material from member States of the European Communities, but had established bilateral conditions with other trading partners. The conditions in the notified draft requirements for Switzerland were in accordance with Australia's general import policy relating to BSE promulgated in January 1995, and were equivalent to BSE requirements for all other countries. International standards existed and Australia did not consider that the notified draft measures deviated from such standards.

Switzerland questioned why the Czech import restriction on imports of cattle over six months applied to Switzerland only, and whether countries with actual BSE incidents were subject to similar requirements. The Czech Republic replied that an individual import permit was required for traders interested in importing goods subject to veterinary control, including live animals. The Czech authorities considered the epizootic situation in the country of origin, frequency of newly found cases of contagious diseases, efficiency of eradication programmes, etc. The import approach was always the same and included discussion with the veterinary authorities of the country of origin. The system distinguished between countries with sporadic positive cases and those with continued occurrence of cases, like Switzerland. Although the measures in place in Switzerland corresponded to OIE recommendations, they had not fully eliminated BSE-related risks, and had not prevented new infections. Unlike other countries, Switzerland slaughtered and destroyed only BSE-affected animals, not all animals kept and fed in the same place. Such animals could be considered as a source of disease. Trade between the Czech Republic and the European Communities was based on EC measures which represented a higher rate of prevention than the OIE recommendations. The Czech Republic offered to continue bilateral discussions with Switzerland.

In March 1998, Switzerland reported that most BSE-related measures against its exports remained in place although they deviated from OIE recommendations. However, some Members had eliminated or revised their measures, especially on genetic products. With respect to the European Communities, Switzerland hoped that recent developments would lead to a more predictable situation. In June 1998, Switzerland and the Slovak Republic reported on progress achieved during consultations and in September 1998, Switzerland reported that the transit ban had been removed, although discussions on market access for dairy products continued.

In September 1998, Switzerland reiterated concerns with import prohibitions on Swiss bovine semen, which seemed to contradict WTO provisions regarding non-discrimination, risk assessment, notification and consultation. Switzerland was still awaiting answers to its detailed questions to the relevant Members, or re-admission of Swiss exports. The European Communities reported on useful bilateral contacts with Switzerland, and indicated that the European Communities was undertaking an inventory of all national BSE-related measures in order to notify them. In addition, the European Communities would propose that EC member States harmonize their conditions for import from Switzerland. Chile indicated that, based on OIE recommendations on BSE, it had authorized bovine semen imports from France and was processing a request from the United Kingdom. No official request to export bovine semen had been received from Switzerland.

In November 1998, Switzerland and the Slovak Republic reported that they were close to a short-term solution regarding the Slovak import ban on Swiss dairy. In the longer term, a few technical issues remained to be settled. In March 1999, Switzerland informed the Committee that a mutually satisfactory solution regarding Slovak importation of Swiss milk and milk products had been found. Chile reported that its measure affecting imports of bovine semen had been modified.