STC Number - 279

Import restrictions on pork products due to influenza A/H1N1

Maintained by: Armenia; Bahrain, Kingdom of; China; Gabon; Indonesia; Jordan; Suriname
Raised by: Mexico
Supported by: Australia; Brazil; Canada; Dominican Republic; United States of America
First date raised: June 2009 G/SPS/R/55, paras. 21-24
Dates subsequently raised: October 2009 (G/SPS/R/56, paras. 23-32)
Number of times subsequently raised: 1
Relevant documents: G/SPS/GEN/921, G/SPS/N/CHN/116, G/SPS/N/JOR/20, G/SPS/N/UKR/2
Products covered: 02 Meat and edible meat offal; 0203 Meat of swine, fresh, chilled or frozen.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Human health; Other concerns; Provisional Measures
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In June 2009, Mexico indicated concern over import restrictions on live pigs, pork products and sub-products due to Influenza A/H1N1. Mexico had complied with WTO and other relevant international recommendations since declaring the influenza outbreak on 23 April 2009. Document G/SPS/GEN/921 provided information on the actions taken by the Mexican Government to control the disease, as well as information on the virus and its form of dissemination. Mexico urged Members to notify the Committee of measures taken with regard to the virus.
The FAO and the OIE stated that there was no evidence of transmission of the virus through food, and Mexico was disappointed that Armenia, Bahrain, China, Gabon, Indonesia, Jordan, and Surinam continued to restrict the import of pork and pork products without any legal or scientific basis. Mexico was grateful to China, Indonesia and Jordan for holding bilateral consultations on the matter, and intended to hold bilateral consultations with other countries.
Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic and the United States supported Mexico's concern and Brazil provided further information in document G/SPS/S/GEN/922.
Indonesia thanked Mexico and the United States for the bilateral consultations and stressed Indonesia's commitment to protect its territory and industries from the virus.
China underlined the fact that China was the most populous nation in the world, and stressed the burden this virus could have on its public health system. Despite measures to prevent entry of the disease into China, there had still been instances of detection of the virus, which highlighted how contagious it was. The provisional measures imposed by China took into account its huge population, its susceptibility to the disease through human-to-human transmission, the fact that China was the world's biggest producer of pork and that pork was the most consumed meat product in the country. China had lifted the ban on pork treated to 70 degrees centigrade. Chinese experts would continue to work with other Members. China had notified the WTO of its measures.
Jordan stated that it had imposed only a temporary suspension on the transport and import of live swine, and that heat-treated pork products were exempt from the suspension. The temporary measures were under constant revision.
In October 2009, Mexico raised concerns that various Members, including China, Gabon, Indonesia and Jordan, continued to maintain unjustified restrictions on pork products due to the Influenza A/H1N1 virus occurrence in humans in Mexico in April 2009. Mexico had taken timely and effective measures to contain the virus and its spread to the rest of the world, yet measures had been taken against Mexican pork products without legal or scientific basis. Mexico requested trading partners imposing such measures to immediately withdraw these unnecessary trade barriers. Influenza A/H1N1 had not been detected in swine or poultry from Mexico, but only in humans. The OIE, WHO and FAO had made it clear that the risk of being infected by Influenza A/H1N1 through the consumption of pork meat was regarded as nonexistent. Mexico stressed the need for these international organizations, especially the OIE, to accelerate research and available scientific information on the risk of propagation of Influenza A/H1N1 from humans to animals and vice versa. Mexico expressed appreciation to those Members that had supported Mexico during the global pandemic and to Members that had fully withdrawn previously imposed trade restrictions.
Canada recalled that WHO had declared a human influenza pandemic, and that managing the public health impacts of this outbreak was critical. The trade measures adopted by several Members on swine, pork and pork products in response to the H1N1 influenza virus were without any scientific basis. The safety of pork meat was based on global evidence and supported by statements from FAO, OIE and WHO; detection of the pandemic H1N1 strain in animals was not contributing to the global human pandemic. Canada thanked those trading partners that had removed restrictions on imports from Canada, and expressed disappointment that other trading partners continued to maintain restrictions.
The European Communities stated that EC authorities continued to monitor closely the Influenza H1N1 virus incident in humans to ensure a high level of awareness in the veterinary and producing community, and to effectively monitor the animal population. The European Communities had an adequate surveillance plan in place should any outbreak occur. A statement from the OIE made it clear that the imposition of measures related to the import of pig and pig products from countries with human or animal cases was pointless and did not comply with international standards of the OIE and other competent international bodies. Despite the clear statements by the international organizations, several Members continued to impose unjustified bans or other unnecessary measures on pigs and pig meat from EC member States. Such trade measures did not address the real challenge, which was the transmission of the virus between humans.
The United States supported the interventions of Mexico, Canada and the European Communities. While some Members had lifted their bans on live swine, pork and pork products, they had instead imposed burdensome requirements without scientific justification. US agricultural products, including pork and live swine, were safe and trade restrictions on such products to prevent the spread of influenza were not supported by scientific evidence, nor recommended by the international public health, food safety and animal health bodies. The United States urged all WTO Members to comply with their WTO obligations and to follow the advice of the relevant international organizations not to impose any H1N1 related bans, or testing requirements, and to rescind those bans currently in place, so that trade in pork and pork products was not unnecessarily disrupted.
Australia, Brazil, Chile, Japan and New Zealand supported the interventions of Mexico, Canada, the European Communities and the United States.
Ghana requested that further information on Influenza A/H1N1 be released in order to stem public concern. He noted that many developing countries put up trade restrictive measures in response to the public reaction to the pandemic, and that most of these countries did not have the capacity to do a proper risk analysis of the pandemic.
OIE stated that Influenza virus A/H1N1 was being spread effectively from human to human, but that it was important to maintain surveillance in animals. OIE encouraged Members to report cases of H1N1 found in swine associated with the human disease, and recalled that trade in pork and pork meat products did not represent any risk. OIE also stated that it would continue to monitor the event, in cooperation with other organizations.
The Secretariat acknowledged that for some WTO Members, especially developing countries, it was not easy to identify where to obtain information when a situation like the pandemic H1N1 arose. The Secretariat pointed out the usefulness of bringing this kind of information to the Committee. Regarding the H1N1 pandemic, international organizations including WHO, FAO and OIE, had provided information to the public through several joint statements. From the early stages of the pandemic, the international organizations clarified that there was no justification for measures to restrict trade. Due to concerns about implications the pandemic could have on trade, WTO had decided to join one of the statements. Finally, the Secretariat pointed out the need to consider ways to ensure that in this kind of situation information was easily accessible to the public and to the authorities.
China stated that following the outbreak of Influenza A/H1N1 in April 2009, China had adopted an emergency provisional measure to prevent the introduction of the virus into the country. The measure, notified to WTO, was in line with the SPS Agreement, especially Article 5.7, and other principles of the Agreement had also been respected by applying regionalization treatment to affected countries and regions, and lifting the ban on cooked pork products based on available scientific information, ensuring the measure was the least trade restrictive. China was aware of the concerns on the issue and was actively seeking additional information for a more objective assessment of the risk. China welcomed any input or scientific research that could help finalize the assessment. China would reconsider its provisional measure according to the conclusion of the assessment and would inform its trading partners of any changes.
Jordan stated that the suspension of imports of swine products had been lifted. The concerns of Members regarding the temporary suspension of imports of live swine had been included on the agenda of the technical standards committee of the Ministry of Agriculture for the purpose of revising the measure.