STC Number - 393

Korea's import restrictions due to African swine fever

Maintained by: Korea, Republic of
Raised by: European Union
Supported by: Russian Federation
First date raised: July 2015 G/SPS/R/79 paras. 3.11-3.12
Dates subsequently raised: October 2015 (G/SPS/R/81 paras. 3.68-3.69)
March 2016 (G/SPS/R/82 paras. 3.43-3.44)
June 2016 (G/SPS/R/83 paras. 4.15-4.17)
October 2016 ( G/SPS/R/84 paras. 3.44-3.45 )
March 2017 (G/SPS/R/86 paras. 3.36-3.38)
July 2017 (G/SPS/R/87 paras. 4.45-4.46)
November 2017 (G/SPS/R/88 paras. 3.37-3.38)
March 2018 (G/SPS/R/90 paras. 3.47-3.48)
Number of times subsequently raised: 8
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered: 0103 Live swine.; 0203 Meat of swine, fresh, chilled or frozen.; 0209 Pig fat, free of lean meat, and poultry fat, not rendered or otherwise extracted, fresh, chilled, frozen, salted, in brine, dried or smoked.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Control, Inspection and Approval Procedures; International Standards / Harmonization; Risk assessment; Pest or Disease free Regions / Regionalization
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In July 2015, the European Union raised a concern about the import restrictions on pork and pork products put in place in February 2014 by Korea on African Swine Fever (ASF) grounds. The European Union repeated that trade could take place safely, and affirmed that Korea disrespected the SPS Agreement regarding regionalization. Korea continuously received detailed information on the control, surveillance and monitoring measures of the European Union. Korea's risk assessment process lacked of clarity about the required steps and the use of information provided by the European Union. The European Union called on Korea to respect its regionalization obligations under the SPS Agreement and to allow trade of all safe products. The European Union also restated its availability to continue working with Korea and any other trading partners with a view to finding a rapid solution on this matter.

Korea responded that it had banned pork and pork products from Poland since the first case of ASF was reported in February 2014, in agreement with Poland. In response to the European Union for regionalization, Korea had implemented the necessary steps to assess the current situation in Poland, and sent experts to have an on-site inspection. The preliminary assessment on ASF had been delivered to Poland and an exchange of views was still under way. As a result, Korea had been consistent with Articles 6.2 and 6.3 of the SPS Agreement and hoped to continue bilateral discussion on the basis of science and data.

In October 2015, the European Union recalled its concerns regarding Korea's import restrictions on pork and pork products due to African swine fever (ASF) taken since February 2014. Korea had continuously received detailed information from the European Union. Korea's risk assessment process lacked clarity about the required steps and the use of information provided by the European Union, in particular on its control, surveillance and monitoring measures. The European Union called on Korea to respect its regionalization obligations under the SPS Agreement and to allow trade of safe products. The European Union also restated its availability to continue working with Korea and any other trading partners with a view to finding a rapid solution on this matter.

Korea recalled that it had banned pork and pork products from Poland since the first case of ASF was reported in February 2014, in agreement with Poland. At the request of the European Union, Korea had implemented the necessary steps to assess the current situation in Poland, and hired experts to that effect. Korea had completed its preliminary assessment after considering Poland's comments received in May 2015 and had decided to move on to the next steps. Korea requested that Poland and the European Union take proactive control measures to prevent the spread of ASF and cooperate fully to expedite the risk assessment process, which needed to incorporate a distinction between affected and unaffected areas.

In March 2016, the European Union stressed the importance of regionalization and the massive potential trade impact of failing to recognize effective regionalization measures and, in that context, reiterated its concerns regarding Korea's import restrictions on pork and pork products due to ASF. The European Union stated that despite having raised this concern at the July and October 2015 SPS Committee meetings, and having had several bilateral discussions, import restrictions remained. Korea had informed the European Union in October 2015 that it had decided to proceed to the next step of its risk assessment process. However, that risk assessment process lacked clarity about the required steps and the use of information provided by the European Union, in particular on its control, surveillance and monitoring measures. The European Union called on Korea to respect its regionalization obligations under the SPS Agreement and to allow trade of safe products. The European Union also restated its availability to continue working with Korea and any other trading partners with a view to finding a rapid solution to the matter.

Korea stated that it was reviewing the European Union request for regionalization carefully as it was ASF-free and the disease was highly-contagious. Korea had sent an evaluation questionnaire to the Polish government in December 2015 and was awaiting a response. An EU delegation from DG-SANCO had a technical meeting in Korea with relevant expert authorities. Both sides had exchanged views on this issue, including current risk assessment procedures and potential ways forward. Korea requested that the European Union cooperate fully in order to expedite the risk assessment process.

In June 2016, the European Union stressed the importance of the recognition of regionalization measures by trading partners, and in that context reiterated its concern regarding Korea's import restrictions on pork and pork products due to ASF. The European Union stated that despite having raised this concern at previous SPS Committee meetings and having had several bilateral discussions, import restrictions still remained. Korea had informed the European Union in October 2015 that, as result of a preliminary risk assessment, it had decided to proceed to the next step of its process and assess the possibility of applying regionalization. The European Union explained that in practice this represented the second step in an eight step process which, based on its understanding, would need to be satisfactorily concluded before Poland would be able to export pork meat to Korea from disease-free zones. The European Union emphasized that it regularly provided Korea with detailed information regarding its stringent control, surveillance, and monitoring measures. After two and a half years of deliberation and information sharing, including on-site inspection, Korea had not provided the timeline for concluding the final import risk analysis. The European Union requested Korea to limit its numerous information requests to what was necessary to complete the risk assessment and to allow trade of safe products from disease-free areas in Poland, or provide clarification on the scientific basis for the maintenance of the ban.

The Russian Federation drew Member's attention to the epidemic ASF situation and called for bilateral cooperation on this issue.

Korea stated that it was reviewing Poland's responses to the questionnaire which had been submitted in May 2016. Korea noted the highly contagious nature of the disease and the lack of a preventive vaccine to halt ASF spread, while underscoring that it remained ASF-free. Since the March 2016 SPS Committee meeting, Korea and the European Commission had held a bilateral meeting, on the margins of the 84th OIE General Session, to discuss progress in the risk assessment process and the way forward. Korea further indicated that on 24 June, the European Commission had notified the fourth ASF outbreak in pigs in Poland. A comprehensive review of the situation, including this recent information, was currently being undertaken. Korea requested that the European Union cooperate fully in order to expedite the risk assessment process.

In October 2016, the European Union stressed the importance of the recognition of regionalization measures by trading partners, and in that context reiterated its concern regarding Korea's import restrictions on pork and pork products due to ASF. The European Union recalled that Korea had performed a preliminary risk-assessment and on-site inspection in 2014, followed by the decision in 2015 to perform a risk analysis. The risk analysis had been suspended in August 2016 following FMD outbreaks in Poland. The European Union considered that the risk assessment ought to be pursued, as the European Union had (as always) adapted its regionalization measures in line with OIE standards to ensure that only safe pork products were placed on the EU market and exported to countries outside the European Union. The European Union insisted that it had provided Korea with the necessary information to demonstrate the existence of disease-free areas in Poland and that they were likely to remain so. The European Union therefore urged Korea to respect its obligations under Articles 3, 6 and 8 of the SPS Agreement and to continue and conclude quickly the import approval procedure by continuing the risk analysis, taking into account the information that had been collected before its suspension, limiting the information requests to what was necessary and providing, in a transparent manner, a timeline for concluding the analysis.

Korea recalled the highly contagious nature of ASF and the lack of a preventive vaccine to halt its spread, while underscoring that it remained ASF-free. Korea confirmed that it had suspended the risk assessment procedure for recognition of ASF regionalization following the 2016 outbreak of various cases in Poland in pig farms. Two additional areas were affected by this outbreak, and Korea declared that the suspension would hold until the newly affected areas recovered their ASF free status in accordance with the OIE standards. Korea notified Poland in October 2016 that it could resume the import risk analysis procedures if the Polish government requested them for specific regions free from ASF. Korea noted that in light of the possible causes of ASF stated by the European Commission Animal Health Regulatory Committee, the Polish government needed to further review its biosecurity measures. Korea hoped that Poland would succeed in controlling the spread of ASF, and indicated that it would cooperate to resume the process soon.

In March 2017, the European Union stressed the importance of recognition by trading partners of regionalization measures and reiterated its concern regarding Korea's import restrictions on pork and pork products due to ASF, despite several bilateral meetings. The European Union recalled that Korea had performed a preliminary risk-assessment and on-site inspection in Poland in 2014, followed by the decision in 2015 to perform a risk assessment. The risk assessment had been suspended in August 2016 following ASF outbreaks in Poland. The European Union requested that the risk assessment be pursued, as it had adapted its regionalization measures based on OIE standards to ensure that only safe pork products were placed on the EU market and exported to countries outside the European Union. The European Union insisted that it had provided Korea with the necessary information to demonstrate the existence of disease-free areas in Poland. The European Union therefore urged Korea to respect its obligations under the SPS Agreement and promptly conclude the import approval procedure based solely on collected information necessary to complete the recognition of regionalisation.

Referring again to the dispute Russia – Pigs (EU) (DS475), the European Union highlighted that the Panel had found that the bans in place were neither based on international standards, nor on a risk assessment. Moreover, given that the European Union had demonstrated that there were regions in Poland which were disease-free and likely to remain disease-free, the Poland-wide ban and the ban on the Baltic States were found to be WTO-inconsistent.

Korea referred to previous statements by China and the Russian Federation, and reiterated the highly contagious nature of ASF and the lack of a preventive vaccine to halt its spread. Korea reported that it imported more than 300,000 tonnes of pork meat every year, approximately half of which originated from the European Union. Korea further elaborated on the regionalization requirement under Article 6.3 of the SPS Agreement and Article 15.1.3 of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, and recognised that while they were informed that there had been no new ASF outbreaks in commercial pig farms, outbreaks of ASF in wild boars had been continuously reported to the OIE as recently as March 2017 in the Polish regions of Podlaskie, Lubelskie and Mazowieckie. Korea observed that the ASF-free status had to include the ASF outbreak in wild boars, and therefore had requested Poland to redefine its ASF-free areas or zones according to OIE regulations. Korea urged the European Union to provide a clearly defined ASF-free region, having reviewed the newly affected areas. The same message had been communicated through the Korean Embassy in Poland as well as in bilateral meetings with the European Union on the margins of the SPS Committee meetings.

In July 2017, the European Union reiterated its concern over Korea's ban on pork and pork products from Poland since early 2014, without taking into account the European Union's regionalization measures. The European Union regretted that despite bilateral meetings, the ban remained in place. The European Union recalled that Korea had performed a preliminary risk assessment and an on-site inspection in December 2014, and had received responses to its questions. The European Union reminded Korea of its obligation to limit the information requested to what was necessary to complete the recognition of regionalization, and to take into account the information it already had; and urged Korea to continue with the risk analysis and the recognition of regionalization without further undue delays. The European Union remained open to continue working with Korea.

Korea replied that the import risk analysis had temporarily been suspended due to the unstable outbreak situation in Poland in 2016, including the continuous ASF outbreaks in domestic pigs in August 2016 and the expansion of contaminated areas. In order to resume its import risk analysis, Korea had requested Poland and the European Union to notify the list of ASF-free areas that satisfied OIE standards. These had been specified in May 2017, and Korea had resumed the relevant procedures. However, Korea remained concerned with the increasing outbreaks of ASF in domestic pigs on small-scale farms in Poland. Korea believed that this showed that Poland's ASF control measures still needed to go further in order to contain ASF. Korea was still holding bilateral consultations with the European Union on this matter.

In November 2017, the European Union reiterated its concern over Korea's ban on pork and pork products from Poland since February 2014, which did not take into account the European Union regionalization measures. The European Union regretted that despite bilateral meetings the import restriction remained. Korea had performed a preliminary risk assessment and an on-site inspection in December 2014, and had received responses to its questions. Korea had indicated that as a result of the preliminary risk assessment, it would proceed with a risk analysis. Finally, the European Union urged Korea to comply with its WTO obligations by putting in place measures that were not more trade restrictive than necessary, applying regionalization, only requesting necessary information to complete the recognition of regionalization, and taking into account information already available

Korea drew attention to the increasing number of ASF cases in in Poland, with 87 cases recorded in domestic pigs from January to September 2017, a number four times larger than recorded between 2014 and 2016. Korea also reported that the European Animal Health Regulatory Committee had stated that lack of biosecurity measures and illegal transactions in pigs and pork meat were the main causes of ASF in Polish domestic pig farms. Korea expressed its concern that the ASF-free zone in Poland was not effectively managed, and requested pertinent information on the spread of ASF on domestic pig farms, according to OIE standards. Korea hoped the epidemiological situation in Poland would be under control in order to resolve this issue.

In March 2018, the European Union reiterated its concern over Korea's ban on pork and pork products from Poland since February 2014, which did not take into account the European Union's regionalization measures. The European Union indicated that, since the ban, Korea had continued to receive detailed information on all outbreaks. Korea had performed a preliminary risk assessment and an on-site inspection in December 2014, following which it had informed the European Union, in October 2015, that a risk analysis had been initiated. However, there had been no progress to date. The European Union urged Korea to finalize the risk assessment, adopt trade measures which were consistent with the SPS Agreement, and only request the necessary information to complete the assessment. The European Union expressed its willingness to continue working with Korea and looked forward to a quick resolution of this concern.

Korea drew attention to the increasing number of ASF cases in Poland, particularly in small domestic pig farms, and further recalled that the report of the European Animal Health Regulatory Committee had indicated possible causes for the outbreak. Korea expressed its concern that the proposed ASF-free zone was not effectively managed, and further indicated that it had requested pertinent information on the spread of ASF in domestic pig farms. However, no response had yet been received from Poland.