STC Number - 406

China's import restrictions due to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

Maintained by: China
Raised by: European Union; United States of America
Supported by:
First date raised: March 2016 G/SPS/R/82, paras. 3.9-3.10; See also STC 385
Dates subsequently raised: June 2016 (G/SPS/R/83, paras. 4.10-4.11)
October 2016 (G/SPS/R/84, paras. 3.33-3.36)
July 2017 (G/SPS/R/87, paras. 4.39-4.41)
November 2017 (G/SPS/R/88, paras. 3.39-3.42)
March 2018 (G/SPS/R/90, paras. 3.49-3.51)
July 2018 (G/SPS/R/92/Rev.1, paras. 4.53-4.54)
November 2018 (G/SPS/R/93, paras. 3.62-3.64)
March 2019 (G/SPS/R/94, paras. 3.91-3.92)
July 2019 (G/SPS/R/95, paras. 4.76-4.78)
Number of times subsequently raised: 9
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered: 0105 Live poultry, that is to say, fowls of the species Gallus domesticus, ducks, geese, turkeys and guinea fowls.; 0207 Meat and edible offal, of the poultry of heading 01.05, fresh, chilled or frozen.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Food safety; Human health; International Standards / Harmonization; Risk assessment; Pest or Disease free Regions / Regionalization; Avian Influenza
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 2016, the European Union expressed its concern over China's import restrictions on HPAI. It had raised the issue as a general STC in March 2015 and many Members had lifted their bans rather quickly. China continued to maintain its import policy despite the European Union's regionalization efforts. The OIE standard stated that the measure could be lifted after the application of a stamping out or a regionalization policy. The European Union considered China's policy as over-restrictive and not recognising the concept of pest- or disease-free areas. The European also requested China to clarify its procedures to recognise regionalization, especially given that China faced domestic HPAI outbreaks and also implemented its own regionalization policies. The European Union remained open to continue working with China to resolve this issue.

China explained that the measures had been taken after several EU member States had reported HPAI outbreaks. In accordance with OIE rules, China implemented zoning for LPAI rather than HPAI. China reaffirmed that its measures were consistent with international practice and the SPS Agreement. Once the risk was under control, China would commence a risk assessment, on which basis it might consider lifting the ban.

In June 2016, the European Union reiterated its concerns regarding China's import restrictions on HPAI, highlighting that China still maintained a country-wide ban on several EU member States, despite the European Union's regionalization efforts. Recalling China's intervention in the March 2016 SPS Committee reaffirming that its measures were consistent with international practice and the SPS Agreement, the European requested China and other Members to lift their country-wide bans and to recognize EU regionalization measures. The European Union reminded the Committee that the OIE standard stated that HPAI measures could be lifted after the application of a stamping out policy. This policy was strictly implemented in the European Union whenever an outbreak occurred. The European Union considered China's policy as overly trade restrictive as it did not recognize the concept of pest- or disease-free areas. Trading partners, including China had been kept informed of the measures implemented to ensure safe trade, as well as other information on latest developments. The European Union requested China to clarify its scientific basis for the country-wide bans and its procedures to recognize regionalization, especially given that China faced domestic HPAI outbreaks and that it also implemented its own regionalization policies. The European Union further urged China to review its import policy in order to comply with its transparency and regionalization obligations under the SPS Agreement. The European Union remained open to continuing discussions with China in order to find a timely solution.

China explained that the measure had been taken in 2015 after several EU member States had reported HPAI outbreaks. China noted that the outbreak of HPAI in the European Union had still not ended, as an outbreak of HPAI had been reported in France in early 2016. Two of the HPAI strains (H5N8 and H5N9), previously reported in outbreaks in EU member States in 2015 had never been detected in China. China indicated that it had started the process to remove the ban and in particular, the HPAI ban for Spain had been lifted on the basis of the results of a risk assessment. China noted that its experts would shortly conduct an on-site risk assessment in the Netherlands and further invited EU member States to submit an official note to Chinese authorities indicating their intention to export poultry products to China, following which the ban release procedure would commence, taking into account the risk control measures.

In October 2016, the United States noted the importance of the OIE guidelines for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) to facilitate safe trade, and indicated that the United States would raise a more general concern on the adherence to these guidelines under agenda item 4(e). The United States expressed a specific concern regarding China's HPAI-related restriction on US poultry products, recalling that all HPAI cases in the United States had been successfully resolved in accordance with OIE guidelines since 22 April 2016 and that the United States was free of HPAI since June 2016. The United States noted that it had a strong surveillance and response programme for HPAI. The United States had engaged with China on numerous occasions: providing regular updates on the detection of HPAI, proposing a protocol outlining the management of poultry products if HPAI were to be detected, and inviting technical experts from China to review USDA's HPAI surveillance programme. In light of the HPAI-free situation, the United States called upon China to lift all remaining HPAI-related measures against US poultry products, and promised to continue to inform Chinese officials about the state of HPAI surveillance.

The European Union reiterated its concerns regarding China's country-wide bans on several EU member States due to HPAI, recalling that it had on previous occasions encouraged Members to recognize OIE standards and efficiency of the EU's regionalization measures. The European Union noted that China had previously declared that it applied regionalization for low pathogenic avian influenza but not HPAI, and that bans might be lifted after a risk assessment which would only start once risks were under control. The European Union disagreed with China's previous statement that China's measures were compatible with international standards. The European Union recalled that almost all WTO Members confronted with occasional outbreaks of HPAI implemented regionalization policies in their management of the disease. The European Union further stated that in full transparency it had provided to China all the necessary evidence to demonstrate that it had applied the stamping-out policy described in the OIE Code, the existence of HPAI-free areas and that such areas were likely to remain disease-free. The European Union considered that China's decision not to accept zoning in relation with HPAI disregarded the relevant OIE standard, Article 6 of the SPS Agreement and the Panel report of DS430. The European Union called on China to respect its WTO regionalization obligations and remained open to work with China to find a rapid solution.

With regards to the EU concerns raised, China noted that the measure had been taken in 2015 in order to prevent the spread of HPAI into China after several EU member States had reported HPAI outbreaks. China indicated that it had been conducting HPAI risk assessments with the collaboration of the European Union and made adjustments to its measures accordingly. China stated that the disease was still present in some EU member States, with most recent reports in France and Italy. China continued to perceive the risk of HPAI in the European Union as high and therefore had to take cautious measures to protect safety of the poultry industry and health of the whole population.
With regards to the US concerns, China noted that numerous HPAI cases had been found in many US states since December 2014 and that the epidemic still continued in 2016, the latest case having been reported in August. China recognized that both the European Union and the United States had made use of bilateral channels to conduct technical communications, and encouraged both Members to continue these discussions with relevant Chinese authorities.

In July 2017, the United States reiterated its concerns regarding China's highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)-related restrictions on its poultry products, last raised in October 2016. The United States reiterated its request for recognition of pest-free areas and authorization to import heat-treated poultry products, which could not transmit the virus. The United States highlighted its rigorous and effective monitoring system for avian influenza, and its compliance with the transparency obligations, consistent with OIE guidelines. The United States expressed appreciation to Chinese officials for agreeing to participate in an avian influenza workshop in the United States in July 2017 and for conducting an avian influenza system audit in the United States.

The European Union echoed the United States concern regarding the country bans, which also affected European Union members. The European Union recalled the Thematic Session on Regionalization and expressed its willingness to continue to engage with China on the matter.

China highlighted the global challenge posed by avian influenza. China underlined its special attention to prevention and control of the avian influenza virus risks, especially on HPAIV, as a major producer and consumer of poultry products. China drew attention to the outbreaks notified by the United States in March and April 2017 and to the consensus reached with the United States that due to the specific epidemic pattern of HPAI, it was necessary to apply compartmentalization. Finally, China indicated that an expert mission of China had been in the United States to conduct an on-site review on the effectiveness of prevention and control measures, and the animal health status. Future steps were to be determined based on the evaluation of the expert group. China remained positive on finding a mutually satisfactory solution.

In November 2017, the United States reiterated its concern over China's Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)-related restrictions on poultry products and requested that China follow OIE standards, particularly on regionalization. The United States regretted that despite being HPAI-free according to OIE guidelines, China still maintained the restriction. The United States urged China to remove all HPAI-related import restrictions and promised to continue to maintain its rigorous and effective surveillance for HPAI.

The European Union echoed the United States concern and the desire to have it resolved, as it faced the same issue.

China replied that it had found certain problems with the prevention and control system of avian influenza in the United States in July 2017, based on its preliminary risk assessment. China had informed the United States of the problems detected, but had not yet received a response. China urged the United States to provide feedback in writing, as well as the supplementary information requested. China explained that there had been bilateral discussions on biosafety compartmentalization and regionalization methods, and kept an open mind on both methods. China added that it would submit its standards on biosafety compartmentalization in writing to the United States again. Finally, China suggested that both parties coordinate their standards on regionalization and biosafety compartmentalization under the OIE guidelines.

The United States appreciated China's compartmentalization proposal. However, it noted that each country should be evaluated for recognition of regionalization or compartmentalization separately, following the procedure established by the importing country. The United States added that since both countries were in different stages of the process, it requested that China remove all HPAI-related restrictions on imports from the United States in line with its HPAI-free status, according to OIE standards.

In March 2018, the United States reiterated its concern over China's Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)-related restrictions on poultry products and requested that China follow OIE standards, particularly on regionalization. The United States regretted that despite being HPAI-free, according to OIE guidelines, China still maintained the restriction. China had also not requested any additional information from the United States, further to its audit in July 2017. The United States urged China to remove all HPAI-related import restrictions and indicated its commitment to maintain its rigorous and effective surveillance for HPAI.

China replied that it had found problems with the prevention and control system of avian influenza in the United States in July 2017, based on its preliminary risk assessment. China had informed the United States of the problems detected, but had not yet received a response. China urged the United States to provide feedback in writing, as well as the requested supplementary information. China explained that there had been bilateral discussions on biosafety compartmentalization and regionalization methods, and kept an open mind on both methods. China added that it would again submit its standards on biosafety compartmentalization, in writing, to the United States. Finally, China suggested that both parties establish coordinated standards on regionalization and biosafety compartmentalization under the OIE guidelines.

The United States clarified that, while it understood that China would like to purse compartmentalization, a formal compartmentalization proposal had not been received from China. Moreover, the United States noted that each country should separately be evaluated for recognition of regionalization or compartmentalization, following the procedure established by the importing country. The United States added that since both countries were in different stages of the process, it requested China to finalize the regionalization protocol that was provided following the July 2017 visit, and to remove all HPAI-related restrictions on imports from the United States, in line with its HPAI-free status, according to OIE standards.

In July 2018, the United States reiterated its concerns over China's HPAI-related restrictions on US poultry products and requested China to follow OIE standards, particularly on regionalization. The United States regretted that despite being HPAI-free according to OIE guidelines, China still maintained the restriction. China had not requested any additional information to lift the restrictions, after its audit in 2017. The United States urged China to remove all HPAI-related import restrictions and indicated its commitment to maintain its rigorous and effective surveillance for HPAI.

China informed the Committee of the technical communications held with the United States, and explained that, in September 2017, the United States had been informed of problems found during the field inspection conducted in July 2017. China expressed its hope that both sides continue to facilitate technical communication on the issue.

In November 2018, the United Stated reiterated its concern on China's HPAI-related restrictions on US poultry products and requested China to follow OIE standards, particularly on regionalization. The United Sates regretted that despite being HPAI-free according to OIE guidelines, China still maintained restrictions. China had conducted an audit of the US avian influenza control system in July 2017, and had not requested further information to lift restrictions afterwards. The United States urged China to remove all HPAI-related import restrictions and indicated its commitment to continue maintaining its rigorous and effective surveillance for HPAI in compliance with OIE transparency obligations.

China expressed its preference for using compartmentalization rather than regionalization for poultry. China indicated that it would conduct consultations on the avian influenza epidemic management model based on the principles of reciprocity and synchronization to resolve this issue. Finally, China expressed its commitment to continue discussions on regionalization and compartmentalization with the United States to resolve these concerns as soon as possible.

The United States clarified that it had not received a formal compartmentalization proposal from China. Further, the United States noted that each country should be evaluated for recognition of regionalization or compartmentalization separately, following the procedure established by the importing country. The United States added that since both countries were in different stages of the process, it requested China to finalize the regionalization protocol that was provided following the July 2017 visit, and to remove all HPAI-related restrictions on imports from the United States, in line with its HPAI-free status, according to OIE standards.

In March 2019,the European Union reiterated its concern that China maintained country-wide bans on six EU member States due to outbreaks of avian influenza that had occurred in 2015. The European Union had requested China to lift the restrictions and enact more targeted measures in line with the regionalization principle. However, only Poland had seen a lifting of restrictions.

China explained that the measures it had taken to manage and control the animal epidemics were based on the relevant principles of the SPS Agreement and OIE standards. The OIE principles of regional management in avian influenza control measures had been applied in the regions where such technical standards were applicable, including for LPAI, Newcastle disease and FMD. China added that HPAI was mainly carried by wild birds, which made the prevention and control work more difficult. China was positively communicating with exporting Members who complied with the relevant OIE standards, namely those who had been recognised free of HPAI presence for 12 consecutive months and complied with other relevant technical OIE requirements. In the previous year, HPAI-related bans had been lifted for Germany, Hungary, Ukraine and Chile, while evaluations for the United Kingdom, Netherlands and France were ongoing.

In July 2019, the United States reiterated this concern and the request that China follow the OIE's guidelines on regionalization. The United States regretted that China maintained restrictions despite the entire United States being recognized as free of HPAI per OIE guidelines, and its strong surveillance programs for avian influenza (AI) in commercial poultry operations for live bird markets, backyard flocks and migratory wild bird populations. In July 2017, China had conducted an audit of the system maintained in the United States for AI control, but had not made official requests for additional information. The United States asked that China remove all HPAI-restrictions on imports from the United States.

The European Union took the floor to added that country-wide bans after HPAI outbreaks disregard the SPS Agreement and the OIE Terrestrial Code, and were not scientifically justified.

China responded that its control over animal epidemics was based on relevant SPS principles and was in accordance with OIE standards, especially with regards to the control of AI in the regions where such technical standards were applicable. HPAI was mainly carried by wild birds, which made its prevention and control more difficult. China was communicating with those exporters who complied with the relevant OIE standards (i.e. free of HPAI for 12 consecutive months and other technical requirements). China explained that a risk remained in the United States control of live poultry transportation in AI infected areas, as it did not compulsorily implement uniform biosecurity measures in poultry farms; whereas a strict enforcement of biosecurity measures was the most effective way of preventing the introduction of HPAI into poultry farms. China would continue its technical exchanges with the United States, including discussions on the understanding of relevant OIE standards for the regionalization of AI.