STC Number - 103

FMD-related import restrictions

Maintained by: Unspecified
Raised by: Argentina; European Union
Supported by: Bolivia, Plurinational State of; Brazil; Uruguay
First date raised: July 2001 G/SPS/R/22 paras. 56-64
Dates subsequently raised: October 2001 (G/SPS/R/25 paras. 20-23)
June 2002 (G/SPS/R/27 paras. 48-49)
November 2002 (G/SPS/R/28 paras. 52-53)
Number of times subsequently raised: 3
Relevant documents: G/SPS/GEN/240 G/SPS/GEN/269 RD/SPS/114
Products covered: 1404 Vegetable products not elsewhere specified or included.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; International Standards / Harmonization; Pest- or Disease- free Regions / Regionalization; Foot and mouth disease
Status: Partially resolved
Solution: New Zealand, Indonesia, Ukraine and Switzerland lifted restrictions against EC member States after they regained FMD-free status. Problems with other Members persisting. In March 2004, Argentina informed the Secretariat that the issue had been resolved with respect to Argentina's concerns. Information was received from the European Union on the partial resolution of this STC (RD/SPS/114, 29 October 2020).
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In July 2001, the representative of the European Communities observed that many Members had imposed restrictions on imports of FMD-susceptible animals and animal products from both affected and unaffected EC member States. Often the measures had not been notified. It was understandable that Members take provisional safeguard measures in the initial phase of such an epizootic. However, the restrictions applied to products that had been treated in accordance with the international standard to destroy the virus, such as heat treatment or acidification; concerned products that were without risk; and were kept in place past the recognized waiting period of three months. The principles of proportionality, justification of measures and regionalization in accordance with the OIE Code and Article 6 had not been followed. The European Communities had been transparent and had notified the OIE on the evolution of the disease, and the decisions taken.

The representative of the European Communities stated that although the creation of the single market in the European Communities meant that border controls had been eliminated, they had been replaced with other control instruments. Controls at origin had been strengthened, and random checks of animals at arrival had been introduced. The use of certificates for trade in animals had continued, and a sophisticated system for identification and registration of animals had been established, which included a computerized data base and an animal passport for cattle.

The representative of Argentina informed the Committee that there had been a change in the responsible authorities in Argentina, and that the new authorities had developed a plan to eradicate FMD by 2005 (G/SPS/GEN/269 refers). Argentina was concluding the first vaccination campaign in the affected areas. Restrictions on the internal movement of animals had been imposed. Many products from Argentina were facing scientifically unjustified restrictions that violated Articles 2.1, 3.1 and 5.1, and the OIE Code. Plant products should normally not be affected by FMD-related measures, except straw and forage. These restrictions were damaging Argentina's economy. Members should base measures on scientific evidence and make all possible efforts to comply with the SPS Agreement, with the transparency that was imperative in these cases.

The representative of Uruguay supported the statement made by Argentina. FMD-measures had to be based on scientific risk assessment, especially if they went beyond OIE recommendations. Uruguay was also facing restrictions on products which did not present FMD risks such as UHT milk and hard cheeses. The trade restrictions had a negative impact on the economy.

The representative of Australia clarified that his country was asking for reasonable information to allow a scientific judgement in the face of a different type of clinical presentation in sheep. Recently, additional restrictions on Denmark and Austria and on race horses from the European Communities had been lifted, and further information had been presented by France. The principles of regionalization were very important in this regard, but they were often difficult to apply in practice for contagious diseases and for diseases transmitted by insect vectors. Australia would reexamine the restrictions as requested information was received.

The representative of the United States explained that its existing measures regarding FMD in EC countries affected only the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands and France. On the basis of information from the Commission on the movement of animals from the affected to the unaffected areas as well as on measures being taken to control the spread of this disease, the United States had lifted the restrictions on all EC member States that had not had FMD cases, in May 2001. The United States was currently evaluating the disease situation in France and Ireland and would lift import restrictions as appropriate. A visit to the Netherlands was planned, and once the disease had been stamped out in the United Kingdom a similar visit would occur. The history of this particular outbreak had shown that the disease was difficult to identify in sheep and therefore its spread was difficult to predict and control. Large numbers of sheep were known to have moved throughout the European Communities around the time the disease was introduced in Great Britain. A certain period of time was necessary to determine how far the disease had spread before the safeguard measures could be adjusted. The United States commended the European Communities and its member States for the swift and aggressive actions taken to contain the spread of this outbreak, bringing it under control and beginning to eradicate it. The United States had sent 58 veterinarians to assist Great Britain during the height of the epidemic.

The representative of the OIE drew the attention of the Committee to G/SPS/GEN/266, which in Annex 1 contained a list of the countries that had been confirmed free of FMD without vaccination, including several EC member States. G/SPS/GEN/240 contained the relevant Code chapter on FMD, which had been thoroughly reviewed between 1990 and 1997 and should be taken into account by WTO Members.

The representative of the European Communities noted its long tradition of good trade relations in meat with Uruguay and Argentina, and hoped the situation was soon resolved. The European Communities indicated that the questionnaire from Australia was out of proportion with the problem to be addressed. It was not acceptable that non-affected countries received a questionnaire corresponding to an affected country wanting to be declared free of FMD. The European Communities appreciated the US reaction regarding many of the unaffected EC countries, and asked the United States to follow the example of Canada and New Zealand in handling this crisis. The European Communities had assisted Korea, Japan, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco and many others to control and eradicate this disease.

The representative of Brazil, supported by Bolivia, expressed concern that Members were departing from the principles of the SPS Agreement. When it was not possible to follow an international standard, Members should not forget that the SPS Agreement required scientific justification. It seemed that some Members' measures were departing from science by asking for proof of safety before opening their markets for certain products. According to the SPS Agreement, measures should be applied only when there was a scientific basis for restricting trade.

In October 2001, the representative of the European Communities reminded the Committee that in July he had reported on unjustified trade restrictions in response to the outbreak of FMD in the Communities. Measures had been taken against all EC member States and not just those affected. In some cases the ban on EC products went beyond the OIE guidance and included non-susceptible products such as fish, poultry, cereals, seeds and vegetables. Furthermore, not many of these measures had been notified. Continued Australian restrictions against Spain, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal affected EC member States in which there had been no outbreaks of FMD and were based on the failure of these countries to reply to an Australian questionnaire. Australia had lifted import restrictions against countries where an outbreak had taken place, but that had replied to the questionnaire. Canadian and US restrictive measures against Greece also affected a member State where no FMD outbreak had taken place and that had been declared FMD free in the meantime. Continued US, Japanese and Mexican restrictions against France, the Netherlands and Ireland were also brought to the Committee's attention. The representative of the European Communities thanked New Zealand, Indonesia, Ukraine and Switzerland for lifting restrictions against member States after they had regained FMD free status. Where he felt that core principles of the SPS Agreement were at stake, such as regionalization and proportionality or Articles 2, 3 and 5, he would continue to bring unjustified trade barriers to the attention of the Committee and press for their removal. Where trade measures went beyond what was necessary, trade could be affected in a permanent way.

Based on information from the OIE, EC member States and other sources, the representative of Australia reported that his country was now able to recognize all member States, other than the United Kingdom, as FMD free. The representative of Japan stated that bilateral consultations were continuing with France, Ireland and the Netherlands.

The representative of the United States reported that an EC-wide ban had been put in place in early March in response to the outbreak of FMD. A risk assessment had subsequently been undertaken which had categorized member States according to risk. For those EC member States categorized as low risk, the import ban was removed. The primary element in evaluating risk had been the occurrence of an FMD outbreak. Import restrictions continued to apply to the United Kingdom, Netherlands, France and Ireland. The United States recognized that the disease outbreaks in these countries were limited and controlled and no remaining technical concerns existed. The United States was taking the necessary regulatory actions to publicize these proposals in the Federal Register. Concerning the situation in Greece, the product ban pre-dated the current FMD outbreak and was based on a long standing, separate issue.

The representative of Canada recalled that the main product imported from Greece was cheese. Greece had only recently expressed an interest in exporting meat products to Canada, and the request was being evaluated. Trade in meat products had been unaffected by the Canadian FMD ban.

In June 2002, the representative of the European Communities reported that most Members had lifted their restrictions related to the FMD outbreak in Europe. The OIE had just revised its list of countries recognized as FMD-free, which included all 15 EC member States. However, some Members continued to apply restrictions or requirements which served as administrative bans on EC products, in particular UK meat and meat products. The representative of Argentina noted that his country also continued to suffer long-term negative effects from measures kept in place without justification.

The representative of Japan reported that the Domestic Animal Infectious Disease Control Law had been amended on 14 June, permitting resumption of imports of pork meat and products from France and Ireland. The comment period regarding a proposed lifting of the import ban on Dutch products had just concluded, and if there were no problems, the ban could be lifted as of mid-July.

In November 2002, the representative of the European Communities noted disappointment that some FMD trade barriers continued to affect EC exports because the last outbreak of FMD in the European Communities had taken place on 30 September 2001, over 14 months ago. The outbreak had been decisively eradicated, and any remaining restrictions were now unnecessary and unreasonable. He requested Members that continued to restrict EC exports under the guise of FMD protection to come into conformity with their SPS requirements. The representative of Argentina supported the comments made by the European Communities with regards to FMD-related measures taken by certain Members.

The representative of the European Communities expressed concern over a number of BSE-related measures taken by Mexico that had a detrimental effect on exports from Austria, although Austria had registered no cases of FMD in the course of the 2001 outbreaks. He considered that these measures were unreasonable and requested Mexico to lift them. Bilateral meetings on the matter had been unsuccessful. The representative of Mexico stated that his country recognized Austria as being FMD free but had been waiting to receive a request from Austria for plant inspections.

In March 2004, Argentina informed the Secretariat that the issue had been resolved with respect to Argentina's concerns.

In November 2020, the Secretariat informed that in September 2020 it had contacted all Members who had raised specific trade concerns (STCs) that had not been discussed in the previous year, to request an update on their status. In furtherance of this request, information was received from the European Union on the partial resolution of this STC. The Secretariat indicated that the information received had been circulated in document RD/SPS/114 of 29 October 2020, and that the SPS IMS would be updated on this basis, using the date of the November 2020 SPS Committee meeting as the date of resolution of the relevant STCs.