STC Number - 123

Restrictions on imports of potatoes, onions, fertilised eggs, day-old chicks and meat products

Maintained by: Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Raised by: Canada; Colombia
Supported by: Chile; United States of America
First date raised: March 2002 G/SPS/R/26 paras. 27-29
Dates subsequently raised: June 2004 (G/SPS/R/34 paras. 30-32)
March 2005 (G/SPS/R/36/Rev.1 (EN), paras. 55-57; G/SPS/R/36 (FR,ES), paras. 55-57)
June 2005 (G/SPS/R/37/Rev.1 (EN), paras. 59-61; G/SPS/R/37 (FR, ES), paras. 59-61)
October 2005 (G/SPS/R/39 paras. 73-75)
Number of times subsequently raised: 4
Relevant documents: Raised orally; RD/SPS/28/Rev.1
Products covered: 02 Meat and edible meat offal; 0105 Live poultry, that is to say, fowls of the species Gallus domesticus, ducks, geese, turkeys and guinea fowls.; 0407 Birds' eggs, in shell, fresh, preserved or cooked.; 0701 Potatoes, fresh or chilled.; 0703 Onions, shallots, garlic, leeks and other alliaceous vegetables, fresh or chilled.
Primary subject keyword: Other concerns
Keywords: Animal health; Other concerns; Plant health; Risk assessment; Transparency
Status: Resolved
Solution: In October 2013, information was received from Colombia on the resolution of this STC (RD/SPS/114, 29/10/2020). In November 2017, information was received from Canada on the resolution of this STC (RD/SPS/28/Rev.1, of 19/02/2018).
Date reported as resolved: 02/11/2017

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 2002, the representative of Colombia stated that Venezuela was not granting sanitary certificates for potatoes, fresh mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, fertile eggs, day-old chicks and meat products. He requested that Venezuela notify the measure which served as the basis for the discretionary granting or non-issuance of health certificates for Colombian exports. While processing potatoes were granted health certificates for import in discretional reduced duty quotas, no such health certificates were granted for table potatoes, and this had led to a 40 per cent fall in Colombian exports to Venezuela over the period 2000-2001. Similarly, while eggs for industrial use were allowed import health certificates, eggs for human consumption were not permitted health certificates. No reasons were given for the refusal of health certificates for fresh mushrooms. Since the end of 1998, restrictions were placed on Colombian exports of beef, pork and processed meat products. Despite an inspection visit in September 2001 by Venezuelan Health Ministry officials to various Colombian cold storage and slaughterhouses, these facilities were not granted recognition. The granting of health certificates was sporadic even for facilities certified by the Venezuelan authorities. Very few health permits were granted for fresh tomatoes. He requested Venezuela to notify the measure on which basis these restrictions were applied, or to resolve these issues.

The representative of Chile pointed out that the use of health certificates for imports did not comply with the obligations of the SPS Agreement. The representative of the United States associated himself with the comments made by Colombia and noted that his country's exports had faced problems as a result of the denial or delay of discretionary sanitary and phytosanitary certificates by the Venezuelan authorities. These restrictions seemed designed to protect Venezuelan producers and were contrary to the SPS and other WTO agreements. Canada also associated itself with Colombia's remarks.

The representative of Venezuela provided details of import levels for potatoes, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes in 2001, which showed that import licenses were being granted. She noted that Venezuela had temporarily suspended SPS licensing for fertile eggs and day-old chicks as a result of an outbreak of avian flu in Colombia, a disease alien to Venezuela, from January 2002. On 8 February 2002, the prohibition on fertile eggs was removed. Notification of the lifting of restrictions against day-old chicks was made on 7 March 2002. For meat products, the respresentative of Venezuela noted that her country regularly imported beef on the hoof, slaughtered and processed beef and swine products. In reply to the comments of other Members, she stated that it was important not to confuse problems of administrative capacity and management with discretionary licensing.

In June 2004, the representative of Canada recalled that Canada had raised concerns with Venezuela's issuance of SPS-related permits in previous SPS Committee and Agriculture Committee meetings. Venezuela's policies had restricted Canadian exports of meat, seed potatoes, table potatoes and onions. Venezuela had not provided a clear explanation of this policy, however it appeared that the permits in question were SPS-related. Importers would apply to Venezuelan authorities for permits and provide SPS information to support their application, but applications had been denied without an SPS-related justification. Canada requested that Venezuela grant permits on an automatic basis as long as the conditions of the SPS Agreement had been met. Venezuela and Canada had agreed to continue to pursue this issue bilaterally.

The representatives of Chile and the United States requested that Venezuela review its import procedures in order to comply with obligations under the SPS Agreement. The representative of the United States noted that for products not subject to tariff rate quotas (TRQs), Venezuela seemed to be using SPS permits in a manner equivalent to import licences.

The representative of Venezuela stated that Canadian import requests were normally given a positive reply. The comments from Canada, Chile and the United States would be considered carefully. Venezuela would contact the Canadian authorities to clarify the situation concerning import requests of meat.

In March 2005, the representative of Canada reiterated its long-standing concerns about discretionary import licensing being used by the sanitary and phytosanitary authorities of Venezuela to restrict imports of potatoes, onions and pork from Canada. However, there had recently been two substantive meetings with a senior delegation from Caracas and Canada expressed the hope that they would be able to report that this issue was successfully be resolved before the next meeting.

The representative of the United States shared Canada's concerns regarding Venezuela's restrictive import licensing and SPS permit regimes, which also restricted US exports. The United States was specifically raised concerned about: (1) Venezuela's use of SPS permits to enforce quotas based on economic rather than scientific justifications; (2) the lack of transparency and the apparent inconsistency of the import license import permit approval process which resulted in significant delays in the issuance of some permits and licences compared to others and which arbitrarily reduced the quantity approved for import compared to the requested amount; and (3) Venezuela's insistence on requiring importers and the users of imported products to purchase domestically produced commodities in order to gain approval or permission to import. The United States encouraged Venezuela to renew the bilateral discussions on these issues so that an acceptable resolution could be reached.

The representative of Venezuela confirmed that they had fruitful consultations with Canada were hoping to have a satisfactory resolution to this issue in the nearer future. The results of their efforts to resolve this problem and address the concern of the United States would be presented at the next committee meeting.

In June 2005, the representative of Canada indicated that Canada was concerned about the discretionary aspects of Venezuela's policy for the issuance of import permits. Without any SPS justification and despite having negotiated a sanitary agreement a few years ago, Venezuelan pork importers had never been able to obtain import permits from the Venezuelan sanitary authorities for Canadian pork. Permits for seed or table potatoes had not been issued for long periods of time. The Canadian delegation had met with the Venezuelan delegation the previous day and a meeting between the Canadian embassy and the Venezuelan authorities had been scheduled in Caracas.

The representative of the United States noted that Venezuela's restrictive import regime was also constraining US agricultural exports. If this regime was based on SPS permits as opposed to import licences, as Venezuela had implied in the Import Licensing Committee, Venezuela should explain the risk being addressed through this permit and supply the supporting risk assessment.

The representative of Venezuela took note of Canada's concerns, which would be transmitted to the Venezuelan authorities. Bilateral negotiations were taking place between Canada and Venezuela, in particular with the Ministry of Agriculture, and Venezuela was willing to continue attempting to achieve an expeditious resolution of this problem. With regards to the concerns expressed by the United States, Venezuela requested a written copy of the US concerns in order to provide a written response.

In October 2005 and February 2006, the representative of Canada indicated that this issue was of long duration and frustration. It concerned the discretionary policy of the Venezuelan authorities in the issuance of import permits. Under the WTO rules, issuance of import permits was automatic unless there were underlying SPS concerns. Canadian table potatoes, onions and pork were being refused without any rationale. Although a promising bilateral meeting had been held after the March 2005 Committee meeting, the promises had not been realized. Unless Venezuela had identified legitimate SPS concerns, it should expeditiously issue import licenses for agricultural products from Canada on an automatic basis.

The representative of the United States reported that his country was also concerned about the lack of progress on this issue as US exports of yellow corn, oilseeds and dairy products had been affected by the restrictions put in place by Venezuela.

The representative of Venezuela noted that a number of the request Canada had made in March had been addressed, and Venezuela had issued permits to import Canadian pork and potatoes. Venezuelan technicians were preparing a visit to Canada to inspect potatoes to be exported to Venezuela. Venezuela was willing to carry out additional bilateral meetings to find a mutually satisfactory solution to Canada's concerns.

In October 2013, the Secretariat informed that in September 2013 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 Colombia on the resolution of this STC. In November 2020, 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 October 2013 SPS Committee meeting as the date of resolution of the relevant STCs.

In November 2017, the Secretariat informed that in September 2017 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 Canada on the resolution of this STC. The Secretariat indicated that the information received had been circulated in document RD/SPS/28 of 31 October 2017 (RD/SPS/28/Rev.1, 19/02/2018), and that the SPS IMS would be updated on this basis, using the date of the November 2017 SPS Committee meeting as the date of resolution of the relevant STCs.