STC Number - 235

Import restrictions on EC exports of live birds, meat, meat products and other derivates due to avian influenza

Maintained by: Unspecified
Raised by: European Union
Supported by: Canada
First date raised: October 2005 G/SPS/R/39 paras. 46-48
Dates subsequently raised: June 2006 (G/SPS/R/42 para. 21)
October 2006 (G/SPS/R/43 para. 37)
Number of times subsequently raised: 2
Relevant documents: Raised orally
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.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Human health; International Standards / Harmonization; Zoonoses; Pest- or Disease- free Regions / Regionalization; Avian Influenza
Status: Partially resolved
Solution: In October 2006, the European Communities informed the Committee that a significant number of WTO Members had lifted their bans on EC products according to international standards.
Date reported as resolved: 01/10/2006

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In October 2005, the European Communities stated that the European Communities had learned, thanks to SPS notifications, that four WTO Members had recently imposed a ban on EC poultry products including live birds, poultry meat and meat products, feathers, animal feed from poultry meat, bone and feather meal, and other by-products of poultry, on the ground of the presence of avian influenza (AI) in the EC territory. Three of these Members had targeted the ban to Greece, although the suspected case of AI reported by Greece in October 2005 had proved to be negative for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The current ban imposed on Greece was not scientifically based, nor based on any existing OIE standards. It was therefore inconsistent with Article 3.1 of the SPS Agreement.

The European Communities had been recognized by the OIE as free of AI and had rapidly taken effective safeguard measures to protect and maintain this status. A fourth WTO Member had banned imports of the same poultry products from the entire world. According to OIE rules and the provisions of the SPS Agreement, bans on bird products should only apply to regions affected by HPAI. The European Communities urged these four Members to bring their legislation into compliance with international rules and Article 2.2 of the SPS Agreement and lift the ban.

Canada requested Members to cautiously react to low pathogenic AI outbreaks, especially in light of the current worldwide sensitivity on AI-related issues, in order to not discourage Members from notifying such outbreaks. The representative of Suriname stated his country's concern about the EC ban on imports of wild birds from Suriname. Suriname was an AI-free country, as had been proven by investigations by UK authorities tracking an infected bird detected in a shipment of wild birds. Investigations had demonstrated that the infected bird did not originate from Suriname. Other birds in the same consignment, sent to other EC countries, had shown no sign of the disease. Suriname's exports of wild birds were suffering from the EC ban and Suriname questioned when its exports could resume.

In June 2006, the European Communities reiterated concerns about certain Members' measures to protect against the entry or spread of avian influenza which were not based on scientific principles and not in accordance with the SPS Agreement. Certain WTO Members imposed unjustified measures on EC exports of an excessively broad range of poultry products, including heat-treated ones. Moreover, only a limited number of EC member States had confirmed cases of avian influenza and many had rapidly regained disease-free status. The European Communities urged on Members to base their measures on scientific principles and apply the concept of regionalization rather than banning imports from all EC member States.

In October 2006, the representative of the European Communities informed the Committee that regarding concerns raised in 2005 and 2006 denouncing unjustified import restrictions on EC exports of poultry and poultry products on the basis of avian influenza, a significant number of WTO Members had lifted their bans on EC products according to international standards. He noted that some Members however, still had in place and that the European Communities would continue to seek the lifting of these import restrictions (no. 234 - G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.6).