STC Number - 413

Guatemala's restrictions on egg products

Maintained by: Guatemala
Raised by: Mexico
Supported by:
First date raised: October 2016 G/SPS/R/84 paras. 3.5-3.6
Dates subsequently raised: November 2018 (G/SPS/R/93 paras. 3.48-3.49)
March 2019 (G/SPS/R/94 paras. 3.96-3.99)
July 2019 (G/SPS/R/95 paras. 4.83-4.84)
June 2020 (G/SPS/R/99 paras. 3.274-3.283)
March 2021 ()
Number of times subsequently raised: 5
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered: 0407 Birds' eggs, in shell, fresh, preserved or cooked.; 0408 Birds' eggs, not in shell, and egg yolks, fresh, dried, cooked by steaming or by boiling in water, moulded, frozen or otherwise preserved, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter.
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords: Food safety; Human health; International Standards / Harmonization; Risk assessment; Avian Influenza
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In October 2016, Mexico expressed its concern on Guatemala's restrictions on egg products. Mexico considered the measure to be in violation of fundamental principles of technical and scientific justification based on international standards, principles enshrined in the SPS Agreement and the free trade agreement between Mexico and Central America. Mexico noted its preference to promote dialogue; however, these efforts had not been successful. Guatemala continued to impose import restrictions on Mexican egg products even though its legislation allowed imports of heat treated avian products. Mexico indicated that its egg products exports were significantly affected by the restrictions and requested that Guatemala withdraw its measure in order to resume egg products trade between the two countries.

Guatemala replied that in October, Guatemala had informed Mexico that it was currently conducting a risk assessment and would contact Mexico upon the conclusion of the analysis.

In November 2018, Mexico reiterated its concern over Guatemala's restrictions on egg products, highlighting that the measure in question violated fundamental principles of technical and scientific justification based on international standards. Mexico explained that these principles were enshrined in the SPS and TBT Agreements, as well as in the free trade agreement between Mexico and Central America. The continuous discussions held with Guatemala had not succeeded in resolving this matter, despite Mexico's self-declaration as an HPAI-free area. Mexico expressed concerns regarding undue delays in communications by Guatemala given discussions had been ongoing since 2010. Mexico further recalled that its egg products exports were significantly affected by the restrictions, and requested that Guatemala withdraw its measures, which had no scientific justification and were not based on any relevant international standard.

Guatemala replied that in October 2016, it had informed Mexico that it was reviewing the information provided. This issue had been further discussed in 2016 and 2017, and in June 2018, Guatemala had informed Mexico on the prohibition of imports of poultry products in response to an outbreak of H7N3 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in two Mexican states. Guatemala noted that its measures were in line with the OIE standards, and was awaiting additional information from Mexico. Guatemala remained committed to continue bilateral discussions on this matter.

In March 2019, Mexico reiterated its concern over Guatemala's restrictions on thermally processed egg products. Mexico recalled that it had been requesting the lifting of the measure since 2007, arguing its inconsistency with the SPS Agreement and the Free Trade Agreement between Mexico and Central America, as it did not provide a technical and scientific justification based on international standards nor a risk assessment. Mexico referred to the recommendations contained in article 10.4.15 of the OIE's Terrestrial Code to ensure the elimination of the avian influenza virus in imports of processed egg products, regardless of the country of origin's avian influenza status. Mexico added that Guatemala's restrictions were also in contradiction with its own legislation, which confirmed compliance with OIE guidelines and recommendations and the fundamental principles of the SPS Agreement. Mexico regretted the lack of progress, despite proving the existence of HPAI-free zones and compartments. Mexico highlighted the impact of Guatemala's total ban on its egg products.

Guatemala provided information on the technical meetings held and the written responses to Mexico's request, the latest dated 12 February 2019. Based on OIE information, Mexico had reported outbreaks of HPAI H7N3 in February 2018 and of Newcastle disease in January and February 2019, including outbreaks in Mexican States bordering Guatemala. Guatemalan national legislation did not allow trade in poultry, poultry products and by-products with countries affected by HPAI (Ministerial Agreements No. 105-2012 and No. 228-2013) or the highly virulent form of Newcastle disease (Ministerial Agreement No. 1029-99). Guatemala concluded that those viruses threatened its poultry farming, which remained free of these diseases as scientifically established by the National Poultry Health Programme of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food.

Mexico responded to Guatemala explaining that the velogenic Newcastle disease outbreaks had been duly notified to OIE but that they did not pose a risk in the case of exports of thermally processed egg products. Mexico asked Guatemala to take into account the recommendations in articles 10.9.11 and 10.9.20 of the OIE's Terrestrial Code.

Guatemala reiterated that its sanitary measures for trade of poultry and poultry products from countries affected by HPAI and the highly virulent form of Newcastle disease were based on OIE standards. Guatemala detailed the outbreaks notified by Mexico to the OIE since 2014, as well as the affected types of poultry and the States concerned; and reporting on non-conformity cases encountered by Guatemalan authorities in July 2016. Following a lack of corrective measures, and in light of the sanitary risks, Guatemala could not resume trade. Guatemala further added that its Ministerial Agreements No. 105-2012 and No. 1029-99 were based on the OIE Terrestrial Code.

In July 2019, Mexico requested Guatemala an opportunity to demonstrate that thermally-processed egg-based products lacked risk, and to allow the import of egg-based products that had been subject to a thermal treatment that guaranteed the destruction of the AI virus, regardless of the country's AI status, as per Article 10.4.15 of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code. Regarding Newcastle disease, Mexico had been informing detected outbreaks, and requested Guatemala to allow the importation of heat-treated products which guaranteed the destruction of the virus, as per the Terrestrial Animal Health Code Articles 10.9.11.2 and 10.9.20. Guatemala had explained that its restrictions were in compliance with its Ministerial Agreement 228/2013, however Mexico noted that the Agreement also stated that it would comply with OIE guidelines. Mexico regretted the lack of response to the communications it had sent.

Guatemala informed Members that it would provide a written response to Mexico, including its requirements for imports to its market, which were part of the ongoing review process of their poultry regulations, which would take as reference the OIE guidelines for countries with outbreaks of AI and Newcastle virus. Guatemala would continue the ongoing bilateral discussions.

In June 2020, Mexico provided the following statement: Mexico once again expresses its concern regarding the import restrictions imposed by Guatemala since 2006 on thermally processed egg products from Mexico. As Mexico has pointed out on many occasions, in its view, the measure could be in violation of the fundamental principles of measures having technical and scientific justification and being based on international standards, as provided for in both the SPS Agreement and the free trade agreement signed between Mexico and Central America. Mexico has repeatedly insisted on objectively demonstrating to the Guatemalan health authorities that thermally processed egg products are not an import risk and has asked Guatemala to acknowledge this, as provided for in Article 10.4.15, paragraph 2, of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code, which sets out the recommendations for the importation of egg products of poultry, regardless of the avian influenza status of the country of origin. With regard to Newcastle disease, Mexico has been transparent, duly informing the OIE about infection outbreaks detected in the country. In this regard, we repeat that Guatemala should follow the recommendations of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, Article 10.9.11, paragraph 2, of which states that, regardless of the Newcastle disease status of the country of origin, goods can be imported provided they undergo thermal treatment to ensure the destruction of the virus, in accordance with Article 10.9.20 of the instrument. Guatemala has argued that its trade restrictions on imports from Mexico are imposed in compliance with its domestic regulations, referring to Ministerial Decision No. 228/2013, Article 4 of which also states that it should take the OIE guidelines into account, which, in Mexico's view, is not happening. Guatemala's position represents an alleged violation of the fundamental principles of the SPS Agreement, particularly Article 2.2, by applying a trade-restrictive measure, without scientific basis, to a product that has undergone thermal treatment to ensure it poses no health risk. It should be noted that Mexico has been seeking to resolve this matter through political and technical dialogue with the relevant authorities of Guatemala, within the framework of this Committee since 2016 when this concern was first raised, in various bilateral meetings, and through the SPS Committee provided for in the free trade agreement between Mexico and Central America. However, these efforts have not been successful and Guatemala continues to maintain the restriction on the Mexican products in question, even though Mexico has demonstrated it has zones and compartments free from highly pathogenic avian influenza. Mexico considers Guatemala's total restriction on exports of Mexican egg products to be a unilateral decision adversely affecting trade in these products between the two countries. In light of the above, the Government of Mexico once again requests the Government of Guatemala to revoke its measure, so that trade in thermally processed egg products from Mexico can begin, given that it has not been demonstrated that Guatemala has any technical or scientific evidence, or any form of risk analysis appropriate to the circumstances, to justify more restrictive measures than those recommended by the OIE.

Guatemala provided the following response: Guatemala responded to Mexico's request through Official Communication DSA-BA-1309-2019 dated 2 October 2019, which outlined the sanitary requirements for the importation of hen eggs, not in shell, egg yolks, and dried pasteurized liquid egg albumen into Guatemalan territory. The sanitary import requirements sent to Mexico are the sanitary requirements applicable to egg products that are in force in Guatemala. Current regulations in Guatemala are based on the OIE standards established in the Terrestrial Animal Health Code currently in force, with Article 10.4.15 relating to avian influenza virus and Article 10.9.11 referring to Newcastle disease virus. Therefore, the sanitary measures established for the importation of poultry and poultry products have their legal basis in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code standards, namely Volume I (General provisions) and Volume II (Recommendations applicable to OIE Listed diseases and other diseases of importance to international trade). Given that the sanitary import requirements and measures applied by Guatemala are based on the OIE recommendations, it follows that they are not in violation of the fundamental principles of the WTO SPS Agreement. It should be noted that Guatemala is a country free from highly pathogenic avian influenza, as notified to the OIE on 14 January 2004, a status that remains valid to date. In the case of the highly pathogenic Newcastle disease virus, Guatemala declared itself disease-free on 1 December 2017, through Ministerial Decision No. 335/2017, and we are in the process of notifying the OIE of this status. Therefore, the sanitary requirements that are currently required for egg products are applied to safeguard the country's poultry health. Guatemala requests a bilateral meeting with Mexico at permanent-mission level, so that the Mexican delegation can present the technical and scientific arguments on which its trade concern is based. Guatemala does not oppose the entry into its territory of egg products from Mexico, provided that compliance with domestic regulations is guaranteed, which includes carrying out on-site inspections and a risk analysis.