STC Number - 415

US seafood import monitoring programme

Maintained by: United States of America
Raised by: China
Supported by: Chile; Russian Federation
First date raised: October 2016 G/SPS/R/84 paras. 3.9-3.11
Dates subsequently raised: March 2017 (G/SPS/R/86 paras. 3.39-3.41)
July 2017 (G/SPS/R/87 paras. 4.47-4.48)
November 2017 (G/SPS/R/88 paras. 3.63-3.65)
March 2018 (G/SPS/R/90 paras. 3.56-3.57)
July 2018 (G/SPS/R/92/Rev.1 paras. 4.93-4.95)
Number of times subsequently raised: 5
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered: 03 Fish and crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates
Primary subject keyword: Other concerns
Keywords: Other concerns; Undue delays; Transparency
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In October 2016, China raised its concern regarding the US Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP), published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in February 2016. China praised US efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud. However, China considered the proposed rule to be inconsistent with a number of key principles of the WTO such as transparency, national treatment, scientific justification and least trade restrictiveness. China urged the United States to notify the measure as soon as possible, and to provide Members with at least a 60-day comment period and a 6-month transition period. China also noted that US traceability requirements and catch certification for at-risk species applied only to imported fish and fish products, and not to domestic products. Additionally, the measure was not based on science as it would finally apply to all imported aquatic products, regardless of risk levels, and making no distinctions between aquaculture products and wild capture fisheries. China indicated that the regulation required more information than necessary and overlapped with other rules, including the International Trade Data System (ITDS), which increased costs and generated unnecessary market access delays. China added that the rule would do little to combat illegal fishing. China requested more information and expressed its availability to work closely with the United States with a view to combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud in a WTO consistent manner. China looked forward to seeing the US notification for this measure.

Chile shared China's concern indicating that it would follow this issue closely and hoped that the measure would be notified soon.

The United States noted that this issue did not fall under the SPS Agreement. The objective of the proposed rule was to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud. The proposed rule would require importers to report certain information upon entry into the United States to help trace back the shipment to the catch or harvest point. The United States further explained that the rule had been developed through a transparent process of public notice and comments involving domestic and foreign stakeholders, as well as exporting authorities. The NOAA had received many comments, including from China, which were being considered in the first phase of the programme covering a reduced list of species. The rule would eventually cover all seafood species in subsequent phases. The United States finally highlighted its common objective with China to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud and expressed its interest in a continued engagement on this issue.

In March 2017, China raised its concern regarding the US Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP), published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in February 2016, which had entered into effect in January 2017 without being notified to the WTO for comments by Members. China stated that the proposed rule was inconsistent with a number of key WTO principles, such as transparency, national treatment, scientific justification and least trade restrictiveness. China also noted that the United States' traceability requirements and catch certification for at-risk species applied only to imported fish and fish products, and not to domestic products. Additionally, the measure was not based on science as it would apply to all imported aquatic products, regardless of risk levels and without distinction between aquaculture products and wild capture fisheries. China indicated that the regulation required more information than necessary and overlapped with other rules, including the International Trade Data System (ITDS), which increased costs and generated unnecessary market access delays. China added that the rule would do little to combat illegal fishing and urged the United States to postpone its implementation until Members' comments were sought and taken into consideration.

The Russian Federation shared China's concern regarding the US Seafood Monitoring Program, and noted that it had raised the same issue in the Council for Trade in Goods, and encouraged cooperation between interested Members. The Philippines and Ecuador registered their interest in the matter.

The United States stated that the issue did not fall under the scope of the SPS Agreement. The objective of the proposed rule was to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud. The proposed rule would require importers to report certain information upon entry into the United States, to help trace back the shipment to the catch or harvest point, in order to prevent the United States market from being used as a place to sell fraudulently marketed seafood or seafood products produced from IUU fishing. The rule was explained to be part of a new, comprehensive seafood traceability program that also included comparable information requirements for domestic fisheries. The United States further explained that the rule had been developed through a transparent process of public notice and comments involving domestic and foreign stakeholders, as well as exporting authorities. The United States underlined the rule's one-year implementation time-frame, its streamlined requirements for small scale fishers, and an indefinite suspension of requirements for shrimp and abalone. The United States looked forward to a continuing engagement with China and other trading partners on the implementation of the rule, and on combatting IUU fishing and protecting oceans more broadly.

In July 2017, China appreciated that the United States had revised some of the provisions regarding the United States Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP), published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in early 2016. However, China still had some concerns related to transparency, national treatment, scientific justification and least trade-restrictiveness. China highlighted that the traceability requirements and catch-certification for at-risk species applied only to imported fish and fish products, and not to domestic products, and that the measure was not based on science as it would apply to all imported aquatic products, regardless of risk levels and without distinction between aquaculture products and wild capture fisheries. The regulation required more information than necessary and overlapped with other rules, including the International Trade Data System (ITDS), which increased costs and generated unnecessary market access delays. China urged the United States to notify the SIMP to the WTO for comments by Members.

The United States reiterated that the final rule was not an SPS measure and therefore fell outside the scope of the SPS Agreement. The United States explained that the objective of the final rule was to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud. It thus required domestic importers to report certain information upon entry into the United States and to retain other information that would allow shipments to be traced back to the point of catch or harvest in order to prevent its market from being used to sell fraudulently marketed seafood or seafood products produced from IUU fishing. The United States looked forward to continuing engagement with China on the implementation of the rule, but did not believe the SPS Committee was the appropriate forum for this engagement.

In November 2017, China reiterated its concern on the US seafood import monitoring programme. China highlighted the differences between the US bills related to the trade of aquatic products, namely the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) and the Fish and Fish Product Import Regulations, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. China urged the United States to consider removing aquaculture products from the bills to promote the healthy development of bilateral trade in these products. China requested updates on the relevant bills under the regional fishery management organizations and the relevant international management organizations.

The Russian Federation shared China's concern, noting that trade-related measures should be adopted and implemented in a fair and transparent manner, and only after prior consultation with interested Members.

The United States reiterated that the final rule was not an SPS measure and therefore fell outside the scope of the SPS Agreement. The United States also reiterated that the objective of the final rule was to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud, and thus required the US importers to report certain information upon entry into the United States and retain other information that would allow the shipments to be traced back to the point of catch or harvest in order to protect its market from being used to sell fraudulently marketed seafood or seafood products produced from IUU fishing.

In March 2018, China reiterated its concern on the Seafood Import Monitoring Programme and the Fish and Fish Product Import Regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. China noted that aquaculture products had no relation to the false capture of marine mammals, and that the traceability of aquaculture products outside the United States did not help to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and fraud in aquatic products. China requested an explanation of the rationale for the inclusion of aquaculture products in the scope of application of the two bills, and further urged the United States to consider removing these products from the bills and to formulate laws consistent with the SPS Agreement.

The United States reiterated that the final rule was not an SPS measure and therefore fell outside the scope of the SPS Agreement. The United States also reiterated that the objective of the final rule was to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud, and thus required US importers to report certain information upon entry into the United States and retain other information that would allow the shipments to be traced back to the point of catch or harvest in order to protect its market from being used to sell fraudulently marketed seafood or seafood products produced from IUU fishing. The United Stated also indicated its willingness to have bilateral discussions on the other measure mentioned by China, which was outside the scope of this trade concern on the US seafood import monitoring programme. The United States looked forward to its continued engagement with China.

In July 2018, China reiterated its concern on the Seafood Import Monitoring Programme (SIMP), noting that the United States insisted that SIMP aimed to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud. However, based on its review, China considered that the requirements of the programme were SPS-related, according to the definition of SPS measures in Annex A(1) of the SPS Agreement. China also considered that the traceability of aquaculture products outside the United States did not help to prevent IUU fishing and fraud in aquatic products. China understood from the TBT Committee meeting that the United States was planning to extend the measure to prawns and abalones in December 2018. China requested clarification on the rationale for indicating that the requirements were not SPS-related, and including additional species into the programme's scope of application. China urged the United States to consider removing aquaculture products and delaying the implementation of the measures on prawns and abalones.

The Russian Federation expressed interest in the issue.

The United States thanked China for the bilateral discussions and for its continued interest in SIMP, which aimed at combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud. The United States underscored that the final rule was not an SPS measure and therefore fell outside the scope of the SPS Agreement.