STC Number - 438

Viet Nam's market access requirements for "white" offals

Maintained by: Viet Nam
Raised by: United States of America
Supported by: Australia; New Zealand
First date raised: March 2018 G/SPS/R/90 paras. 3.10-3-12
Dates subsequently raised: March 2019 (G/SPS/R/94 paras. 3.84-3.86)
Number of times subsequently raised: 1
Relevant documents: G/SPS/N/VNM/86
Products covered: 0206 Edible offal of bovine animals, swine, sheep, goats, horses, asses, mules or hinnies, fresh, chilled or frozen.

White offals
Primary subject keyword: Other concerns
Keywords: Undue delays; Certification, control and inspection; Control, Inspection and Approval Procedures; International Standards / Harmonization
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 2018, the United States raised concerns regarding Viet Nam's market access requirement for ''white'' offals. The United States noted that Viet Nam had signed a letter of Agreement with the United States in 2006, as part of its WTO accession, accepting the export certificate issued by the USDA FSIS as proof that its exported meat and poultry products had been inspected and passed by FSIS. However, since the implementation of Circular 25 in 2011, US exporters now faced a burdensome administrative process due to the requirement for meat, poultry and fishery establishments to submit a questionnaire for subsequent approval by Viet Nam's National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (NAFIQAD), in order to be eligible to export to Viet Nam. The United States indicated that its understanding of the Circular 25 approach was that Viet Nam would accept and review questionnaires on an ongoing basis and that as FSIS inspected and passed new establishments, Viet Nam would add these facilities to its list of entities eligible to export to Viet Nam. Instead, the United States noted that Viet Nam had appeared to institute a process of registration of individual facilities, rather than focusing on the overall effectiveness of the FSIS inspection and certification system. Such an approach was contrary to Codex guidelines, which stated that the importing country should evaluate the effectiveness of the inspection and certification system of the exporting country, rather than engage in an establishment by establishment approach. The United States observed that the regulation had created uncertainty for market access, and had stalled the addition of new establishments and the flow of exports to Viet Nam. In addition, there had been changes in the administrative responsibility for the implementation of Circular 25, which had resulted in extensive delays in the reopening of Viet Nam's market. The United States acknowledged the bilateral engagements with Viet Nam and urged Viet Nam to resolve the issue expeditiously.

New Zealand shared the concern raised by the United States, in particular as it related to the consistency of the regulation with Codex guidelines on evaluating the effectiveness of the inspection and certification system of the exporting country. New Zealand also noted that its exporters faced similar issues to those reported by the United States.

Viet Nam explained that during the visit of its inspection team to the United States in 2014, several instances of non-compliance had been identified in some US establishments. Viet Nam indicated that it had informed the United States of these issues and had also temporarily halted the addition of new registrations, until the corrective and preventive methods had been taken at these establishments. Viet Nam stated that several requests had been made for USDA and FSIS representatives to facilitate a visit of the Vietnamese delegation to a number of establishments that had been registered for exporting ''white'' offals to Viet Nam. The purpose of the mission would be to inspect and review US regulatory programmes and food safety systems, in order to ensure that all establishments met the requirements. Viet Nam indicated its willingness to continue working closely with US authorities on the issue, and further underscored its commitment to ensure that its SPS regulations were consistent with international standards and the SPS Agreement.

In March 2019, the United States appreciated the bilateral engagement with Viet Nam on its concerns regarding its Decree No. 15, but nonetheless regretted that they had not been fully addressed. The United States noted Viet Nam's addendum dated 16 May 2018 notifying the invalidation of Circular No. 25 of 2010, and the entry into force on 2 February 2018 of Decree No. 15 of 2018 regulating imports of food products derived from animals. The United States was concerned that Viet Nam had not notified Decree No. 15 — which overhauled previous import rules, including Circular No. 25 — and allowed Members to provide comments before setting the new requirements. The United States requested Viet Nam to issue guidance on the implementation of the requirements of Decree No. 15; to clarify the definition of processed products, registration and certification requirements for those seeking to export animal food products to Viet Nam; and to issue a frequently asked questions guide for the registration of facilities. The United States requested clarification on Viet Nam's intention to issue such guidance and the expected timeframe.

Australia shared the concern and referred to the total trade ban for "white" offals implemented by Viet Nam a few years ago. Australia asked Viet Nam to elaborate on its SPS concerns with regard to the importation of these products, and to outline the process that Members needed to follow to restart trade, with a focus on the registration of export facilities.

Viet Nam explained that Decree No. 15 had been notified as G/SPS/N/VNM/86 in 2016. The Decree had been issued after introducing changes and modifications in response to comments received from trading partners. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had also organized an information session on the implementation of Decree No. 15 for all relevant parties to attend and present comments. It had also invited countries with concerns to send comments to Viet Nam's SPS Office. Viet Nam reported on the bilateral meeting held with the United States and referred to the inspection mission carried out by a Vietnamese technical team in the United States in 2015. Viet Nam noted that cases of non-compliance in some US establishments had been detected, resulting in the temporary suspension of new import registrations. Viet Nam indicated that its Department of Animal Health was currently completing a revision of the information provided by the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regarding the organization of an on-site visit later in 2019. Viet Nam concluded by expressing its willingness to work closely with trading partners.