STC Number - 516

China's delay in approving requests for new listing and reinstatement of export establishments

Maintained by: China
Raised by: Australia; Canada
Supported by: European Union; United Kingdom
First date raised: March 2021 G/SPS/R/101 paras. 3.25-3.29
Dates subsequently raised: July 2021 (G/SPS/R/102 paras. 4.101-4.107)
November 2021 (G/SPS/R/104 paras. 3.87-3.93)
Number of times subsequently raised: 2
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered:
Primary subject keyword: Other concerns
Keywords: Undue delays; Control, Inspection and Approval Procedures; Transparency; Risk assessment; International Standards / Harmonization
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 2021, Australia raised its concern regarding undue delays and lack of transparency in China's approval procedures for a range of products and establishments. Australia urged China to apply consistent criteria and transparent timeframes on a non-discriminatory basis for approval procedures including the procedures for approval of commodity registrations, establishment listing and lifting of restrictions on suspended establishments. Australia requested China to apply a risk-based approach when implementing measures on imported food. In addition, Australia considered China's approach to be inconsistent with Annexes B and C of the SPS Agreement. Australia welcomed bilateral engagement on the matter.

Canada supported the concern, noting undue delays and lack of transparency and predictability faced by Canadian companies in securing the necessary approvals to export to China. Canada indicated it had longstanding market access requests that had not progressed, and also noted undue delays and lack of clarity in the reinstatement of suspended establishments. Canada urged China to base its approval procedures for imported food products and establishments on international standards, guidelines, and recommendations, scientific principles and assessment of risks. Canada recalled the need to publish the standard processing period of each approval procedure; examine the completeness of the documentation and communicate any deficiencies in a precise and complete manner; transmit the result of the approval procedures as soon as possible in a precise and complete manner; process applications that have deficiencies as far as practicable; and provide information on the stage of the approval and an explanation for any delays. Canada welcomed close cooperation with China.

The European Union supported the concern and called for more transparent and predictable approval procedures in China for a range of products.

China indicated that the concern raised would be forwarded to the competent authorities. China noted that food safety incidents regarding meat and other products from Australia had occurred continuously since 2019, causing adverse effects on China's assessment of Australia's recommended registered companies. China urged Australia and other Members to strengthen the supervision on their exporting establishments and ensure the safety and quality of their exported products to China.

Australia clarified that its concern preceded the incidents China referred to. Australia indicated it had provided all requested information and undertaken corrective actions following audits and inspections in a timely and transparent manner. In addition, Australia noted that it had attempted to engage in bilateral consultations with China to address this matter and remained concerned by the lack of engagement.

In July 2021, Australia was concerned with the long delays and lack of transparency in China's approval and administrative update process, as well as with the lack of risk and/or evidence basis of China's approach. Noting longstanding requests for approval of food export establishments, Australia requested China to avoid discrimination of Australian products, in accordance with Article 2.3 of the SPS Agreement. China was requested to apply SPS measures that were science based, proportionate to the risk and not more trade-restrictive than necessary. Australia was waiting for China to approve establishment registrations and update administrative listings changes, and to accept and publish the product listing requests and requests for renewal of registrations prior to expiry. Australia reminded China of the obligations established in Annex C of the SPS Agreement and urged China to apply consistent criteria and transparent timeframes on a non-discriminatory basis for approval procedures.

Canada was disappointed at the undue delays in China's approval procedures for the import of food products and of foreign establishments. These delays and the lack of transparency and of a rationale of approval procedures for foreign export establishments resulted in uncertainty and trade disruptions. Recalling the obligations established under Annex C of the SPS Agreement, Canada urged China: to finalize and publish the lists of Canadian products await registration; to provide timelines for acceptance; to transmit the result of the approval procedures; to explain the undue delays; to provide the reason why Canadian products or establishments had not been approved; to limit information requirements to what was necessary; and to ensure transparent and predictable approval procedures.

The United Kingdom shared the concerns on China's undue delays and lack of transparency, and asked China to ensure the application of SPS measures in a non-discriminatory and predictable manner, in accordance with Annexes B and C of the SPS Agreement.

The European Union called for transparent, predictable and swift approval procedures and the listing or re-listing of establishments in line with agreed international standards.

Highlighting its strict implementation of the products' access and enterprise registration management, China noted the recurring incidents involving Australian and Canadian products, including detection of the COVID-19 virus in Canadian aquatic products. China undertook risk assessments of the agricultural and food product quarantine access applications to prevent the introduction of the pandemic and to ensure the facilitation and sustainability of trade under controllable risks.

In response to China, Canada emphasized the adherence of all Canadian federally licensed establishments to internationally accepted standards and food safety. Both countries shared a long history of safe trade. While Canada had provided all the detailed information required, China had not responded to approve and publish the eligibility for exporting establishments.

Australia responded to China by underscoring the high standards of its food system and the quality of its agricultural products. Australia regretted that China had not honoured commitments made during bilateral negotiations, that no progress had been made on market access requests, and that no response had been received to the requests for engagement. Noting that other trading partners had also raised concerns on delays and lack of transparency, Australia believed that China's actions were inconsistent with WTO obligations.