STC Number - 60

Import restrictions on bovine semen and embryos, milk and milk products

Maintained by: Argentina
Raised by: European Union
Supported by: South Africa; Switzerland
First date raised: March 1999 G/SPS/R/14 paras. 17-18
Dates subsequently raised: July 1999 (G/SPS/R/15 paras. 23-24)
November 2000 (G/SPS/R/20 paras. 26-28)
July 2001 (G/SPS/R/22 paras. 44-46)
October 2001 (G/SPS/R/25 paras. 18-19)
June 2005 (G/SPS/R/37/Rev.1 paras. 51-52)
October 2005 (G/SPS/R/39 para. 91)
Number of times subsequently raised: 6
Relevant documents: G/SPS/N/ARG/37 G/SPS/N/ARG/38 G/SPS/N/ARG/47 G/SPS/N/ARG/47/Corr.1 G/SPS/N/ARG/47/Rev.1 G/SPS/GEN/114 G/SPS/GEN/131 G/SPS/GEN/135
Products covered: 04 Dairy produce; birds' eggs; natural honey; edible products of animal origin, not elsewhere specified or included; 05 Products of animal origin, not elsewhere specified or included
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Food safety; Human health; Zoonoses
Status: Resolved
Solution: Restrictions on bovine semen and embryos lifted
Date reported as resolved: 01/02/2006

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 1999, the European Communities noted it had been unable to obtain the text of Argentina's measure on bovine semen imports, and was submitting a series of questions. Argentina indicated that the measure had been notified (G/SPS/N/ARG/37). It clarified that the request for the full text of the measure had not been received from the Commission, but from several EC member States. Argentina committed to sending the relevant document to the European Commission.
In July 1999, the European Communities again expressed concern regarding Argentina's BSE-related restrictions on bovine semen, milk and milk products. G/SPS/N/ARG/38 concerned a draft measure which classified these products as low-risk products. Subsequently notified import requirements (G/SPS/N/ARG/47) established country freedom from BSE or low BSE risk as preconditions for importing frozen bovine semen, although according to the OIE, bovine semen from healthy animals could be traded without BSE-related restrictions. The European Communities indicated that it had received no answers to the questions raised in March 1999, and raised several new questions.
Argentina replied that it had provided answers to the EC questions both bilaterally and in G/SPS/GEN/135. Argentina had received several comments on the measure notified in G/SPS/N/ARG/47, and had taken these comments into account. Argentina was planning to issue a revision of G/SPS/N/ARG/47, and was committed to continue exchanging information with the European Communities to resolve all questions before the measure was adopted.
In November 2000, the European Communities stated that Argentina was applying import restrictions on bovine semen that went well beyond international recommendations and were not justified. The European Communities would continue to pursue this issue bilaterally, and was hopeful of a resolution. Argentina replied that it had notified, in advance, its regulation as G/SPS/N/ARG/47, which was subsequently revised following comments by the European Communities and others (G/SPS/N/ARG/47/Rev.1). This regulation established criteria not only in relation to BSE concerns but also to two other diseases. Argentina had resolved the problems identified bilaterally by many EC member States, in particular Germany and France. Furthermore, an Argentine veterinary mission would be visiting various EC member States early in December and was prepared to also address this issue at that time.
In July 2001, the European Communities referred to the information on BSE circulated by OIE and WHO, concluding that there was no evidence of BSE transmission via milk collected from healthy animals (G/SPS/GEN/221, 222, and 230). However, Argentina was still imposing import restrictions on EC dairy products, in particular from the United Kingdom. The European Communities had replied to Argentina's extensive questionnaire, but Argentina had failed to provide a risk assessment to justify its measures. The European Communities urged Argentina either to provide a scientific justification, or to lift the trade restrictions. Otherwise the European Communities would have to consider an eventual recourse to Article 12.2 consultation procedures. Argentina replied that in January 2001, its animal health service had adopted a resolution which imposed restrictions on dairy products. A new, less restrictive sanitary certificate would be notified soon. Regarding human health, dairy products had been reclassified from medium to low risk, and the relevant decree eliminated the restrictions. This reclassification was not yet complete, and one category of milk remained under restriction. The United Kingdom was considered a high-risk country, but the situation was under analysis.
In October 2001, the European Communities indicated that despite statements from the Argentine authorities that dairy products would be reclassified, Argentina continued to place restrictions on baby food and on Baileys from Ireland; Belgian chocolate; bovine semen and dairy products from the Netherlands; milk powder and cheese from Germany; Swedish cocoa oil butter; and dairy products from the United Kingdom and France. Furthermore, the European Communities disagreed with the classification of dairy products as low-risk, as opposed to no-risk, and criticized the lack of transparency of the Argentine measure. The European Communities was considering eventual recourse to Article 12.2 consultation procedures. Argentina explained that it did not maintain any restriction on EC dairy products; they just had to be certified as coming from establishments where no case, or suspected case, of BSE had been recorded. A counter proposal from EC member States that milk come from establishments where there had been no case of BSE was currently being studied to determine equivalence. Regarding transparency, all standards could be consulted on the web page of the Official Bulletin. As Argentina continued efforts to resolve this question, it did not consider recourse to Article 12.2 consultations necessary.
In June 2005, the European Communities recalled that exports of bovine semen from some EC member States to Argentina were still suffering restrictions. According to OIE rules, bovine semen should not be subjected to restrictions regardless of the BSE status of the exporting country. The European Communities invited Argentinean authorities to replace their national bans by specific import requirements compliant with OIE standards and to finalize negotiations with the concerned EC member States in order to resume trade of bovine semen and embryos. Argentina replied that it was in the process of adjusting its legislation to the new OIE directive adopted in May 2005. Argentina was currently working bilaterally with several EC member States to resolve the issue of export certificates.
In February 2006, the European Communities reported that Argentina?s import restrictions on bovine semen and embryos due to BSE had recently been lifted and that some EC member States had already benefited from this change.