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 (EN), paras. 51-52; G/SPS/R/37 (FR, ES), paras. 51-52)
Number of times subsequently raised: 5
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 G/SPS/GEN/221 G/SPS/GEN/222 G/SPS/GEN/230
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; Risk assessment
Status: Resolved
Solution: In October 2005, the representative of the European Communities reported that Argentina's import restrictions on bovine semen and embryos due to BSE had been lifted (G/SPS/R/39, par. 91).
Date reported as resolved: 01/02/2006

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 1999, the representative of the European Communities raised concerns regarding Argentina's health requirements for the importation of bovine semen. He indicated that the European Commission had not been able to obtain the text of the measure (G/SPS/GEN/114 refers).

The representative of Argentina indicated that the measure, which re-categorised bovine semen as a low risk product, had been notified (G/SPS/N/ARG/37). It took into account scientific advances as well as OIE recommendations. Argentina had also sent questionnaires to Members, and was taking their answers into account in its risk analysis. Argentina had not received a request from the European Commission for the full text of the measure, although several European member States had requested the text. Nonetheless, the representative of Argentina confirmed that he would send the document to the European Commission.

In July 1999, the representative of the European Communities raised concerns regarding Argentina's BSE-related restrictions on imports of bovine semen, milk and milk products. Notification G/SPS/N/ARG/38 concerned a draft measure which classified bovine semen, milk, milk products, gelatin, hides and tallow as low-risk products. Subsequently, import requirements notified in G/SPS/N/ARG/47 established that country freedom from BSE or low BSE risk were preconditions for importing frozen bovine semen. The European Communities had requested written answers to the questions raised at the March 1999 meeting (G/SPS/GEN/114), but Argentina had not yet responded. The representative of the European Communities stressed that according to the OIE Code, bovine semen was a product that could be traded without BSE-related restrictions if sourced from healthy animals. The European Communities wished Argentina to answer several questions related to the discrepancies between the OIE Code and its import requirements, and its criteria for determining countries' BSE status (G/SPS/GEN/131 and G/SPS/GEN/114).

The representative of Argentina indicated that he had submitted answers to questions raised in G/SPS/GEN/114 both bilaterally, and in the form of a document to be circulated to all Members (G/SPS/GEN/135). The measure notified in G/SPS/N/ARG/47 was based on OIE recommendations. Argentina had received several comments on the notified measure, particularly from members of the European Communities. These comments had been taken into account, and recently Argentina had sent to the WTO and to the European Commission a copy of all comments and of the answers provided. He indicated that Argentina would issue a revision of notification G/SPS/N/ARG/47. Argentina was prepared to continue exchanging information with the European Communities to resolve all questions before the measure was adopted. The representative of the European Communities took note of Argentina's answers and reiterated that he would like to see the scientific opinions on which the Argentine decision was based, and that he would provide written comments to Argentina's document.

In November 2000, the representative of the European Communities stated that Argentina was applying import restrictions on bovine semen that went well beyond international recommendations and were not justified. The OIE Animal Health Code clearly indicated that no BSE-related restrictions were necessary for bovine semen. The European Communities would continue to pursue this issue bilaterally, and was hopeful of a resolution.

The representative of Switzerland indicated that they were very interested in any issues related to bovine semen and BSE, since Swiss exports faced similar unjustified obstacles to trade by several Members.

The representative of Argentina replied that his country had notified, in advance, their regulation in document G/SPS/N/ARG/47, which was subsequently revised following comments by the European Communities and others (G/SPS/N/ARG/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 representative of the European Communities recalled that at the March 2001 Committee meeting, OIE and WHO had circulated information on internationally agreed standards regarding BSE (G/SPS/GEN/221, 222 and 230). The OIE in particular had concluded that there was no evidence of BSE transmission via milk collected from healthy animals. Moreover, the EC Scientific Steering Committee had published a report on the safety of milk with regard to TSE whose conclusions confirmed the OIE and WHO opinions. Notwithstanding the clear scientific evidence provided by these international organizations, Argentina was still imposing import restrictions on dairy products from the European Communities, and in particular from the United Kingdom. The European Communities had replied to Argentina's extensive questionnaire on the measures taken with regard to BSE. Despite repeated requests, Argentina had failed to provide a risk assessment to justify the measures, thus acting against Article 5 of the SPS Agreement. The European Communities, supported by South Africa, urged Argentina either to underpin its position with scientific justification, or to lift the unjustified trade restrictions. If Argentina failed to do so, the European Communities would have to consider an eventual recourse to Article 12.2 consultation procedures.

The representative of the OIE reported that the WHO/FAO/OIE conference BSE had concluded that there was no reason to modify the list of bovine products for which no trade restrictions were recommended.

The representative of Argentina replied that in January 2001 its animal health service, SENASA, had adopted resolution 42/2001, which imposed restrictions on dairy products. A new sanitary certificate would be notified to WTO soon; this certificate was less restrictive and took all developments into account. Regarding human health, dairy products had been reclassified from medium risk to low risk, and the relevant decree eliminated the restrictions. This reclassification of dairy products had not yet been completed; a certain category of milk remained under the restriction. The United Kingdom was considered a high risk country, but the situation was under analysis.

In October 2001, the representative of the European Communities recalled that he had first raised the issue of Argentina's import restrictions on dairy products in the SPS Committee in July 1999. Argentine restrictions went beyond international standards on BSE and ignored EC Scientific and Veterinary Committee and OIE advice that there was no evidence of BSE transmission via milk from healthy animals. Despite statements from the Argentine authorities that dairy products would be reclassified, Argentina continued to place restrictions on baby food and Baileys from Ireland; Belgian chocolate; bovine semen and dairy products from the Netherlands; milk powder and cheese from Germany, Swedish cacao oil butter; and dairy products from the United Kingdom and France. Furthermore, the European Communities fundamentally disagreed with the consideration of dairy products as low-risk, as distinct from a no-risk, products and objected to negotiations on certificates on the grounds that this was unscientific. The EC representative also criticized the lack of transparency in the Argentine measure. In view of Argentina's continued refusal to reconsider its measures, the European Communities was considering eventual recourse to Article 12.2 consultation procedures on the basis of violation of Article 5.

The representative of Argentina outlined the legislation in force which classified dairy products as low risk. As such, Argentina did not maintain any restriction on EC imports of dairy products. The only restriction on EC dairy products was that they 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 see if it would be equivalent to the certification required by Argentina. Given the EC policy of slaughtering all herds where a case of BSE had been recorded, the Argentine delegate did not see why it was not possible to certify that milk came from a herd free of BSE. On the question of transparency, he pointed out that all standards could be consulted on the web page of the Official Bulletin. As Argentina continued to show good will in resolution of this question, he stated that recourse to Article 12.2 consultations was not necessary.

In June 2005, the representative of 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.

The representative of Argentina replied that Argentina was in the process of adjusting its legislation to the new OIE directive adopted in May 2005. The European Communities was Argentina's most important trading partner; imports from the European Communities amounted to more than 4 billion dollars. Argentina was currently working bilaterally with several EC member States to resolve the issue of export certificates.

In October 2005 and February 2006, the representative of 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.