STC Number - 84

Import restrictions affecting BSE-free countries

Maintained by: Argentina; Australia; Canada; Korea, Republic of; New Zealand; United States of America
Raised by: Bulgaria; Croatia; Czech Republic; Estonia; Latvia; Poland; Romania; Slovak Republic; Slovenia
Supported by: European Union; United States of America
First date raised: March 2001 G/SPS/R/21 paras. 18-25. See also STC 193.
Dates subsequently raised: July 2001 (G/SPS/R/22 para. 48)
Number of times subsequently raised: 1
Relevant documents: G/SPS/GEN/247 G/SPS/N/ARG/59 G/SPS/N/AUS/125 G/SPS/N/CAN/94 G/SPS/N/KOR/83 G/SPS/N/NZL/77 G/SPS/N/USA/379 RD/SPS/114
Products covered: 0201 Meat of bovine animals, fresh or chilled.; 0202 Meat of bovine animals, frozen.; 0401 Milk and cream, not concentrated nor containing added sugar or other sweetening matter.; 0402 Milk and cream, concentrated or containing added sugar or other sweetening matter.; 0403 Buttermilk, curdled milk and cream, yogurt, kephir and other fermented or acidified milk and cream, whether or not concentrated or containing added sugar or other sweetening matter or flavoured or containing added fruit, nuts or cocoa.; 0405 Butter and other fats and oils derived from milk; dairy spreads.; 0406 Cheese and curd.; 0410 Edible products of animal origin, not elsewhere specified or included.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Food safety; Human health; Zoonoses; Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
Status: Partially resolved
Solution: Information was received from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic and Slovenia on the partial resolution of this STC (RD/SPS/114, 29 October 2020).
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 2001, the representative of Romania speaking on behalf of Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic and Slovenia, drew attention to the notifications of emergency measures banning imports of certain animal products from countries that were BSE-free and not included in the OIE list of countries with reported cases of BSE (notifications G/SPS/N/AUS/125, G/SPS/N/ARG/59, G/SPS/N/CAN/94, G/SPS/N/KOR/83, G/SPS/N/NZL/77, G/SPS/N/USA/379). She stated that the measures were in violation of Articles 3.1 and 3.3 of the SPS Agreement, as they were not based on a proper risk assessment. The affected countries were ready to provide those Members imposing restrictions with the necessary documentation warranting their status as being BSE-free. The full joint statement is contained in G/SPS/GEN/247. The representatives of Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic added further details on specific measures in place to stop the spread of the disease to their territories.

The representative of the European Communities welcomed the positive attitude adopted by certain countries with regard to testing and verification. He reminded the Committee that the testing of milk, dairy products, collagen and gelatine for BSE did not form part of OIE guidelines on BSE, nor did the suspension of imports of these products due to BSE. Members imposing such measures should adapt their requirements to the international standard.

The representative of the United States stated that although all WTO Members had the right to take measures necessary to protect the life and health of their citizens and animal populations from the risks associated with BSE, these measures must be based on science and should reflect the determinations of international standard-setting bodies. The United States was free of BSE, yet it had also been the subject of import restrictions based on BSE, including some restrictions imposed by those countries participating in the common statement presented by Romania. The United States had supplied evidence of its freedom from BSE to interested trade partners as well as information on its disease control measures and its extensive surveillance system for the disease. The United States required that countries that may pose a risk of BSE transmission provide similar data, in order to allow the US Department of Agriculture to assess the risks of imports relative to BSE. Many of the countries currently facing restrictions on exports of ruminants and certain ruminant products to the United States had been exposed to the disease through imports of live animals, animal products and animal feeds from countries where BSE was known to occur. It was also not clear what risk management measures had been taken in these countries. Therefore, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the United States was unable to determine that exports from such countries posed no risk of BSE transmission. In its interim rule of December 1997, the United States informed countries about the information it required in order to conduct an assessment of BSE risk. It was noted that the United States had not received all the necessary information requested from several countries participating in the common statement, and looked forward to receiving information so the necessary reviews could be conducted.

The representatives of New Zealand and Australia expressed their concern over the increase in known incidence of the disease in Europe as a result of more intensive testing. New Zealand and Australia had issued emergency food standards to protect public health from BSE. The authorities of New Zealand and Australia were working closely to develop permanent measures to address BSE risks, and the resulting draft measures would be announced in the near future. The permanent measures would be implemented separately in each country. It was New Zealand's intention to notify the new measures to Members at least 60 days before they were put in place, to allow for interested Members to comment. New Zealand's present measure would normally expire on 5 July 2001. Australia's temporary measure would remain in place until the new permanent measures were operational.

The representative of Canada recalled that in January 2001, it had notified the extension of its previous policy to a broader range of products. Although Canada had not recognized any of the countries of the joint declaration as being BSE free, it would assess individual countries based on a risk assessment and looked forward to receiving the necessary information from the countries concerned to allow this process to begin. Regarding imports of non-bovine products from Hungary, the representative of Canada stated that the issue of concern was that of cross-contamination. Trade in such products could resume once Canada had received the necessary guarantees.

The representative Korea indicated that his authorities had found it necessary to introduce a temporary measure due to the increased prevalence of BSE in the European region. The measure was provisional and Korea would continue to seek the additional information necessary for a more objective assessment of the risks involved. Korea would take into account the criteria detailed in the OIE guidelines regarding BSE.

The representative of Argentina indicated that the emergency measure applied by his country as of 12 February 2001 was based on the available scientific information at the time, taking into account the increase in cases of BSE in European countries. He stressed that it was a transitional emergency measure and that the concerned scientific committee would consider any new information it received and recommend changes accordingly.

The representative of Bulgaria pointed out that according to Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement, Members were obliged to request additional information when temporary measures were implemented. The representative of Brazil reaffirmed a Members right to go beyond international guidelines based on a risk assessment, and stressed that this may only take place once the necessary information was provided.

In July 2001, the representative of Bulgaria recalled that at the previous Committee meeting, Bulgaria, together with other countries, had raised the issue of import restrictions affecting BSE-free countries. Bulgaria would continue to monitor the situation. According to Article 5.7, Members were obliged to seek additional information when temporary measures were implemented.

In November 2020, the Secretariat informed that in September 2020 it had contacted all Members who had raised specific trade concerns (STCs) that had not been discussed in the previous year, to request an update on their status. In furtherance of this request, information was received from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic and Slovenia on the partial resolution of this STC. The Secretariat indicated that the information received had been circulated in document RD/SPS/114 of 29 October 2020, and that the SPS IMS would be updated on this basis, using the date of the November 2020 SPS Committee meeting as the date of resolution of the relevant STCs.