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WTO members address 10 new trade concerns

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Countries have addressed 10 new trade concerns at a recent meeting of a World Trade Organization (WTO) committee.

Topics at the Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures meeting on March 25 and 26 were raised by India, China, Peru, Turkey and Mexico and included animal and plant products, pesticides and maximum residue levels (MRLs).

With more than 230 delegates attending remotely, members raised 46 trade issues, 11 of them for the first time.

New trade concerns
India expressed concerns about the new health certificate format proposed by China for shrimp imports, China’s limitations on bovine meat imports, Mexican import restrictions on dried chili and Russian trade measures on fish and fishery product exports to the Eurasian Customs Union.

Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica said they were worried about Panama’s delay in the renewal of authorizations for plants of fishery and livestock firms. Mexico, Colombia and Peru also voiced concern about the delay by the Panamanian Food Safety Authority (AUPSA) on renewing authorizations for Mexican plants exporting bovine products and by-products.

Korea’s decision to impose mandatory Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification for imported kimchi got the attention of China. Kimchi, a traditional Korean food, is a spicy fermented mixture of vegetables with cabbage, onions and sometimes fish seasoned with garlic, red peppers and ginger.

Turkey questioned the move by Saudi Arabia in November 2020 to temporarily stop import of animal products from the country and China raised the issue of Mexico suspending its frozen shrimp imports.

Coronavirus issues
The WTO Secretariat gave an update on COVID-19 and SPS issues, with 86 SPS notifications and other communications related to the pandemic submitted by members.

Some expressed concern regarding testing and certification requirements for imported food products implemented by other members, and requested that they share data, studies or risk assessments.

The European Union pointed to the assessments of WHO, FAO and others, which found no evidence that food was a source of COVID-19, and expressed concern about some members requiring tests and certificates for imported food products. The EU asked members with such measures to share their data and studies that would explain them as valid and proportionate.

Switzerland also expressed concern about additional requirements from certain nations on the import of food products, including tests, inspections and certificates, without sharing risk assessments on which these were based.

In November 2020, the United States and Canada urged China to withdraw COVID-19-related restrictions in place since June 2020. Australia, Brazil, Paraguay, United Kingdom, and Mexico supported the call.

China pointed to research showing the virus can survive under low-temperature conditions and since countries had experienced COVID-19 clusters in food businesses, this showed the SARS-CoV-2 virus could contaminate food or packaging. It added the virus had been detected on the packaging and containers of imported white shrimp and chicken wings.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has taken measures to ensure fishery products were safe for consumption through testing and asked members to share their experience in preventing COVID-19 in these products. An Indonesian official added it had taken a risk-based approach and that it was following the guidance of WHO and FAO.

The next meeting of the SPS Committee is scheduled for July 15 to 16, 2021.

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