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WTO considers US-Argentina beef import dispute

By Keith Nuthall , 30-Jan-2013

WTO considers US-Argentina beef import dispute

A World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes panel has been established to rule on whether US bans on Argentine beef imports are legal under global trade laws.

Argentina’s government says the restrictions are illegal under the WTO’s general agreement on tariffs and trade (GATT) and the WTO agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures. Releasing a statement at yesterday’s (Monday) meeting of the WTO disputes settlement panel, Buenos Aires complained that for “over 11 years [there has been] a closure of the US market for fresh, chilled or frozen bovine meat from Argentina.” It added: “Fresh meat represents a flagship product of our country and its high quality is well-recognised worldwide.”

The dispute will also hear Argentine claims that Washington has broken WTO rules by not recognising Patagonia as being free of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), despite the region being recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as free of FMD without vaccinations since 2002.

It accused the US of staging “numerous delays” in processing Argentine requests for this recognition. And “Argentina suffers discrimination because the US has recognised FMD-free zones and approved the import of fresh bovine meat from members with a similar health status,” argued the Argentine communiqué.

In reply, the US said it was “disappointed” at the move, adding it was ready to defend its position at the WTO.

A US government statement said American rules on importing Argentine meat and livestock are “fully compliant with the obligations of the US under… WTO agreements.” It added that US regulators were busy “evaluating sanitary issues related to Argentina’s products that are the subject of this request,” stressing: “Unfortunately, despite these developments, it appears that Argentina has chosen to prioritise litigation over co-operation in moving forward the regulatory process.”

China, Australia, India, the European Union and South Korea have reserved the right to participate in these disputes hearings.

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