Canada, Korea and the WTO: Beef Ban Challenge

GLOBE - Canada has launched a WTO case against a South Korean ban on imports of Canadian beef, Ottawa announced on 9 April.
calendar icon 23 April 2009
clock icon 2 minute read

The ban was put in place five years ago after Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was found in Canadian cattle, but Ottawa now insists that a prohibition based on health concerns is unjustified.

“We are disappointed to have to launch this action, as we had hoped to resolve our differences through negotiation,” Canadian trade minister Stockwell Day said in a statement on 9 April.

Ottawa points to the seal of approval it won from the World Organisation for Animal Health as proof that Canadian beef is safe to eat. Nearly two years ago, the group categorised Canada as a ‘controlled-risk’ country for mad cow disease, the same classification it has given to the United States. Seoul began accepting imports of US beef last year, after banning them in 2003 amid fears of mad cow disease.

Seoul and Ottawa held talks last year to try to resolve their dispute over the embargo, but to no avail. The Korean ban remains in full force.

“If the beef issue goes before the WTO, only hard scientific and objective proof involving existing data on mad cow disease will be examined, without domestic consumer sentiment or public opinion taken into consideration,” Korean Farm Minister Chang Tae-pyong said, according to Bernama news service. Chang added that he hopes to settle the matter through bilateral talks.

Consultations between the parties should commence within 30 days of 9 April, the day the request was filed. If those talks have failed to produce a resolution after 60 days, Canada can request the establishment of an arbitration panel to hear the dispute.

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