The case could set an important world trade law precedent for poultry imports, regarding the extent to which importing countries can block trades due to salmonella contamination.
“We advocate the opening of a panel at the WTO against the barriers put in place by the EU,” Maggi announced. “The process will not be easy or fast, but the Ministry of Agriculture faces the challenge with confidence… in the defence of Brazilian agricultural products in the international market.” His Government has now started technical work on launching such a case.
The South American country claims the EU has illegally restricted Brazilian poultry imports by banning all 2,600 strains of salmonella for salted chicken, which Brazil can export. However, Brazil says the blacklisted strains include some harmless bugs naturally present in poultry meat.
“It is on this rule, with no scientific basis, that more than 99% of the accusations against Brazilian chicken are grounded,” he wrote in Brazil’s leading business newspaper Valor Econômico earlier this month.
Politically, however, Brazil faces a tough task to convince the meat trade that its industry has reliable health standards. It has been accused of fraud, including falsified export certificates and ignored veterinary requirements, from July last year – prompting European Commission action to block Brazilian imports – action backed by the EU meat industry.
“We fully support the Commission measures taken following the different phases of the meat scandal,” EU farm body Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen told GlobalMeatNews.
“According to the EU food and feed safety alerts system RASFF, since 1 January 2017, the EU border agents rejected 303 Brazilian meat consignments because of salmonella contamination in poultry meat.”
Pesonen argued that the EU would have “a very good case” at the WTO in resisting Brazil’s claims, noting the EU’s recent victory there in overturning Russia’s “technical ban” on EU pork exports as the panel judged it “disproportionate, protectionist and not based on international standards”.
A WTO spokesperson told GlobalMeatNews he could not comment on “potential disputes” or their rulings’ implications on future policies. “But one thing we can say is the dispute settlement system is there to help members resolve their differences and come to a mutually acceptable solution,” adding that the WTO wants members to “sit down and try to negotiate a solution before resorting to a panel review”.
Cases should not normally take more than a year – 15 months if it is appealed. But if Brazil loses, comeback is nearly impossible, as appeal rulings are automatically adopted.
The case is important. Brazilian poultry meat exports to the EU are worth almost €1 billion, Pesonen emphasised. He told GlobalMeatNews that Brazil exports around 500,000 tonnes of poultry to the EU per year, mainly frozen breast meat: 435,000 tonnes through TRQs (standard tariff-rate quotas) and 65,000 tonnes from a permitted 21,000 tonnes/year quota at €1,024/tonne.