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April 9, 2009 (8:00 a.m. EDT)
No. 93

Canada to Request WTO Consultations on South Korean Importation Ban of Canadian Beef

The Government of Canada is calling on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to begin consultations to address South Korea’s continuing unjustified ban on the importation of Canadian beef, the Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, announced today.

“We are disappointed to have to launch this action, as we had hoped to resolve our differences through negotiation,” said Minister Day. “Canada has a robust trade relationship with South Korea, so it is unfortunate that we have not been able to settle this issue and reopen South Korean markets to Canadian beef.”

WTO consultations provide parties with an opportunity to resolve a dispute through discussions. If consultations fail to resolve the matter, the complaining party may request that the matter be referred to a WTO dispute settlement panel.

“We are now taking the necessary steps to defend Canadian beef producers,” said Minister Day. “South Korea represents a key market for them, and we are going the extra mile to get the door open.”

“This government continues to take a strong stand for Canadian producers on the issue of market access in South Korea,” said the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “We are committed to a respectful working relationship with South Korea, but we have always made it clear that it is unacceptable to discriminate against Canadian producers. This consultation is a formal opportunity for us to work with South Korea to resolve this issue, as well as a strong signal that we will stand up for Canadian producers.”

In May 2003, South Korea banned imports of Canadian beef after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in a Canadian cow. In May 2007, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) officially categorized Canada as a “Controlled BSE Risk” country, recognizing the effectiveness of Canada’s surveillance, mitigation and eradication measures.

Canada is pleased that so many of its trading partners have accepted the OIE’s recognition of Canada’s status and have removed BSE restrictions on Canadian beef. In 2008, Canada exported beef to more than 55 countries.

A backgrounder follows.

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Mélisa Leclerc
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada


Lifting South Korea’s Ban on Canadian Beef

Canada has been trying for more than five years to restore access to South Korea for Canadian beef, which was banned from the country in May 2003. Canada’s representations, based on sound science, have been made by ministers, ambassadors, senior officials and technical experts. They have provided scientific data to South Korea which far exceeds what is required to justify full resumption of trade.

In 2002, South Korea was Canada’s fourth-largest beef export market, valued at $50 million.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) officially recognized Canada as a “controlled-risk” country for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in May 2007. This categorization resulted from a comprehensive evaluation of Canada’s BSE control measures by OIE experts. OIE guidelines allow trade of all beef and cattle for countries in this risk category. The OIE reconfirmed Canada’s controlled risk status in May 2008. Canada exported beef to more than 55 countries in 2008.

The United States, which has the same OIE controlled-risk status as Canada, obtained access to the South Korean beef market in June 2008.

In September 2008, hoping to avoid taking action at the WTO, Canada intensified its bilateral representations to South Korea. These included ministerial meetings and letters, technical discussions, and most recently a March 20 visit to South Korea by the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Despite these efforts, Canada and South Korea have been unable to resolve the issue, or to agree on a reasonable timetable for a resolution.

Accordingly, on April 9, the Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, announced that the Government of Canada is requesting WTO consultations with South Korea.

Consultations are the first phase of the WTO dispute settlement process. They are generally held within 30 days of a request being filed, unless both parties agree to a different time frame. Consultations provide parties with an opportunity to resolve their differences prior to the establishment of a dispute settlement panel.

Canada will use this opportunity to pursue a resolution of this matter with South Korea without referring it to a dispute settlement panel.

If consultations do not resolve the dispute, Canada would be in a position to request the establishment of a WTO panel 60 days from today, the date of its request for consultations.

Further information about the WTO dispute settlement process can be obtained from the WTO website at: World Trade Organization.