July 9, 2009 (10:30 a.m. EDT)
No. 191

Canada Requests WTO Panel on South Korea’s Continuing Ban on Canadian Beef

The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today announced that the Government of Canada is requesting the establishment of a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel on the issue of South Korea’s continuing ban on the importation of Canadian beef.

“Recent consultations with South Korea on its Canadian beef ban regrettably did not produce the desired results,” said Minister Day. “Our request today for a WTO panel demonstrates our ongoing commitment to resolving this issue and defending the interests of Canadian producers.”

“Canadian ranchers produce beef that meets the highest safety and quality standards in the world,” said Minister Ritz. “This government has made it clear to South Korea that we will defend Canadian ranchers, and I delivered that point in person during my trip to Seoul in March 2009. The international scientific community recognizes that Canadian beef is safe, and we are confident a WTO dispute panel would rule in our favour.”

In May 2003, South Korea banned imports of Canadian beef after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in a Canadian cow. Before the ban, South Korea was Canada’s fourth-largest beef export market, valued at $50 million in 2002.

In May 2007, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) officially categorized Canada as a “Controlled Risk” country for BSE, recognizing the effectiveness of Canada’s surveillance, mitigation and eradication measures. The OIE reconfirmed this categorization in May of 2008 and 2009. The “Controlled Risk” categorization allows for the safe trade in all beef and cattle under conditions that Canada can meet.

On April 9, 2009, Canada requested WTO consultations with South Korea on this matter. The consultations, held on May 7, did not resolve the issue.

The WTO panel will be asked to determine whether South Korea’s continuing ban on Canadian beef is consistent with its international trade obligations under the WTO. It is Canada’s view that South Korea’s continuing ban is a violation of its WTO obligations in that the ban is not based on the relevant international standards or on science, and that it is discriminatory and restricts trade more than necessary.

- 30 -

A backgrounder follows.

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
613-992-6186

Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-996-2000
www.internationaltrade.gc.ca

Meagan Murdoch
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board
613-759-1059

Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
613-759-7972
1-866-345-7972

Backgrounder

Canada’s Request for a WTO Panel on South Korea’s Continuing Ban on the Importation of Canadian Beef

Canada’s July 9, 2009, request for the establishment of a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel will be considered at the July 20, 2009, meeting of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body.

Canada has been trying for more than six years to restore access to South Korea for Canadian beef, which was banned by that country in May 2003 after bovine spongiform encephalopathy was discovered in a Canadian cow.

In an effort to resolve this issue over the years, Canada has held numerous technical discussions with South Korea and has provided scientific evidence that more than justifies full resumption of trade.

Canadian ministers, ambassadors, senior officials and technical experts have also made numerous representations to South Korean authorities, including a visit in March 2009 by the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board. Despite these efforts, Canada and South Korea have been unable to resolve the issue.

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

Regrettably, the consultations held with South Korea in May 2009 did not lead to a resolution of the issue. Consequently, Canada is now proceeding with a request for a panel.

It normally takes up to nine months from the establishment of a panel for its final report to be released to WTO members.

Further information on the WTO dispute settlement process.