W.T.O. asked to intervene on U.S. poultry ban

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — U.S. Trade Representative (U.S.T.R.) Ron Kirk was urged by the American poultry industry to “fully and resolutely pursue” a World Trade Organization (W.T.O.) action against European Union rules that effectively block American poultry from the European market, according to a National Turkey Federation news release.

“The injustice against U.S. poultry has continued for far too long, and it is time to begin correcting that injustice,” the presidents of the National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and USA Poultry & Egg Export Council told Kirk’s agency in a letter. “[We] encourage U.S.T.R. to fully and resolutely pursue the dispute settlement process.”

U.S. poultry that has been processed using chlorinated water, which helps control potentially pathogenic microorganisms and is considered safe and effective by U.S. authorities, is currently banned by the E.U. The E.U. adopted its policy in 1997 after other barriers to U.S. poultry began to crumble under the pressure of trade liberalization, according to the news release Industry estimates the policy prevents it from developing a market in Europe worth about $240 million for chicken and $60 million for turkey and duck.

The European Food Safety Agency (E.F.S.A.), and the E.U.’s Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) and Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (S.C.E.N.I.H.R.) cleared the way in 2008 for approval of the use of four pathogen-reducing treatments (P.R.T.’s) — chlorine dioxide, acidified sodium chlorite, trisodium phosphate and peroxyacids -- finding them safe and effective. The European Commission — the E.U.’s executive branch — tentatively approved use of the P.R.T.’s, but was overruled by representatives of national governments. U.S.T.R. subsequently announced it would file an action under the W.T.O. dispute resolution process.

W.T.O. rules require sanitary measures must be based on sound science and appropriate risk assessments to make sure they are employed fairly, justifiable and without discrimination, the industry representatives noted.

“To date, the E.U. has conducted no risk assessment to justify the ban on U.S. poultry,” wrote George Watts, president of N.C.C.; Joel Brandenberger of N.T.F.; and James H. Sumner of U.S.A.P.E.E.C., responding to U.S.T.R.’s request for comments.

“The E.U. has not been able to demonstrate nor justify why the use of P.R.T.’s is not scientifically acceptable and why a politically expedient decision should be acceptable,” they added. “Pursuing resolution of the issues through the W.T.O. dispute settlement process may not only prove to restore U.S. poultry exports to the E.U. but, equally important, will promote and reinforce the critical W.T.O. principles that address the international rules of trade and will provide for a more predictable and fairer opportunity for agricultural exports to participate in the world market.”
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