OTTAWA, ONTARIO — The World Trade Organization (W.T.O.) has established, at Canada’s request, a dispute settlement panel to hear Canada’s challenge of South Korea’s continuing ban on Canadian beef.

"South Korea’s continuing ban is not based on international standards or on science," said Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway. "This is a clear violation of South Korea’s W.T.O. obligations."

Establishing the panel comes after more than six years of efforts made by Canadian officials 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.

The Canadian government, through Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, has responded to the country’s B.S.E. challenge by developing a comprehensive suite of internationally recognized, science-based measures to effectively minimize the likelihood of exposure, amplification and spread of B.S.E. within the cattle population and to protect consumers from the associated human health risks. Canada remains a Controlled Risk country for B.S.E., as recognized by the World Organization for Animal Health.

The W.T.O. panel will be charged to determine whether South Korea's continuing ban on Canadian beef is consistent with its international trade obligations under the W.T.O. agreement. The panel is expected to issue its report within the next nine months.