Despite the latest warning of the Brazilian government to file legal cases against the Philippine government before the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Department of Agriculture (DA) is determined to keep the disputed import ban on poultry meat coming from the South American country.
"We have not yet lifted the ban on poultry, especially whole chicken, as the Brazilian government has yet to furnish the Philippines a report on the rates of SARS-COV-2 infection in their respective Foreign Meat Establishments (FME), where our imports are sourced," Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.
This was his response to the letter by the Embassy of Brazil in Manila on October 19, 2020 to the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
In the letter, the Brazilian government said it is "determined to resort to the appropriate multilateral fora, including the filing of ‘Specific Trade Concerns’ to the detriment of the Philippines at the WTO, anchored by the guidelines recommended by that organization” because of the said import ban.
It was in August when the DA imposed a temporary ban on the importation of poultry meat originating from Brazil, following reports that SARS-COV 2—the causative agent of Covid-19—was detected in a surface sampling conducted in chicken meat imported from Brazil to China.
DA, upon issuing the ban, cited a WTO rule which specified that “in cases where relevant scientific evidence is insufficient, a member may provisionally adopt sanitary or phytosanitary measures on the basis of available pertinent information”.
In this case, the DA is referring to news reports saying that hundreds of workers in Brazilian meat manufacturing facilities are now getting infected by COVID-19, as well as to the news that the virus was detected in a surface sampling conducted in chicken meat imported from Brazil to China.
However, citing the same WTO rule, Brazil said DA's decision has no scientific basis, given that the World Health Organization (WHO) already said that COVID-19 couldn't be transmitted through food.
In response to the latest warning of Brazilian government, the DA said that "all member-countries have an equal right to challenge each other whenever there are trade complaints lodged before the WTO".
The agency also maintained that the report it needs from the Brazilian government forms part of the protocols of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and requirements of the DA for a more in-depth risk analysis of the situation.
"It is within the scope of the importing country to pre-emptively ban FMEs with apparent biosafety lapses until such time that the Philippines is satisfied with evidence of compliance and/or commitment by the FME concerned," said DA's Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Director Ronnie Domingo.
Meanwhile, on settling trade complaints and disputes, Dar said "the Philippines has always been facilitative of trade and open to discussion on trade issues which may not be acceptable to a trading partner.