A case of mad cow disease has been reported in California. CNN is reporting here that Korean supermarket chains are beginning to remove US beef from their shelves, but that the Korean government has stated that it will not ban imports for now. What will happen next?
Under one scenario, spooked consumers and retailers will spook governments to take stronger measures, resulting in import bans. The United States will argue that these are unnecessary measures contrary to the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement). WTO Members maintaining import bans will argue that they are doing so out of precaution in a context where the relevant scientific evidence is insufficient to assess the risk. The bans will remain in place for months while the risk is assessed (and perhaps longer if there is evidence of the disease spreading). If Korea implements an import ban, the usefulness of the new Korea – US FTA (in which trade in beef was a key issue) will also be put to the test.
Under another scenario, the United States will convince its trading partners that the risk to health is low and that temporary bans should not be implemented.
Either way, the likelihood of a WTO dispute in the short-term seems low. The time taken to resolve disputes means that WTO law is not well equipped to deal with public health emergencies of this type.
- US mad cow case forces halt to legislative session (chinapost.com.tw)
- 10 Facts About Mad Cow Diseases (thedailybeast.com)
- Mad cow disease: What you need to know (kshb.com)
- ‘Mad Cow’ Finding Highlights Food Safety Gaps, Say Critics (commondreams.org)