Switzerland to Ban Hormone-Treated Beef, To Comply with EC Bilateral Agreement

8 September 2006

Switzerland is planning to implement an import ban on hormone-treated beef similar to that already enforced by the EC, according to government veterinary officials. The measure, which is set to enter into force no later than spring 2007, harmonizes Swiss legislation with the EC’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules as per a bilateral agreement.

Under current rules, beef is eligible for import into Switzerland so long as products are declared as stemming from hormone-treated animals and that hormone residues are no longer traceable. With the ban, hormone-treated beef will be denied access into the Swiss market. This will primarily affect US and Canadian exporters who, however, account for a relatively small share (three and four percent, respectively) of Swiss beef imports.

Although the ban has not been officially confirmed, US officials have expressed strong concerns with the prospects of an ‘expansion’ of the EC ban which was deemed incompatible with WTO law by the Appellate Body in 1998. The ban was never removed and the US and Canada have since applied sanctions amounting to $125 million every year.

The EC has continued to defend the legality of the ban, presenting additional scientific evidence arguing that hormone-treated beef does indeed pose a risk to human health. Based on this, it wants the US and Canada to remove the sanctions, something they so far have refused to do. The rebuff led the EC to file a complaint with the WTO in 2004. Hearings in that case started in September 2005; the second panel hearing is scheduled for 27-28 September (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 2 September 2005).

ICTSD Reporting; “Switzerland May Block US Beef Exports” Business Week Online, 27 August 2006

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