China wins WTO backing in chicken fight with US

29th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

China won a rare victory at the World Trade Organization against the United States on Wednesday after an arbitration panel ruled that US restrictions on Chinese poultry imports are illegal.

Arbitration panels typically call on offending parties to lift the illegal measure, however, in this case, the panel said that it would not make any recommendation as the US restrictions have since expired.

Beijing, usually the target of disputes rather than a complainant, accused Washington of breaching international trade rules through several measures, including an appropriations bill which results in an effective ban on Chinese poultry imports.

It had called these measures "naked discriminative protectionism."

China and the United States halted imports of each other's poultry in 2004 over fears about the spread of bird flu.

Imports of some US poultry products to China have since been resumed but Chinese officials have complained that the United States continues to hold up reciprocal imports of Chinese poultry.

The United States argued that it had taken "an objective, science-based response" permitted under WTO rules while US authorities examine whether China's food safety system meets their level of health protection.

In the ruling published on Wednesday, the WTO panel said Washington's measures were illegal as they were "maintained without sufficient scientific evidence" and were "not based on a risk assessment."

It also found that while the United States allowed poultry imports from other WTO members, it had through the appropriations bill "imposed a prohibition on the importation of poultry products from China."

At the same time, since the disputed measure Section 727 has expired and given that the current appropriations bill "already includes language different from that of Section 727," the panel said it would refrain from making any recommendations.

The WTO's ruling came just days after China said it would levy anti-dumping duties of up to 105 percent on US chicken imports.

China said Sunday it will slap anti-dumping levies of over 50 percent on up to 35 US chicken broiler exporters including Tyson Foods Inc, Keystone Foods LLC, Pilgrim's Pride Corporation and Sanderson Farms Inc.

Levies of over 105 percent would be placed on imported chicken broilers, a type of chicken raised specifically for meat production, from all other US producers, it said.

© 2010 AFP

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