WTO protectionism report to feature swine flu bans


By Jonathan Lynn
June 12, 2009

* WTO protectionism report to highlight swine flu pork bans

* Report timed to appear before OECD ministerial meeting

* "Steady drip" of measures continues

GENEVA, June 12 (Reuters) – Bans on pork imports after the swine flu outbreak will be highlighted in the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) report on protectionism due in the coming weeks, trade sources said on Friday.

But overall the report will not show any dramatic upsurge in protectionism as the economic crisis grinds on, rather a "steady drip" of trade measures, one source said.

The WTO will be putting the finishing touches to its regular trade measures report ahead of the June 23-24 ministerial meeting of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, the sources said.

The OECD annual meeting regularly devotes some time to trade, and will be attended by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy.

"If we can get it finished by then we will," said one source, adding that otherwise Lamy would take the details with him to Paris to brief trade ministers.


Of 80 countries implementing measures affecting trade since March 1, 50 did so because of swine flu, the source said.

"We’re going to have a box on swine flu," the source said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared on Thursday that the outbreak of swine flu, officially known as influenza (A) H1N1, was a pandemic, meaning it would spread all over the world and could not be contained. [ID:nNLB765857]

It repeated that it did not recommend any travel or trade restrictions as a result.

Many countries banned imports of pork from Mexico, the United States and other countries after the outbreak was detected in April.

Lamy has joined the WHO, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation in stating that pork is not a source of infection and is safe to eat provided it is prepared properly.

But the forthcoming WTO report is likely to limit itself to listing the meat import restrictions and not comment on whether they are justified, for fear of prejudging any trade disputes that arise from them.

Non-WTO member Russia is one of the most prominent countries banning pork imports from affected countries, and together with Argentina will again appear as one of the countries most actively restricting imports, the sources said.

Other highlights of the report will be the resumption of dairy export subsidies by the United States and the introduction this week of extra tariffs on certain steel products by Brazil.

Figures issued this week showed that Brazil is in recession after a smaller-than-expected fall in gross domestic product in the first quarter following a contraction in the fourth quarter. [ID:nN09366113]

The WTO report will also examine the impact of financial bailouts, technical barriers to trade, and anti-dumping and safeguards — measures allowed under WTO rules to tackle unfairly priced imports or destabilising import surges.

The number of anti-dumping cases rose sharply last year, a WTO report showed. [ID:nL71001475]

The WTO issued a first trade measures report in January, after November’s pledge by the G20 group of rich and emerging countries not to aggravate the economic crisis by restricting trade. A second report followed at the end of March shortly before the G20 summit in London.

The World Bank has also been tracking protectionist moves, and on Monday the British government launched a website www.globaltradealert.org to provide live updates on protectionism. [ID:nL8647489] (Editing by Stephanie Nebehay) ([email protected] ; +41 22 733 3831; Reuters Messaging: [email protected] ))


Leave a Reply