WTO ruling on Korea’s beef ban put off to August

The World Trade Organization body that was expected to rule last month on Canada’s BSE-related dispute with South Korea now needs until the end of August at the latest to finish the task.

The WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) on April 21 served notice that it now expects to issue its final report on the dispute no later than Aug. 31.

“Due to the complexity of the dispute and the voluminous materials to be examined, the panel needs more time to complete its work,” the DSB said.

South Korea was one of several countries to shut its ports to Canadian beef and beef products right after Canada confirmed its first domestic case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 2003.

Canada filed a complaint at the WTO in 2009 over South Korea’s ban on Canadian beef. The DSB convened a dispute settlement panel that November, but then said in June 2010 that it would need until April 2011 to issue its final report.

The WTO said at that time that the delay was “due to the request by one party for a preliminary ruling and the fact that expert consultation procedures are involved.”

Korea Agriculture Minister Yoo Jeong-bok and federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said last month that Ottawa and Seoul were close to working out a deal for market access, regardless of how the DSB decides the WTO case.

South Korea has overhauled its policies on food imports in recent months, following a costly outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has led to culls of about five per cent of Korea’s cattle herd and about a third of the country’s hog herd.

Canada, the world’s third-biggest beef shipper, had been the No. 4 beef supplier to South Korea in 2002, the year before its first case of BSE was confirmed in an Alberta cow.

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