USTR to Move Ahead on WTO Case against EU Biotech Regime - Consultations fail to resolve dispute over five-year processing moratorium

June 23, 2003

Washington, 20 Jun 2003

The Bush administration is moving forward with a World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge to the European Union (EU) moratorium on approvals of new biotechnology products, an Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) spokesman says.

Richard Mills, assistant trade representative, said the administration decided to act after WTO consultations failed to resolve the dispute.

"We are disappointed but not surprised," he said.

In May the United States joined Argentina, Canada and Egypt with the support of nine other countries in seeking the consultations, a procedural requirement before requesting a WTO dispute-settlement panel. Since then Egypt has reportedly been wavering about its position.

According to the U.S. complaint, the EU moratorium on approvals of new biotech products for planting or import violates the WTO agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures, which requires "sufficient scientific evidence" for regulations aimed at protecting human health and the environment. It also requires regulatory authorities to operate their approval procedures without "undue delay."

Following is the text of Mills' statement:

(begin text)

Statement of Richard Mills
USTR Spokesman
Thursday, June 19, 2003
re: biotech consultations in the WTO with the EU

"This case is about making sure that the rules are followed. The EU's moratorium is illegal, denies access to Europe's markets for healthy, nutritious biotech products from America and around the world, and denies choices to European consumers. We are disappointed but not surprised that these consultations have not resulted in any changes to the EU's five-year-old illegal and unscientific moratorium. We'll be moving forward with requesting a panel.

"Nothing in our WTO challenge prevents the EU from following through on their promises to reverse course and end the moratorium."

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

US Department of State
http://usinfo.state.gov/cgi-bin/washfile /display.pl?p=/products/washfile/latest& f=03061903.clt&t=/products/washfile/newsi tem.shtml

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