Friday, May 14, 2021

Costa Rica escalates dispute with Panama over food exports to the WTO

Costa Rica requested that the World Trade Organization (WTO) hold consultations with Panama due to measures that restrict or prohibit the importation of Costa Rican products such as dairy products, beef, pork and poultry, sausages and fruits (strawberry, pineapple, plantain and banana).
The Costa Rican side considers that these restrictions are not consistent with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade ( GATT ) and the consensus reached in the WTO for the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, the WTO reported today in a statement.

The request for consultations formally initiates a trade dispute within the WTO, although initially it gives the countries involved 60 days to reach a consensus bilaterally.

If after that period no agreement is reached, the complaining party may request the creation of a WTO panel to resolve the dispute through third parties, although this process can take months or even years.

In addition, the institution in charge of the final resolution of disputes of this type in the WTO, the Appellate Body, has been blocked for more than a year, due to the refusal of the United States to appoint new judges to be part of it.

Costa Rica had already informed the WTO of its trade friction with Panama in August last year, arguing that the neighboring country was virtually blocking the export of various food products.

Panama justifies the measures either on food security reasons (almost a year ago it detected alleged residues of oxamyl, a pesticide, in shipments of strawberries from Costa Rica) or on procedures not completed by the neighboring country to renew the required export permits.

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