Mexico takes Costa Rica ban on avocados to World Trade Organization

March 8, 2017
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The World Trade Organization (WTO) reported that Mexico filed a complaint on Wednesday against Costa Rica over its ban on imports of Hass avocados from that country, issued in 2015.

Mexico’s Economy Ministry confirmed the complaint in a public statement on its website.

The document says that Mexico recognizes the right of a WTO member to establish measures to protect the health and life of its people, animals or to preserve its vegetables.

“However, [measures to defend] these rights must fulfill certain obligations, the main one being to basing these  measures on scientific principles,” the document states.

Foreign Trade Minister Alexánder Mora said in a news release on Wednesday evening that despite Mexico’s formal opening of a legal process, Costa Rica will maintain the restriction on avocados from that country.

Mora said Agriculture Minister Luis Felipe Arauz confirmed earlier on Wednesday that the ministry will not reverse the measures taken to protect the country from the sunblotch virus.

“It’s an important decision to protect the quality of local avocados,” Mora said.

Mora also said that the Foreign Trade Ministry will lead Costa Rica’s defense before the WTO. Experts from the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAG) will join the defense team.

MAG’s State Phytosanitary Service, the agency that imposed the restriction on the import of Mexican Hass avocados, will assume the cost of the legal proceedings before the WTO, Mora said.

The process

Following the submission of Mexico’s legal complaint, the WTO will grant Costa Rica ten days to file a response. Representatives of the two countries then will have 60 days to negotiate a solution. All proceedings and negotiations during this period will remain confidential.

In case the countries fail to reach an agreement at the end of that period, Mexico is entitled to request the creation of a panel of WTO experts who will issue a report and a ruling. The panel should be appointed within 20 days and will include three experts, nominated by both countries.

Either one of the countries can file an appeal against the ruling in case they disagree with the results.

Failed negotiations

MAG last month had reported that its officials were engaged in a negotiation process with Mexico to renew the import of Hass avocados and avoid the legal complaint.

The ministry at the time reported that authorities were drafting technical and legal aspects of a protocol for the agreement that would end the ban.

Mexico’s public statement on Wednesday noted that “unfortunately, these negotiations did not lead to the elimination of Costa Rica’s sanitary restrictions imposed on Mexican avocado imports.”

It adds that therefore the Mexican government made the decision to “begin a formal dispute process before the WTO.”

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