From the United States to PHL: Clarifying the licensing regime for imports of agricultural products

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The United States has asked the Philippines to further explain its import licensing regime for agricultural products and provide more details on its fish import regime in its latest letter to the World Trade Organization. (WTO).

Washington sent another official communication, dated September 23, to the WTO Import Licensing Committee with follow-up questions on the Philippines import licensing system.

This was the third letter submitted by the United States to the multilateral trade body which detailed Washington’s concerns over the Philippines’ use of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Authorizations (SPS-IC) to “restrict” agricultural imports.

In its latest submission, the United States raised 11 follow-up questions regarding the Philippines’ SPS-IC regime.

“The United States thanks the Philippines for its response to the United States’ questions regarding the Philippine Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPS-IC) regime in document G / LIC / Q / PHL / 5. The United States requests the Philippines to respond in writing to the following follow-up and supplementary questions, ”the letter said.

As early as April, Washington voiced concerns about Manila’s SPS-IC regime, saying the Philippines was using the system to “restrict” agricultural imports by not issuing SPS-ICs. The SPS-IC is a document that certifies that imported products do not present threats to animal and human health.

“The United States continues to be concerned that SPS-IC permits are used for purposes other than ensuring that imported agricultural products meet standards for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health,” Washington said in its April communication.

Follow-up questions

The United States asked the Philippines to comment on statements made by Philippine officials “regarding the practices of the Philippine SPS-IC regime and the influence on the relevant Philippine Ministry of Agriculture. [DA] offices. “

Washington specifically cited the announcement by Presidential spokesman Harry Roque in May that the Philippines would not import rice during the harvest season and the statement by Under Secretary of Agriculture Rodolfo V. Vicerra the year last that the DA must manage the timing of issuance of the SPS-IC so that imports do not coincide with the domestic harvest.

The United States also asked the Philippines if they would consider a single SPS-IC issuance for multiple shipments to make verifying the compliance of shipments with SPS requirements more “administratively manageable”.

“This would apply in particular to imports from suppliers who have a proven track record of providing products free of diseases and pests of concern and which pose no risk to the life and health of humans, animals and plants. “

The United States also questioned the basis of the Development Agenda for SPS-IC “limited validity periods” for specific products, as required by Administrative Order (AO) No. 9 of the SPS-IC. the 2010 series.

Under the AO, imported products have varying “must be shipped before” deadlines: 15 days for live milkfish and 60 days for meat products.

Imports of meat, fish

Washington also raised new questions related to the DA’s decision to extend the effectiveness of the SPS-IC to meat imports and the approval of an import regime for small pelagic fish.

The United States questioned the Philippines on the “reasoning” for the temporary extension of the SPS-IC for importation of meat from 60 days to 90 days and the reason for “the suspension of issuance of SPSIC for rose hip, skipjack, mackerel and sunfish under Special Order No. 705, 2020 series. “

“What are the criteria for determining the quantity of fish to import and the time limits for the quantity of fish to import?” The letter read.

“Please explain how to restrict SPS-IC emissions” under CNI 2021 [certificate of necessity to import] 60,000 MT before the closing of the fishing season and automatically expires on December 31, 2021 for importers is different from a quantitative restriction? “

Washington also raised questions about “qualifications and / or requirements for importers of fishery products to receive an SPS-IC?” “

“Please cite the relevant regulations that define these qualifications,” the letter reads.


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