Mexico lodges complaint with WTO over Costa Rica's avocado ban

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Mexico lodges complaint with WTO over Costa Rica's avocado ban

The Mexican Government has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against Costa Rica over its 2015 ban on imports of Hass avocados.

A statement from Mexico's Economy Ministry said the complaint was made on Tuesday (March 8) and asserts that the ban is unjustified.

The statement 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 crops.

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

Costa Rica implemented the ban on Hass imports from nine countries in July 2015, citing phytosanitary concerns. Mexico previously supplied about 12,000 metric tons (MT) of the 15,000MT of avocados consumed in Costa Rica annually.

Mexico took Costa Rica to the WTO after the measure was announced in 2015, leading to the WTO committee to discuss the topic at its ordinary sessions. However, Mexico has now taken more substantial action in order to lift the suspension.

The Central America country's Foreign Trade Minister Alexánder Mora reportedly said on Wednesday that despite Mexico’s formal opening of a legal process, Costa Rica will maintain the restriction on avocados from that country.

According to local media Tico Times, he 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 was quoted as saying.

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

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, according to the Tico Times.

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.


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