Richard Howitt, British member of the European Parliament has called on European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to take action against Japan over its allegedly illegal ban on poultry imports from Britain following the latest bird flu outbreak.
Hewitt argues that the ban breaks with past precedent and that international trade rules are also being contravened.
The three farms in Norfolk that were struck with the avian fly virus were infected with the low pathogenic H7N3 strain, rather than the deadly H5N1 bird flu which has hit the headlines worldwide.
World Animal Health Organization guidelines say bans are acceptable when a high pathogenic strain is found. “In this instance, although it is in farmed birds, it is only a low pathogenic strain and therefore an import ban is not justified,” Hewitt explained.
He hopes the case will be taken to the World Trade Organisation on European Commission recommendations.
Hewitt fears that, as with the ban on British beef following the BSE epidemic, other countries will follow Japan’s lead, severely damaging Britain’s poultry livelihood and denying the country access to valuable markets for many years to come.
The Japanese decision is due to be debated in full at a European level in Brussels on May 16. If its legality under international trade rules is called into question, then an objection will be presented at Geneva appealing for WTO support to get the import restrictions annulled.