Brasilia | Reuters — Brazilian meat exporters are considering taking the European Union to the World Trade Organization to challenge restrictions on their beef shipments to one of the world’s top markets, the head of the country’s beef exporters association told Reuters.
A new dispute could further harm trade ties frayed by an EU case against Brazil over duties on industrial imports and stalled free-trade talks with the regional trade bloc, Mercosur.
Fernando Sampaio, the executive director of Brazil’s meat exporters association, ABIEC, said “unnecessary” sanitary requirements have reduced Brazil’s beef exports to the EU by three-quarters, to 100,000 tonnes a year.
“From the sanitary point of view it makes no sense, they are just creating bureaucratic barriers to leave our producers out of the market,” Sampaio said. “We are studying opening a WTO panel against the EU because of all these barriers.”
The Brazilian government, known for its trade protectionism, is turning the heat up on commercial disputes in a bid to open more markets for its exports after the commodities powerhouse posted its first trade deficit in 14 years in 2014.
In October, the world’s largest beef exporter launched a WTO dispute against Indonesia over barriers to its poultry meat exports. The government is preparing another case against Jakarta over beef exports.
Brazilian beef exporters need the green light from the government for the country to launch a case against the EU.
President Dilma Rousseff’s administration has not ruled out launching the dispute, but will first exhaust all negotiation options, two government officials familiar with the matter told Reuters.
“Our main objective is to remove those barriers through bilateral negotiations, but if that fails we do not rule out opening a case,” said one official who asked not to be named to speak freely.
Brazil’s agriculture ministry declined to comment. The foreign affairs ministry said it has not received a formal request from exporters to open a case.
Brazilian producers complain the EU refuses to allow beef exports from states that have been free of foot and mouth disease for over a decade.
Resistance to the entry of Brazilian agricultural products has been one of the main obstacles in regional free trade talks with the EU, which have dragged on for two decades. Brasilia’s refusal to open its industrial market is another impediment.
The EU opened a WTO case in 2013 over Brazilian taxes on imports from cars to computers.
— Alonso Soto is a Reuters correspondent based in Brasilia.