November 18, 2020
China's trade partners unhappy with aggressive COVID-19 testing on imported foods
Major food producing nations are unhappy with China's strict COVID-19 tests on imported food products, comparing the action to a trade restriction, Reuters reported.
Several cities in China reported to have detected COVID-19 coronavirus traces from 20 countries, including Brazilian beef, German pork, and Indian fish. However, foreign officials said the lack of evidence from Chinese authorities mean these reports are damaging trade with China and harming the reputation of imported food without valid reason.
Canada said in World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting on November 5 and 6, that China's continued strict COVID-19 tests on imported food and rejection of products with positive nucleic acid tests "unjustified trade restrictions" and called on China to halt the tests, according to a Geneva-based trade official briefed on the meeting. The official declined to be identified.
Canada, supported by Australia, Brazil, Britain, Mexico, and the United States, argued that China did not provide scientific justification for its measures.
Canada's Geneva-based mission to the WTO did not respond to Reuters request for comment.
The US Department of Agriculture said China's recent COVID-19 restrictions on imported food products have no scientific basis and jeapordises trade.
China's the Global Times suggested the presence of COVID-19 on imported food could mean the virus may have come from overseas.
China said there is a risk of COVID-19 spreading once more through the import of food products. The country started COVID-19 tests on imported chilled and frozen food since June, following a major outbreak at a Beijing wholesale food market.
China's trade partners said China's import scrutiny does not adhere to global norms. A Beijing-based diplomat, who did not want to be identified as he was not allowed to speak to the media, said China's health authorities did not share lab analysis, fueling doubt on the COVID-19 reports.
A Chinese trade official said China, in response at the WTO, said its current actions are "provisional based on scientific basis", aiming to safeguard its people to the maximum extent.
China pointed to its live coronavirus isolation from samples found on imported frozen food as proof, the first in the world. But did not publish evidence that the virus can be transmitted from the frozen food to people.