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August 1, 2009

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WTO launches inquiry over ban on Chinese poultry by US

The World Trade Organization launched a formal investigation yesterday of the United States' ban on Chinese poultry, after China alleged that the US was fundamentally breaking global commerce rules.

China told the WTO's dispute settlement body that the US had imposed "naked discriminative protectionism measures" in completely banning Chinese chicken products entering the US market. The US countered that it was still examining whether Chinese poultry was safe for human consumption.

It was China's second request for the WTO to establish an investigative panel. The US blocked China's first request last month, but could not do so again under WTO rules.

The WTO confirmed a panel had been set up to deliver a ruling at some point next year.

China and the US banned each others' poultry in 2004 following an outbreak of bird flu in Asia. But China lifted the ban after a few months and complains that the US refuses to do the same.

Since then, China has imported more than 4 million tons of US poultry -- mostly feet and other parts of birds that are popular in China but not elsewhere.

"The United State has completely banned the importation of poultry products from China since 2007 through its annual appropriation acts and other related measures," China said in a statement.

"These unilateral measures fundamentally violate relevant WTO rules, significantly impede the ordinary Sino-US trade in poultry products, and substantially impair the rights and benefits that Chinese enterprises deserve to enjoy," it said. "These measures are naked discriminative protectionism measures, which are strongly opposed by the Chinese government and enterprises."

China is protesting a measure in the 2009 US federal spending bill, signed by President Barack Obama in March, that extended the US ban by blocking any funds from being used to facilitate imports of poultry products from China.

The US denied that the ban was discriminatory or protectionist, and said its authorities were "continuing to work together to reach an objective, science-based response" to China's request for equal treatment of its poultry exports.


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