The Brazilian government on Tuesday, February 5, sharply criticized the European Union's decision to temporarily ban Brazil's beef imports and warned it could file a complaint with the World Trade Organization.
The criticism and warning are contained in a letter delivered Tuesday to the WTO's General Council by Clodoaldo Hugueney, Brazil's ambassador to that body. The letter was posted on the Brazilian foreign ministry' Web site.
On Jan. 30, the European Union said it would stop importing Brazilian beef because it does not accept Brazilian cattle health checks for foot-and-mouth disease and because Brazil had supposedly failed to create a new livestock tracking system.
Foot-and-mouth disease, which also strikes other cloven-hoofed animals like sheep, pigs and goats, is a viral illness that can be spread through even minimal contact with infected animals, farm equipment or meat. It can be fatal to animals, but does not harm humans.
"The Brazilian government regrets the decision of the European Commission to temporarily suspend exports of beef to the European market," Hugueney said in his letter. "The decision is, in our view, unjustified, arbitrary and disproportionate."
He hinted that the decision was taken to serve the interests of European producers.
He said he hoped Brazilian and European authorities would work out some kind of agreement that would end the ban, but added: "We reserve, however, our right to defend our interests in the SPS Committee (that monitors health and food safety standards) and in other bodies of the World Trade Organization.
Brazil is the world's leading beef exporter and the EU is the country's leading market. According to the Agência Brasil, the government's news service, Brazil exports 2.3 million tons of beef per year.
In 2006, the EU imported 327,000 tons of Brazilian beef worth US$ 1.4 million.