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Australia’s Quarantine Standards for
Cooked Chicken Meat from Thailand

By Kraichoke Arunpairojkul

  February 1999

 

This paper was researched and written to fulfill the M.A. project requirement for the Monterey Institute of International Studies’ Master of Arts in Commercial Diplomacy. For more information about the Commercial Diplomacy program and the M.A. project requirement, please visit www.commercialdiplomacy.org.

 



Table of Contents
  
Forward 3
Executive Summary 4
Background 8
Analytical Papers
Commercial and Substantive Policy Issues
& Int’l Legal Aspects of the Issue
11
Key Players and Potential Allies 13
Strategy Papers 15
Negotiation Strategy 17
Media Strategy 20
Interest Chart 20
Exhibits

Sample Letter to Domestic Stakeholders           .   

28
Sample Letter to Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and House of Representatives
Committee on Agriculture
29
Sample Letter to Thai Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Commerce,
and Agriculture Cooperatives
30
Sample Letter to Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce 31
Sample Letter to Potential Allies in Australia 32
Sample Letter to Potential Allies in the United States and Denmark 33
Sample Letter Op-Ed for Local Australian Newspapers 34
References 35





Forward

This project was completed to fulfill the requirements of the Monterey Institute of International Studies’ Master of Arts in Commercial Diplomacy degree.

For the purpose of this project, I assume the role of government relations officer of the Thai Broiler Processing Exporters Association. In this fictitious capacity, I have been charged with developing a strategy for eliminating a non-tariff barrier created as a result of Australia’s excessively stringent quarantine standards for cooked chicken meat imported from Thailand.

I chose this topic for two reasons. First, as a major exporter of agricultural and food products, Thailand is more and more concerned with the increased use of quarantine requirements and health standards to protect domestic producers, particularly in developed countries. Thailand looks to the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures to prevent such misuse.

Second, Australia’s quarantine standards are now a pressing problem for Thai chicken exporters. They have been seeking access to the Australian market for more than a decade, and they already have sunk significant resources into complying with Australia's standards, including improving processing facilities. Moreover, they fear that unjustified quarantine standards on cooked meat might set a precedent that would make it easier for the Australian government to adopt equally stringent quarantine standards when it begins considering standards for fresh frozen chicken imports. The addition of an overly stringent standard on fresh frozen chicken would effectively keep Thai chicken exports out of Australia.

I thank Professor Geza Feketekuty, my project advisor, for his guidance. I also thank Professor Daral Jackwood, an Ohio State University expert on poultry diseases, for sharing her invaluable knowledge of infectious bursal disease virus. Without their helpful advice, my project would not have been a success.  
 


 

EXECUTIVE sUMMARY

This paper lays out a strategy for how the Thai Broiler Processing Exporters Association can persuade the Australian government to lower its current core temperature/time parameters for the heat treatment of cooked chicken imported from Thailand and other countries. The current parameters are not based on sound science and therefore constitute a non-tariff barrier that is inconsistent with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement).

The strategy involves pressing the Thai government to action and developing strategic alliances, both domestic and international.

 

Background: Development of the Quarantine Standard

The issue of Australian quarantine standards for chicken first arose in 1990 when the Australian government began considering the importation of chicken meat from Thailand, Denmark and the United States. In response to domestic concerns about the introduction of Newcastle Disease and Infectious Bursal Disease Virus (IBDV), the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) began a risk assessment on cooked chicken. It deferred a risk assessment of uncooked chicken meat pending completion of the first assessment.

In 1995, AQIS adopted the results of a 1988 study of IBDV conducted at the United Kingdom’s Central Veterinary Laboratory as the basis for determining “safe” cooking times and temperatures. The decision met with strong opposition from the Australian Chicken Growers Council who argued that the experiment underestimated the risks associated with commercial cooking processes. For their part, Thai chicken exporters complained that the Australian heat treatment requirements were excessively stringent and commercially impracticable. The requirements would put Thai cooked chicken products at a competitive disadvantage by unnecessarily raising production costs and destroying the nutritional value of cooked meat.

To resolve the issue, AQIS commissioned the Central Veterinary Laboratory to conduct a new test on the heat inactivation of IBDV.

The experiment was completed in 1997. It confirmed that the temperature/time parameters adopted in 1995 readily inactivated Newcastle Disease Virus, but it also found that these parameters would not totally inactivate the strain of IBDV used in the tests. Thus, in November 1997, Australia announced that it would permit imports of cooked chicken meat from Thailand, Denmark and the United States that was processed at core temperature/time parameters between 70°C for 143 minutes and 80°C for 114 minutes. Again the decision met with protest from both Thai chicken exporters and the Australian chicken industry, and AQIS asked the British laboratory to carry out yet another round of tests.

This set of test results, submitted to AQIS in mid-1998, diverged greatly from previous ones. Using different IBDV strains and a different medium for suspending the virus, the new study found that IBDV was unexpectedly resistant to heat inactivation at temperatures lower than 74°C.  Based on these new test results, AQIS again revised the minimum core temperatures/time parameters, requiring chicken meat to be cooked at between 74°C for 125 minutes and 80°C for 125 minutes.

Analysis of the Quarantine Standard

Australia’s quarantine policy regarding imports of cooked chicken meat is inconsistent with Australia’s commitments under the WTO’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement).

·        The SPS Agreement requires that risk assessments be based on sound science, however AQIS’s risk assessment was not. The arbitrarily use of strain CS 88, a highly virulent strain of IBDV, in the test was not justified by any objective evidence. To date, no research has been conducted to identify the strains of IBDV that are endemic in Thailand.

·        The quarantine standards unjustifiably discriminate between Australia’s own territory and that of other WTO members where identical or similar conditions prevail. While the Australians have argued that the country is free from IBDV, the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) reported of an occurrence of IBDV in Australia in 1997.

·        AQIS’ risk assessment failed to assess the possible existence of disease-free areas and areas of low-disease prevalence in Thailand. IBDV may be limited only to one or more specific geographical areas in Thailand. Therefore, chicken products coming from IBDV-free areas within Thailand should be considered on the basis of their disease status, not that of the rest of the country.

·        AQIS has not explored alternative, less trade-restrictive means of safeguarding against IBDV outbreaks in Australia. According to Professor Daral Jackwood, an Ohio State University expert on IBDV, the virus can be controlled through an effective breeder vaccination program. This is also confirmed by another study conducted by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science.

Australia’s quarantine measures are unjustifiably strict and represent a continued non-tariff barrier to Thai exporters. This standard should be re-evaluated based on sound science. It should not be allowed to set a precedent that the Australian government could rely on in setting equally stringent quarantine standards when, in the future, it considers the importation of fresh frozen chicken. Excessively stringent standards on both cooked and fresh frozen chicken would effectively shut down the Australian chicken market to Thai chicken products.

Proposed Strategy

To pressure the Australian government to lower the existing core temperature/time parameters for the heat treatment of cooked chicken, the Association should pursue a strategy to build support for its position in Thailand, Australia and internationally.

National Strategy.  The goal of the strategy is to ensure that the Thai government understands the importance of the issue and will give it a high priority. Proposed strategies include:

·        Coalition building. Mobilize support of the Thai Chicken Growers Association and the Thai Feed Mill Association. Members of both organizations will benefit from the expansion of export markets for Thai chicken products.

·        Legislative strategy. Build awareness in Parliament of the importance of this issue to the Thai chicken industry and the country’s economy as a whole, thus pushing the government to work harder to resolve the issue.

·        Raise the profile of the issue. The Association should ask the Board of Trade of Thailand to help raise the issue before the Export Development Committee.

Australian Strategy.  The goal is to generate international pressure on the Australian government to quickly resolve the issue. Proposed strategies include

·        Alliance building.  The Association will seek support from potential allies who may be interested in importing relatively inexpensive Thai cooked chicken to satisfy their customers. These include fast food chains such as McDonald’s and KFC and big supermarket chains such as Coles, Woolworth, etc. Another potential ally is the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce. If convinced of that the issue could have a negative impact on Thai-Australian trade relations, the Chamber may be willing to urge the Australian government to find a swift solution to the problem. 

·        Media strategy.  The Association must reassure those who oppose imports as well as the Australian general public that Thai chicken processing facilities use effective risk management practices. To accomplish this, the Association should seek to publish op-ed pieces in influential newspapers in Australia.

       ·  Negotiation strategy.  The Association can share its ideas with the Thai government on how to negotiate with Australia. The options that Thailand may propose to solve the problem include:

• Invite Australia to send an inspection team to visit Thailand’s export quality poultry farms. During an inspection tour by the Australian delegation in Thailand in 1997, only processing plants were visited.

• Propose that each batch of source birds be placed under quarantine for one week before being processed. Normally chickens infected with IBDV die within 4-5 days after infection.

• Seek Australia’s recognition of IBDV-free areas in Thailand.

• Approach the Office International des Epizooties to conduct a field study on the strains of IBDV which are endemic in Thailand and Australia and, based on this study, develop international standards for verifying the inactivation of IBDV in processed chicken meat.

If negotiations fail, the recommended BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) is for Thailand to file a complaint with the WTO.

International Strategy.  Again, the goal is to generate international pressure on the Australian government to quickly resolve the issue. The proposed strategy follows:

·        Coalition building. The Association should pursue an alliance with the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council and the Danish Poultry Exporters Association. Members of both associations are affected by Australia's stringent SPS measures. They should be encouraged to urge their respective governments to work with the Thai government in negotiations with Australia.

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