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Cablegate: U.S. Beef - Singapore Cautious About Expanding

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGP #0358/01 0520915
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 210915Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2493
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR 4478
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 4006
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 5050
RUEHML/AMEMBASSY MANILA 2985
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6167

UNCLAS SINGAPORE 000358

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

USDA FAS FOR OA, OSTA, OCBD, OCRA, OFSO,
USDA FOR DUS LAMBERT AND TERPSTRA, APHIS/IS, FSIS
USTR FOR AUSTR BWEISEL, DAUSTR JJENSEN, AGRICULTURE

MANILA FOR APHIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ETRD ECON SENV USTR SN

SUBJECT: U.S. Beef - Singapore Cautious About Expanding
Market Access


1. (SBU) Summary: Singapore will move cautiously in
lifting its remaining import restrictions on U.S. bone-in
cuts of beef and other meat products, Agri-Food and
Veterinary Authority (AVA) CEO and CVO Dr. CHUA Sin Bin
told USDA Deputy Under Secretary Lambert on February 13.
AVA did not want to "rock the boat" with its constituents,
many of whom would be uncomfortable moving from a "zero-
tolerance" to a "controlled risk" (i.e., science-based)
approach to managing imports of beef products from BSE
countries, Dr. Chua claimed. DUS Lambert stressed that
USDA wanted to work with AVA through this transition. DUS
Lambert also discussed the U.S.-Singapore-Indonesia Avian
Influenza eradication project in Tangerang, Indonesia in a
separate meeting with Ministry of Health Senior Director
(Operations Group) KOH Peng Keng. End summary.

Still Premature to Lift Restrictions
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) DUS Lambert and the Food Safety Inspection
ServiceQs Rick Harries briefed Dr. Chua on the U.S. Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Risk Status Classification
Request to the World Animal Health Organization (OIE).
They also discussed the 2006 revised Harvard Risk
Assessment of measures USDA had undertaken since the
December 2003 detection of BSE in the United States. DUS
Lambert noted that the OIE would disseminate a proposed
risk classification of countries for BSE, Rinderpest, and
other diseases later this month. He expressed his hope
that Singapore would support the OIE's recommended risk
classification for the United States at the OIE General
Assembly in Paris in May. As DUS Lambert explained, a
"controlled risk" classification, for example, would
clarify the eligibility of U.S. beef and variety meats from
animals of all ages to be traded, depending on the removal
of specified risk materials (SRMs).

3. (SBU) Dr. Chua responded that it was still premature
for AVA to expand the range of U.S. beef products allowed
into the Singapore market beyond boneless cuts of beef. He
noted that AVA was satisfied with the progress the United
States had made in addressing AVA's concerns with some
initial shipments that recommenced last year, and praised
the good working relationship AVA enjoyed with USDA in
managing these imports. (Note: Singapore lifted its two-
year ban on boneless cuts of U.S. beef from animals under
30 months of age in January 2006. End note.)

4. (SBU) Dr. Chua said he appreciated the updated
information contained in the USG's OIE classification
request and the Harvard Risk Assessment. However, his
inclination to move slowly on additional market access
stemmed from what he deemed "worrying" scientific research
that, for example, indicated the detection of prions in
certain bovine products. (Note: Dr. Chua made this claim
without demonstrating that these products were potentially
infective materials. End note.) He also questioned the
usefulness of the current OIE classification system, noting
that it did not take into account prevalence information.

What it Will Take
-----------------

5. (SBU) Dr. Chua stated that the GOS would not make any
decision before the OIE meeting in May. However, even if
Singapore were to remove its remaining restrictions on U.S.
beef imports at a later date, it would insist on
requirements that differed from OIE guidelines, he said.
In particular, AVA would apply the OIE definition of SRMs
for animals over 30 months of age to animals of all ages.

6. (SBU) AVA was continuously reviewing new information
and developments, but did not want to "rock the boat," Dr.
Chua said. A number of AVA's constituents would be
uncomfortable moving from a "zero-tolerance" to a
"controlled risk" approach for managing imports of beef
products from BSE countries. Dr. Chua expressed specific
concerns about importing from countries with relatively

high prevalence of BSE, some of which had also approached
AVA to lift their respective import restrictions. He
explained that Singapore could not rely solely on OIE
guidelines, but rather would have to conduct its own
assessment to reassure its consumers. DUS Lambert said
that USDA was willing to work with AVA as it moved towards
a "science-based" risk assessment approach.

7. DUS Lambert did not have an opportunity to clear this
message.

HERBOLD

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