Cablegate: Costa Rica: National Trade Estimate Sections On Sps And
DE RUEHSJ #0954/01 3092216
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 052215Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0003
INFO RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000954
STATE PASS TO OPIC
STATE PASS TO USTR FOR DOLIVER AND AMALITO
STATE PASS TO EXIMBANK FOR XCREQUE
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/EPSC:SGARRO, EEB/TTP/BT:RMANOGUE AND DGROUT
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD EINV PREL PGOV CS
SUBJECT: Costa Rica: National Trade Estimate Sections on SPS and
REF: 09 STATE 105978
STANDARDS, TESTING, LABELING, AND CERTIFICATION
1. Under current regulations, the Ministry of Health must test and
register domestically produced or imported pharmaceuticals, feeds,
chemicals, and cosmetics before they can be sold in Costa Rica. As
implemented, this system appears to be enforced more rigorously on
imported goods than on domestically produced goods. Regulations
exist for imported goods, but older regulations do not always
reflect current accepted international standards, including safety
practices. In general, the newer the regulation, the more likely
it reflects current international standards.
SANITARY AND PHYTOSANITARY MEASURES
2. Costa Rica also requires that all imported food products be
certified as safe and allowed for sale in the country of origin in
order to be registered. Certificates are not available for all
U.S. products, and traders have expressed concern regarding the
length of time it takes to register a product under this process,
which can take months. The delays associated with fulfillment of
these import requirements are burdensome and costly to U.S.
3. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock enforces certain
sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures that appear to be
inconsistent with international standards, and the differences do
not appear to be based on science (e.g., zero tolerance for
salmonella on raw meat and poultry products).
4. Costa Rica ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in
November 2006, but additional regulations are needed for Costa Rica
to implement the Protocol. To date, imports of U.S. products have
not been affected and continue to be imported under previous
conditions (i.e., only a phytosanitary import certificate is
5. Costa Rica has recognized the equivalence of the U.S. food
safety and inspection system for beef, pork, and poultry, thereby
eliminating the need for plant-by-plant inspections of U.S.
6. In August 2008, Costa Rica fully opened its market to all U.S.
beef and beef products in line with the World Organization for
Animal Health (OIE) guidelines for "controlled risk" countries for
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). The OIE categorized the
United States as "controlled risk" for BSE in May 2007. Prior to
August 2008, Costa Rica prohibited imports of U.S. bone-in beef
from cattle of any age and some offals and variety meats. Costa
Rica based its import prohibition on the 2003 discovery of a BSE
positive animal in the United States.
7. In 2008, Costa Rica and the other four Central American Parties
to the U.S.-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade
Agreement (CAFTA-DR) notified the WTO of a set of microbiological
criteria for all raw and processed food products imported into any
of these countries. The United States has some concerns with these
criteria and in May 2008 submitted comments to the five countries.
The Central American countries are currently evaluating possible
amendments to the proposed criteria.
8. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Foreign Agricultural
Service (FAS), with FAS as lead agency, have worked with the
CAFTA-DR countries to improve the capacity of their laboratories in
the areas of pesticide detection and microbiology and thus
encourage export of agricultural products to the U.S. As a
complement to this "Trade Capacity Building" program, FAS worked
with the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture, Texas A&M,
to provide training to Central American officials in the
surveillance and detection of salmonella in food products in
October of 2009. One Costa Rican scientist attended the training.
9. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration opened an office in San
Jose, Costa Rica in January 2009 to help improve bilateral and
regional cooperation on food safety and SPS issues.
10. Paragraph One: In this, the 2010 update of the NTE, we
eliminated the sentence in the 2009 version of the NTE referring to
ongoing negotiations by the five Central American parties to
CAFTA-DR to develop common standards for several products, notably
distilled spirits. The FAS office in Costa Rica knows of no
complaints from importing companies and we are not familiar with
negotiations in this regard.
11. Paragraph Two: The FAS and FDA offices in Costa Rica both
confirm the content of this paragraph. FDA states that it has
issued "certificates of free sale" stating that a given product is
sold freely in the USA. FAS states that delays in registration are
a common industry comment, but not to the point that anyone wants
to make an official complaint.
12. Paragraph Three: The zero tolerance for salmonella is a
long-standing Costa Rican regulation, posted on the official
website: http://www.senasa.go.cr/decretosejecutivosvig entes.html.
The argument is that foreign countries (i.e. the U.S.) have
different antibiotic resistant strains that justify Costa Rica's
"zero tolerance" position. This Costa Rican reasoning is evidently
consistent with the European position. Nevertheless, US chicken is
being successfully imported into Costa Rica, although not in large
quantities. We speculate that the testing regime is such that the
"zero tolerance" criteria has not yet been a barrier to those
13. Paragraph Four: The Cartagena Protocol requires that products
from Genetically Modified Organisms ("GMO products") be identified
as such. In Costa Rica this requirement applies to grains.
14. Paragraph Seven: This statement remains unchanged from last
year, as the decision by the Central American CAFTA-DR countries is
still delayed, which FAS sees as positive for United States
interest. Among the criteria, the key factor is the "zero
tolerance" for Salmonella.
15. Paragraph Eight: Despite this sustained effort on the part of
the USG to influence the microbiology debate, particularly as it
relates to salmonella, we believe that Costa Rica is unlikely to
move from its "zero tolerance" position.
DISTRIBUTION AND DOCUMENTATION
16. We will send a Word document via e-mail to the Office of the
United States Trade Representative (USTR) as specified in reftel.
The document will contain paragraphs one through nine above. With
that same e-mail we will include a background document on the
Salmonella issue in Central America.