The Department of Animal Health needs to clarify the EU’s recommendations related to animal quarantine

The Office of Notification and National Question and Answer Point on hygiene, epidemiology and plant and animal quarantine (Vietnam SPS Office) has just issued Report No. 284/BC-SPS-BNNVN to relevant Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Minh Hoan to Circular 04/2024/TT-BNNPTNT dated April 1, 2024 “Amending and supplementing a number of articles of Circulars regulating quarantine of terrestrial animals and animal products” (referred to as Circular).

It is known that on January 22, 2024, the Vietnam SPS Office received official dispatch No. 221/TY-KD from the Department of Animal Health on posting the draft Circular notice to collect comments from WTO Members. The Vietnam SPS Office has instructed the Department of Animal Health to complete the form according to regulations. On January 30, 2024, the Vietnam SPS Office posted the draft Circular on the website and was approved by the WTO Secretariat.

During the comment period, the Vietnam SPS Office forwarded the extension request from 2 WTO Members to the Department of Animal Health and received an official letter agreeing to the extension from the Department. The Vietnam SPS Office sent comments from 4 WTO members to the Department of Animal Health and received 3 official letters of acceptance and explanation from the Department of Animal Health. According to the provisions of the SPS/WTO Agreement and Notice G/SPS/7/Rev.5 of the WTO Secretariat, the comment period for the draft notification is at least 60 days, however, the Department of Animal Health requires The 23-day comment period is not in accordance with regulations.

According to Circular 04, the frequency of inspection of fresh goods such as meat and frozen meat, the import agency will inspect each shipment. Photo: Thuy Khanh

At the request of the European Union Delegation to Vietnam, on June 12, the Vietnam SPS Office organized a live and online meeting between the Department of Animal Health and the EU.

In particular, the European Union delegation raised two issues for discussion. Regarding the impact of Circular 04 on the EU’s business listing registration (pre-listing) mechanism, the EU side said that the EU shipments being detained at Vietnam customs in May 2024 was due to Issues related to the 8-digit HS code requirement (required to fill out form No. 02, 03, 17, 18, 19, 20 of Appendix 05 of Circular 25). The amendments to Circular 04 are causing difficulties for the pre-listing mechanism that Vietnam and the EU committed to implement under the EVFTA Agreement, and at the same time, with the new policy, will increase costs for EU exporters.

Therefore, the EU requests Vietnam to confirm whether Circular 04 will affect the pre-listing mechanism, and if so, how specifically? Or if not, there needs to be a document explaining and clearly guiding the implementation of the Circular to relevant subjects (especially for quarantine officers at the border gate who are causing congestion of goods from France and Spain, etc.).

Also at the meeting, the EU side said that microbial testing criteria such as Salmonella spp. and E.coli is too strict compared to necessary. The frequency of inspection at the border gate is also higher than necessary. Vietnam does not inspect based on risk, does not care about the origin of goods, exporting country, etc. but checks systematically. The EU side believes that this is unreasonable.

A representative of the Department of Animal Health said that the Draft Circular plans to test all strains of Salmonella spp. and E.coli, after receiving comments from WTO Members, the inspection process only applies to Salmonella spp. and a strain of E.coli O157.H7. The Department of Animal Health explained specifically in Official Dispatch No. 898/TY-KD dated April 24, 2024.

According to Circular 04, the frequency of inspection at Vietnam’s border gates is as follows: For high-risk goods (fresh goods: meat, frozen meat), import authorities will inspect each shipment. For low-risk items (milk, eggs, processed goods), import authorities will check at a frequency (about 20%).

The EU side requested that Vietnam comply with the commitments in the SPS/EVFTA Chapter with the principle of equivalence, SPS measures must not be discriminatory and disadvantageous to the parties. At the same time, the EU noted that on the principle of reciprocity, Vietnamese seafood products exported to the EU are not subject to the same strict procedures as EU products to Vietnam.

The Vietnam SPS Office requested the EU to send an official document on the points that need to be clarified in Circular 04 for the Vietnamese side to research and respond; Agree with the idea that the EU should have technical meetings to resolve outstanding issues to facilitate trade between the two sides. The two sides also agreed to work through many channels, besides the WTO such as the Embassy and through the focal point for implementing the EVFTA Agreement.

Regarding the letter co-signed by 6 Ambassadors to Minister Le Minh Hoan, the content raised concerns about the issue of application procedures, business registration and requests for additional testing of microbiological testing criteria specified in the Circular 04, causing difficulties for businesses similar to EU concerns.

SPS Vietnam Office recommends that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development assign the Department of Animal Health to proactively arrange a face-to-face meeting and dialogue with the EU and 6 Ambassadors as soon as possible to clarify new points in Circular 04. In addition, requested the Department of Animal Health to provide documents proving that non-compliance with the consultation period for WTO members of less than 60 days is to facilitate trade to apply the provision of issuing urgent documents to the Vietnamese SPS Office.

If there is not enough evidence, the Department of Animal Health will consider reporting and the Ministry may extend the validity period for another 60 days and supplement implementation guidance documents. Clarify whether the HS code must be recorded on the list of permitted imports and the Quarantine Certificate or Food Safety Certificate of the exporting country or whether the HS code must only be recorded in the import quarantine application according to the regulations in the Document sent to the Department Veterinary medicine.

Thuy Khanh

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