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China says pork ban meets WTO

BEIJING, May 5 – China defended its ban on imported pork from areas hit by swine flu, saying on Tuesday that it was consistent with World Trade Organisation rules and necessary to stop the virus spreading.

China banned pork imports from Mexico, the US states of California, Kansas and Texas, and the Canadian province of Alberta after the outbreak of A(H1N1) influenza which has sickened more than 1,000 people worldwide.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the measures had been necessary, although some experts have questioned their validity in halting the spread of the disease.

"In order to protect the safety of our animal husbandry and the people\’s health, the Chinese government has no choice but to take temporary preventive and protective measures," Ma told reporters.

"These urgent protective measures are… consistent with WTO regulations on strict quarantine measures in emergencies and the principle of minimising the impact on trade."

Ma insisted the bans were temporary and were implemented after the World Health Organisation called the swine flu outbreak a matter of international concern and urged nations to implement prevention measures.

Earlier Tuesday, Canada threatened to file a complaint to the WTO if China did not lift a ban on pork from Alberta, where a herd of pigs tested positive for the H1N1 flu virus.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency insisted Canadian pork was still safe, and that the animals had likely contracted the disease from a Canadian who had recently returned from Mexico.

"China is operating outside of sound science," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told parliament, noting that Beijing had received safety assurances from the World Health Organisation and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

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The WHO\’s representative in China has said the measure against Alberta pork is probably redundant, since the feared virus is not transmitted through pigs or pork products but from human to human.

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