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China’s new COVID-19 export certificate will block trade

China is asking meat and soybean exporters to certify that their shipments to China have complied with safety standards to ensure they are free of COVID-19. The new measure is scientifically unjustifiable, highly trade restrictive, and deeply damaging to exporters. China’s trading partners should consider a forceful response.

No basis in science

All the credible research done to date indicates that COVID-19 is not a foodborne disease. It is transmitted human to human through aerosol particles. Major international health institutions, including the World Health Organization along with China’s own National Health Commission, have been clear that no linkage has been established between transmission of the virus and food. In simple terms, no one in China can get coronavirus by eating a steak from Texas. Sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards in trade must be based on science.

A trade barrier by another name

Lacking any legitimate public health justification, this unnecessary measure will be sufficiently onerous to function as an effective trade barrier for many companies and will damage the sustainability of trade. In order for trade to be sustainable, it requires not only balanced economic, social, and environmental outcomes, it must also be conducted on mutually acceptable terms. The unjustified imposition of this trade restriction presents China’s trade partners with terms that are anything but mutually acceptable and opens the door to a never-ending morass of suits, countersuits and potential discrimination.

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