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Mexico and Costa Rica one step closer to resolving Hass avocado conflict

Christian Fernsby |
The dispute that Mexico raised against Costa Rica in the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Hass avocado, which has already lasted for four years, has advanced toward a resolution.

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Both countries agreed to form a WTO panel of arbitrators to mediate the conflict.

The panel will be constituted by Gary Horlick, who will chair the group, the Chilean Alejandro Buvinic, and María de Lourdes Fonalleras from Argentina, according to a report released by the WTO.

Canada, China, El Salvador, the United States, the Russian Federation, Honduras, India, Panama and the European Union (EU) reserved the right of participating as third parties interested in the process and the actions of the special group established to resolve the dispute.

The mission of the panel members is to convene a meeting to set the calendar.

At that time, they will set deadlines in which each country has the right to deliver their allegations.

Afterwards, they will hold hearings where the parties will be heard in person or by videoconference.

After that, they will define if it is necessary to listen to experts related to the topic.

The clash over the Hass avocado trade started on May 5, 2015, when Costa Rica's State Phytosanitary Service (SFE) suspended the issuance of permits to import this fruit from nine markets (eight countries and the state of Florida), among them Mexico, the world's main exporter of Hass avocado and almost the only supplier of Costa Rica at that time.

The issuance of permits also affected Australia, Spain, Ghana, Guatemala, Israel, South Africa, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and the State of Florida, in the United States.

The SFE argued that this measure was taken for phytosanitary protection reasons, since those producers where affected by the sunspot disease, which hasn't been detected in Costa Rica.

The goal of the measure is to avoid the eventual entry of that viroid into Costa Rican territory.

The task of the panel is to analyze the special group request and examine all the measures invoked and issue a report.

Once the report (which can be appealed) is issued, the countries are expected to comply quickly by removing or modifying the relevant measure.

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