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Sanitary Restrictions and Beef Exports in the MERCOSUR

By Federico Mazzella ,
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How and how much measures concerning beef exports have impacted the founding members of the MERCOSUR

A study by Juan Labraga (link in Spanish), produced with the support of IDB/INTAL and the South American Network on Applied Economics/Red Sur, documents episodes when the exports of the countries analyzed were affected by sanitary restrictions and draws lessons from these.

After an initial outline in which the author reviews the current state of beef exports and sets out the methodology and data used in the study, he demonstrates that in multilateral negotiations, the signing of regional trade agreements and the unilateral opening of economies has led to a significant reduction in tariff barriers.

However, he also makes it clear that other subtler, more complex components of trade costs continue to exist, such as technical requirements, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, or private standards.

As a consequence, as part of the valid concerns about human and animal health and life, new and more stringent sanitary measures have been established which limit market access, particularly for developing countries.

The paper then analyzes the impact of three of these measures on beef exports from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay: those relating to foot-and-mouth disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (popularly known as “mad cow disease”), and the EU’s prohibition of meat produced from cattle that have been fed growth promotion hormones.

One of the author’s main findings was that foot-and-mouth has a significant, negative impact on exports.

Finally, the study demonstrates the importance of including information services in order to overcome the asymmetries which explain the rationales behind sanitary standards. It also presents an estimation of the effects and implications of these issues for public policymaking.

Labraga, Juan. 2016. Exportaciones de carne bovina del MERCOSUR: Una cuantificación de los efectos comerciales de medidas sanitarias nuevas y tradicionales [MERCOSUR beef exports: a quantification of the effects of new and traditional sanitary measures on trade] (link in Spanish). INTAL.

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