Mike Moore's speeches
Renato Ruggiero's speeches,
Among the issues the committee discussed at the 15-16 March meeting were:
1. Draft guidelines
on consistency completed Back to top
completed a final draft for guidelines on dealing with "consistency", removing
remaining square brackets (signifying parts of the text which had not been agreed). Some
members said they need time to look at this final draft. It will be considered for
adoption at the next meeting in June.
guidelines are not legally binding. They are intended as tools to help officials follow
SPS Article 5.5 when they make decisions on levels of health protection, and adopt
and implement measures on food safety, or animal or plant health.
requires countries to be consistent when they deal with risk over a range of measures and
products, so as to avoid disguised protectionism for specific products. The key is the
concept of the "level of protection" which measures provide for food safety, and
animal and plant health. Clearly, these levels are not easy to specify, measure and
guidelines suggest means for authorities to try to deal with these difficulties. For
example it suggests that when new measures are introduced or existing measures modified,
the authorities could as a matter of course compare these with other measures they have
||2. EU paper on
precautionary principle G/SPS/GEN/168 (See summary of points at end) Back to top
The EU presented its
discussion document, which was adopted in Brussels 2 February 2000 and addressed to the EU
Council and Parliament. It said this is not the last word, but a contribution to a debate
that has arisen because of a need to clarify certain issues. It underscored that the
principle should not be used to justify arbitrary measures.
the transparency the fact that the EU was sharing its discussion with WTO members
concern that this might weaken WTO rules by reducing the certainty and predictability of
the rules, upset the "balance of rights and obligations" struck in the Uruguay
Round (the negotiation which led to the current set of rules), and could allow every
country to use precaution as an excuse for protectionism.
that the precautionary principle already exists in Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement and some
questioned the legal status of the EUs interpretation.
included Hong Kong China, Australia, Canada, US, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Argentina,
concluded by stressing that it did not see its white paper as adding to or detracting from
the SPS Agreement.
3. Specific SPS
measures and issues Back to top
countries informed the committee of latest developments: EU on African swine fever and
avian influenza; Chile on its status as free from Classic Swine Fever and expressed
optimism at discussions with the EU, US and others on recognition of this; the EU on the
Belgian dioxin contamination problem (the EU said it had been cleared up and urged
countries which still have restrictions to lift them).
it is close to agreement with the EU on gelatin (BSE-related). Canada and the EU
complained about Indian restrictions on bovine semen, arguing there is no scientific
evidence that BSE is transmitted by semen.
welcomed the recent change in Mexicos restrictions on Thai rice (G/SPS/N/MEX/153)
but questioned why certain conditions seemed to discriminate against Thai rice
(certification and fumigation at port of entry).
sought confirmation about Icelands market opening for some kinds of meat
countries concerns Back to top
agreed that its next meeting in June will include substantial discussion of the first of a
list of developing countries concerns the implementation of the SPS
Agreements provisions on special and differential treatment for developing
meeting will be on 21-22 June 2000.
news report has been prepared for public understanding of the work of the WTO. While all
efforts have been made to ensure it is accurate, it is not an official record of the
Summary points: EU white paper on precautionary principle (Taken from
the highlighted boxes in G/SPS/GEN/168)
Back to top
- Although the
precautionary principle is not explicitly mentioned in the [EU] Treaty except in the
environmental field, its scope is far wider and covers those specific circumstances where
scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain and there are indications
through preliminary objective scientific evaluation that there are reasonable grounds for
concern that the potentially dangerous effects on the environment, human, animal or plant
health may be inconsistent with the chosen level of protection .
- Bearing in
mind the very origins of the precautionary principle and its growing role in international
law, and notably in the agreements of the World Trade Organisation, this principle must be
duly addressed at international level in the various areas in which it is likely to be of
- Following the
example set by the other members of the WTO, the Commission considers that the Community
is entitled to prescribe the level of protection, notably as regards environmental
protection and human, animal and plant health, that it considers appropriate. Recourse to
the precautionary principle is a central plank of Community policy. The choices made to
this end will continue to influence its positions at international level, and notably at
multinational level, as regards the precautionary principle.
- Recourse to
the precautionary principle presupposes:
of potentially negative effects resulting from a phenomenon, product or process;
- a scientific
evaluation of the risk which because of the insufficiency of the data, their inconclusive
or imprecise nature, makes it impossible to determine with sufficient certainty the risk
appropriate response in a given situation is thus the result of an political decision, a
function of the risk level that is "acceptable" to the society on which the risk
- Recourse to
the precautionary principle does not necessarily mean adopting final instruments designed
to produce legal effects, which are subject to judicial review.
implementation of an approach based on the precautionary principle should start with a
scientific evaluation, as complete as possible, and where possible, identifying at each
stage the degree of scientific uncertainty.
- An assessment
of the potential consequences of inaction and of the uncertainties of the scientific
evaluation should be considered by decision-makers when determining whether to trigger
action based on the precautionary principle.
- All interested
parties should be involved to the fullest extent possible in the study of various risk
management options that may be envisaged once the results of the scientific evaluation
and/or risk assessment are available and the procedure be as transparent as possible.
should be proportional to the desired level of protection.
should not be discriminatory in their application.
- Measures should be consistent
with the measures already adopted in similar circumstances or using similar approaches.
- The measures adopted presuppose
examination of the benefits and costs of action and lack of action. This examination
should include an economic cost/benefit analysis when this is appropriate and feasible.
However, other analysis methods, such as those concerning efficacy and the socio-economic
impact of the various options, may also be relevant. Besides the decision-maker may, in
certain circumstances, by guided by non-economic considerations such as the protection of
- The measures, although
provisional, shall be maintained as long as the scientific data remain incomplete,
imprecise or inconclusive and as long as the risk is considered too high to be imposed on
- Maintenance of
the measures depends on the development of scientific knowledge, in the light of which
they should be reevaluated. This means that scientific research shall be continued with a
view to obtaining more complete data.
- Measures based
on the precautionary principle shall be reexamined and if necessary modified depending on
the results of the scientific research and the follow up of their impact.
- Measures based
on the precautionary principle may assign responsibility for producing the scientific
evidence necessary for a comprehensive risk evaluation. Back to top
|Risk and precaution
Back to top
briefing notes prepared for the 1999 Seattle Ministerial Conference)
debate surrounding some food safety and animal health issues including disputes in
the WTO over the use of hormones in beef production and over regulations for salmon
raises the question of whether the SPS Agreements preference for scientific evidence
goes far enough in dealing with possible risks for consumers and producers.
A phrase that
has emerged in the debate is the "precautionary principle", a kind of
"safety first" approach to deal with scientific uncertainty. To some extent,
Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement addresses this, but some governments have said outside
the WTO that they would like the principle strengthened. However, at the time of writing
no proposal had been received. It is also unclear whether this would be handled under the
SPS Agreement or through some other means.
Article 5, paragraph 7 of the SPS Agreement Back
cases where relevant scientific evidence is insufficient, a Member may provisionally adopt
sanitary or phytosanitary measures on the basis of available pertinent information,
including that from the relevant international organizations as well as from sanitary or
phytosanitary measures applied by other Members. In such circumstances, Members shall seek
to obtain the additional information necessary for a more objective assessment of risk and
review the sanitary or phytosanitary measure accordingly within a reasonable period of