THIS NEWS ITEM IS DESIGNED TO HELP THE PUBLIC UNDERSTAND
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE WTO. WHILE EVERY EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO ENSURE THE
CONTENTS ARE ACCURATE, IT DOES NOT PREJUDICE MEMBER GOVERNMENTS’
POSITIONS. THE OFFICIAL RECORD IS IN THE MEETING’S MINUTES
> Press releases
> News archives
Normally preceded by two days of informal meetings, the arrival of
trade ministers to try to
seek a way forward for the stalled Doha negotiations meant the SPS
Committee was limited to a two day meeting in formal session and moved from
its usual home in the WTO to the offices of the International Labour
Although compressed, the committee still enjoyed a full agenda, which
included specific trade concerns, special and differential treatment,
regionalization, monitoring of the use of international standards and
follow-up on issues raised during the second review of the operation and
implementation of the SPS Agreement.
Specific trade concerns: the beetles, GMOs and those
novel foods again back to top
Christmas tree beetles.
complained about measures taken by the US to prevent
beetles hitching a ride on wooden artefacts from China, including
Christmas trees. These were discussed alongside other issues such as India’s
prior approval and labelling regime for GMOs and the EU’s novel food
regulation under the heading “specific trade concerns”.
complaint was that the measures already jointly taken by the US
and Chinese authorities in response to the interceptions of beetles on
wooden Christmas trees were sufficient to allow trade to resume.
However, in the view of the US, continuing interceptions (which had
numbered 418 already) justified further visits to production sites and
the completion of a pest risk assessment. Artificial Christmas trees
fumigated with methyl bromide or those whose bark had been removed were
not restricted, the US said.
GMOs. India’s import approval system and labelling scheme for
genetically modified organisms were the subject of concerns from the US,
supported by Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Chile.
These concerns were twofold. Firstly, the US requested that the measures
notified to the Technical Barriers to Trade Committee in notifications
G/TBT/N/IND/17 should be notified also to
the SPS Committee. Secondly, the US questioned the scientific
justification underlying the measures and the lack of clarity as to
India recalled that these measures were nothing new; its Genetic
Engineering Approval Committee had been sitting since 1989. What was new
was the more thorough approach to applying the existing measures. India
assured members that it would consider comments at an inter-ministerial
meeting planned for the end of the year and that it would consider
notification of the measures in the SPS Committee.
Novel foods. The now not so novel issue of the EU Novel Food Regulation
was raised again by Peru as a trade concern. To the concerns raised at
the March 2006 SPS Committee meeting
were added further disquiet on the part of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia,
Paraguay, the Philippines, India, Bolivia and Brazil.
They again questioned the justification for giving different treatment
to “products of bio-diversity” traditionally consumed outside the EU,
compared to food products or ingredients habitually consumed within the
EU. Peru pointed to the cost involved in providing the scientific
studies to back up claims of safety, while Ecuador noted some of these
traditional products were already being exported outside the
home-country market (e.g. to the US) without any ill-effects. Paraguay
questioned how a natural sweetener, already evaluated by WHO/FAO, would
be treated under this regulation.
In reply, the EU underlined that there are products within the loose and
undefined category “products of biodiversity” for which genuine safety
concerns exist. It recalled that the regulation applies to products
marketed in the EU after 1997 and that its scope of application is not
limited only to third countries, but primarily affects food producers
operating in the EU market.
The EU said it welcomed examples of products already approved in other
markets and for which negative development impacts might be felt, as
they would be useful in the further elaboration of this regulation by
the European Parliament and EU member states.
Special and differential treatment back to top
The committee chairperson’s summary report of the informal meeting of 24 May
was well-received by members, but failed to stimulate a substantive debate
on the outstanding proposals for special and differential treatment of
developing countries (S&D).
No new text was tabled by the S&D proponents. Recommendations were made by
the United States to develop a “Good Practices Guide” on special and
differential treatment and to rework the SPS Committee’s questionnaire on
technical assistance along the lines of the questionnaire circulated in the
Technical Barriers to Trade Committee
In the absence of substantive debate, however, the chairperson scheduled
further consideration of these issues at an informal meeting in October. A
report to the General Council is due by the end of 2006.
In contrast, the Committee enjoyed a good debate on a proposal by the small
economies WT/COMTD/SE/W/16/rev.1. Introducing the proposal, Barbados
recalled that the Technical Barriers to Trade Committee and TRIPS
(intellectual property) Council had favourably discussed a similar proposal.
The proposal was broadly welcomed by members but concerns were raised about
the lack of clarity over which regional bodies would be designated and
whether or not these regional bodies would receive assistance ahead of
Chairperson Juan Antonio Dorantes of Mexico, informed the committee that he
would report to the Trade and Development Committee on the positive tenor of
the discussion and offered to hold further informal discussions if
proponents asked for them.
Regionalization back to top
An animated debate took place in the committee’s on-going discussion with
over 20 members taking the floor to present their views on how work should
progress on the topic of regionalization.
The key concept here is recognition that an exporting region is disease-free
or pest-free (or has a lower incidence).
Unfortunately, the debate served principally to highlight members’
continuing differences over a number of issues, particularly whether the SPS
Committee should develop procedural guidelines, including agreed time
limits, for the process of recognizing that areas are free of a disease, and
whether work in the SPS Committee would duplicate that underway in the two
standards-setting organizations with responsibilities in this area: the
International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and World Organization for
Animal Health (OIE). The Secretariat was asked to update its background
on the basis of inputs from Members.
Monitoring the use of international standards back to top
The Committee agreed to renew the existing procedure for monitoring of the
use of international standards. The current annual procedure will now be
reviewed as part of the four-yearly review of the operation of the SPS
Agreement. The Committee also adopted the 8th annual report on the use of
Issues arising from the second review back to top
Discussions on issues arising from the second review of the operation of the
SPS Agreement continued at this meeting with a number of submissions tabled
by members across a range of issues (transparency, undue delays, the
relationships between the SPS Committee and the international standards
settings bodies, use of ad hoc consultations). The chairperson agreed to
revert to these at an informal meeting prior to the October committee
Next meeting back to top
Tentatively, 11-13 October, with informals on 9-11 October.
P.S. back to top
Other trade concerns discussed included:
Chinese Taipei’s measures on Canadian beef
— concerns of Canada
Romania’s proposed measures on pork
products — concerns of Canada
Dominican republic tolerance levels for
soil content on potato tubers — concerns of Canada
Bolivia’s slaughter of imported breeding
cattle — concern of Mexico
Import restrictions on ec exports of live
birds, meat, meat products and other derivates due to avian
influenza — concern of the EC
Japan’s import suspension on
heat-processed straw and forage for feed — concern of China
Guatemala’s restrictions on poultry meat
products and sub products (including eggs) — concern of Mexico
Israel’s lack of phytosanitary import
legislation — concerns of the EU
Australia’s import restrictions on New
Zealand apples — concerns of New Zealand
Japan’s positive list system for
pesticides, veterinary drugs and food additives minimum residue
levels — concerns of China
Documents tabled as part of the issues
arising from the second review of the operation of the SPS Agreement
A joint submission by Australia, New
Zealand and the United States regarding implementation of
transparency provisions (G/SPS/W/197).
Submissions relating to the relationship
between the SPS Committee and standard-setting bodies have been made
by New Zealand (G/SPS/W/179), Brazil (G/SPS/W/182), Colombia (G/SPS/W/188) and Chile (G/SPS/GEN/).
Costa Rica (G/SPS/W/180) and Brazil (G/SPS/W/182), Colombia (G/SPS/W/188) and Chile (G/SPS/GEN) have tabled suggestions
relating to the issue of undue delays.
Suggestions with respect to consultations
under Article 12.1 and the handling of specific trade concerns were
submitted by Costa Rica (G/SPS/W/180 and G/SPS/W/183), Brazil (G/SPS/W/182), Colombia (G/SPS/W/188) and Chile (to be circulated shortly).
(All of these documents can be downloaded
Find out more … back to top
WTO website SPS gateway
(To search for documents cited here, insert the document number in the
Chairperson: Mr Juan Antonio
DORANTES Sánchez, Mexico.