Argentina and its allies said importing countries have announced a number of
new maximum residue levels for pesticides, many either setting maximum
levels that are more restrictive than internationally agreed standards, or
where no standards have been set up.
Argentina’s paper was circulated immediately before the meeting (and only in
Spanish). Several developed countries asked for more time to study the
Among the other issues discussed were Egyptian proposals to strengthen the
special treatment given to developing countries, the on-going complaint from
developing countries about private sector standards, and a number of
specific trade concerns — eight new, five raised before, one welcoming a
“positive” notification, and four reported as resolved.
Meanwhile, New Zealand reported briefly that it is still consulting with a
group of members and is close to agreement on a proposal for dealing with
“regionalization”. The key concept here is recognition that an exporting
region (part of a country or a border-straddling zone) is disease-free or
pest-free (or has a lower incidence). Failure to recognized that regions are
free from pest or disease is often raised as a specific trade concern as
well as being discussed as a subject in its own right. The consultations
will continue in October, when the SPS Committee will meet next.
Pesticide residues back to top
The developing countries led by Argentina
(document G/SPS/W/211 of 26 June) complained that these new maximum
pesticide residue levels impede trade. They urged the international
standard-setting body, the joint FAO-WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission on
food safety, to set more standards, and the importing countries to use these
international standards or to provide scientific evidence to support any
Argentina said that out of 345 principal pesticide
substances registered in Argentina, only about 32% have maximum residue
levels agreed in Codex. It and the other developing countries complained
that some requirements are so low they are at the limits of the ability to
detect residues. Supporting Argentina were: Chile, Cuba, Brazil, Pakistan,
Costa Rica, Ecuador and Paraguay.
(In recent months, about one third of all SPS
notifications from WTO member governments have been about new or revised
pesticide requirements — about 37 out of 98 notifications in May 2007, and
23 out of 78 in April refer to “pesticide” — although not necessarily all of
these are the cause of the complaints. See the Secretariat’s monthly
Codex said it lacks resources but its member
governments can ask for the development of new standards to be accelerated
and urged WTO members to provide the scientific data to allow the
discussions to take place.
The EU agreed and urged governments to push the
FAO and WHO to provide more resources for Codex. Japan, the EU, New Zealand
and Australia said they would join the discussion when they have had time to
study Argentina’s paper.
Private sector standards back to top
A workshop on private and commercial standards was
organized by the WTO and UNCTAD on Monday 25 June (see
These are standards set by the private sector, such as supermarket chains,
or “EurepGap” — “good agricultural practices” or GAP, set by the
Euro-Retailer Produce Working Group,
Also presented were approaches of the retailer-driven Global Food Safety
Initiative (GFSI) and the food safety management system standard “ISO 22000”
from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Following up in the formal SPS Committee meeting,
developing countries picked up three themes:
Trade: Standards set by the private sector
can help suppliers improve the quality of their products and gain access
to markets, but this may be offset by the cost of meeting the standards
and obtaining certificates, compounded by the fact that there are an
increasing number of private standards. These standards are not based on
science, the developing countries complained.
WTO law: Egypt, Argentina and a number of
other developing countries argued that the SPS Agreement makes governments
in importing countries responsible for the standards set by their private
sectors. Some said the private standards are “untransparent” because they
are not notified to the WTO.
Beyond SPS: Several countries commented that
the standards impose additional burdens because they cover a wide range of
issues, not only food safety, such as quality, how they are produced (such
as organic products), fair trade and labour requirements, and
environmental concerns (such as transportation distances). Some argued
that the private sector standards should offer special treatment for
developing countries. Some called for a joint meeting of the WTO’s SPS and
Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.
Among the developing countries speaking in the
meeting were: Egypt, Pakistan, Ecuador, Brazil, Cuba, Belize, Chile,
Venezuela, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa, Domican Rep, Mexico, Colombia,
China, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Peru, Rwanda.
The EU said it also hears a lot of complaints from
within its member states, but it urged members to focus on the positive
aspects as well. For example, with private sector standards, it is the
largest importer of food and vegetables, with a large share ($14bn out of
$17bn) coming from developing countries. It said that without any dispute
ruling to provide legal interpretation it remains unclear whether the SPS
Agreement obliges governments to take responsibility for private standards.
Therefore members should focus on the costs of complying with the standards
and ways to deal with this, such as through aid to help suppliers meet the
requirements, the EU said.
Other developing countries (Japan, New Zealand,
Australia, Canada and the US) were non-committal, preferring to ask
questions or comment on the number of forums looking at this topic.
This issue takes the SPS Committee into
comparatively new territory — the committee generally deals with standards
set by international standards-setting bodies and those imposed by
governments. Private sector standards were first raised two years ago in
by St Vincent and the Grenadines, because of private standards for bananas.
St Vincent and the Grenadines complained that private standards are often
more rigid than international standards, causing small farmers to suffer.
Special treatment for developing countries back to top
This was discussed in an informal meeting on 26
June. For the record, the chairperson reported that the discussion had
focused on two proposals from Egypt.
One would amend Article 10.1 of the SPS Agreement
to tighten the obligations to provide “special and differential treatment”
for developing countries. Some countries supported this, while others said
they oppose amending the agreement, preferring an authoritative
interpretation of the provision (which can come from the General Council or
a Ministerial Conference), the chairperson reported.
Egypt has also proposed amending
G/SPS/33, a 2004
committee decision to make special treatment given to developing countries
more transparent. Because the proposal was circulated on the day of the
discussion, members asked for more time to consider it.
Specific trade concerns: resolved back to top
EU’s geographical BSE risk assessment, and
transitional TSE measures: Canada reported that the two issues have been
resolved because of new standards and other developments in the World
Organization for Animal Health (OIE). (These are related to “mad cow”
Japan’s import restrictions on heat-treated straw
and forage: China said a number of enterprises have now been recognized as
meeting Japanese standards following good bilateral negotiations.
Panama’s inspection regime for certain
agricultural products: Costa Rica said the problem has been resolved and
access to Panama’s market is no longer blocked.
Specific trade concerns: unresolved back to top
Among the issues that have been raised before and
Australia’s measures on apples and prawn: New
Zealand’s long-running complaint continues, again supported by the US.
Although Australia has finally completed its risk analysis, New Zealand is
concerned that the conditions set may not allow commercial trade. Thailand
and China, supported by Viet Nam, the Philippines and Indonesia, continued
to complain about Australia’s proposed changes to its interim measure and
delays in completing its risk assessment on prawns. Australia said revisions
are still being prepared and comments will be considered.
A number of other new and unresolved issues were
also discussed (see P.S. below)
Information on activities back to top
A number of countries reported on their recent
activities, including China on its actions to deal with recent concerns
about the safety of some of its food exports.
Transparency back to top
Canada joined other countries in proposing that
members voluntarily notify new or revised measures that comply with
international standards even though they are only legally required to notify
measures that are different from international norms. Some members supported
this, but a few were concerned that the proposal might create more
difficulties for developing countries. Members will continue to consult on
On 15-16 October 2007, a special SPS workshop will
focus on the implementation of the transparency provisions of the SPS
Agreement. The SPS Committee periodically holds special sessions to identify
how to improve transparency, for example through members notifying their new
requirements in advance and advanced through members evaluating each others’
notifications. Officials responsible for notifying and responding to queries
are invited to these workshops.
Chairperson: Mr Marinus PC Huige of the Netherlands (elected at the start of
Next meetings back to top
These dates (with informals earlier in the week)
could still be changed: 17–18 October 2007
(Possible dates for 2008: 31 March-4 April, 22–27
June, 13–17 October)
P.S. back to top
These are some of the trade issues or concerns
discussed in the meeting or information supplied to the meeting.
Information from members:
Canada’s “controlled BSE risk”
categorization by OIE
Inauguration of Saudi Food and Drug
Panama’s freedom from classical swine fever
Information from Bolivia on end of foot and
mouth diseases (FMD) outbreak in Santa Cruz city
Update from brazil on FMD situation in state
of Mato Grosso do Sul
FMD-free status of state of Santa Catarina
Food safety management in China
Costa Rica on ornamental plants exports to
Trade restrictions related to national
systems for determining maximum residue levels for pesticides — concerns
China’s zero tolerance for pathogens on meat
and poultry — concerns of the US
El Salvador’s zero tolerance for salmonella
in poultry and eggs — concerns of the US
India’s export certificate requirements for
dairy products — concerns of the US
India’s avian influenza restrictions —
concerns of the US
El Salvador’s animal health requirements for
poultry meat — concerns of the US
China’s application of regionalization and
prohibition on bovine meat “in natura” — concerns of Brazil
Australia’s import restrictions on apples —
concerns of new Zealand (no. 217)
Indonesia’s lack of recognition of pest-free
areas (decree 37) — concerns of the US (no. 243)
Australia’s revised import risk analysis (G/SPS/N/AUS/204)
and measures on prawns and prawn products (no. 85) — concerns of Thailand
and of China
Romania’s restrictions on pork and poultry
imports (no. 245) — concerns of the United States
Rep.Korea’s application of regionalization
and scientific standards on bovine and pig meat “in natura” — concerns of
Consideration of specific notifications received: