WTO: 2008 NEWS ITEMS

Revised recommendations agreed by WTO members in April on improving the information they share with each other on food safety and animal and plant health have been confirmed because no objections were raised within the 30 May 2008 deadline.

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NOTE:
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

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FIND OUT MORE
about SPS’s “three sisters” — the international standards-setting bodies:
> Codex Alimentarius
> World Organization for Animal Health
> International Plant Protection Convention

The revised recommendations deal with how governments provide information on new or proposed measures they adopt on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. They were approved in the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Committee’s 2–3 April 2008 meeting, provided no country objected by the end of May. (Officially, the committee adopted the guidelines “ad referendum”.)

The recommendations will take effect in the latter part of 2008. Some time is needed to prepare the new formats for countries to use when they supply the information, and for the WTO Secretariat to adapt the electronic system it uses to manage and circulate the notifications to the rest of the membership.

Sharing and commenting on information about new or changed measures is one of the SPS Committee’s most important tasks — members use the committee to ensure that SPS measures comply with the WTO agreement, meaning they are based on science or international standards and are not protectionism in disguise.

The new recommendations are a third revision of the present set, and include new forms and procedures for countries to submit information, together with details of new on-line databases where notifications and other relevant information are compiled. The recommendations will be circulated to members in document G/SPS/7/Rev.3 when the date for implementing them is known. A draft is available in document G/SPS/W/215/Rev.2.

The recommendations also encourage WTO members to notify when they adopt international standards — this would be voluntary because members are only required to notify when their measures do not follow international standards.

> Search WTO Documents Online for all versions of the recommendations, including the latest when it is available.

 

Next meetings

These dates (with informal meetings on other days in the week) could still be changed:

  • 24–25 June 2008

  • 8–9 October 2008


 JARGON BUSTER 

 

notification: a transparency obligation requiring member governments to report trade measures to the relevant WTO body if the measures might have an effect on other members

• sanitary and phytosanitary measures: measures dealing with food safety and animal and plant health.
Sanitary: for human and animal health. Phytosanitary: for plants and plant products

> More jargon: glossary

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