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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about SPS’s “three sisters” — the international
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> World Organization for Animal Health
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The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS)
Committee also tentatively agreed on a report concluding its third review of how
the SPS Agreement is working. The report, originally due out at the end of 2009,
will be formally approved if no one raises further objections by 15 April. (When
confirmed, this is expected to be document G/SPS/53.) The report reviews the
past four years and identifies areas for the committee’s future work.
The committee continued to discuss private sector standards, with some members
calling for a clearer interpretation of the relationship between these and the
SPS Agreement — whose focus is on government standards.
And with specific trade concerns raised in the committee since 1995 now
approaching 300, members continued to comment on each others’ measures,
including regular topics such as avian influenza, mad cow disease (BSE) and the
The new observers are the Economic Community for West
African States (ECOWAS), Community of the Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) and
Southern African Development Community (SADC). Like some other observers in the
SPS Committee, they will be “ad hoc” — invited meeting by meeting, starting in
June — a solution devised because the membership is still deliberating a common
approach for observers across all WTO subjects.
Regional organizations that are already observers in the SPS Committee are:
Organismo Internacional de Sanidad Agropecuaria (OIRSA), which works among some
Latin American countries, and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on
Agriculture (IICA), the Latin American Economic System (SELA) and the European
Free Trade Association (EFTA).
A number of African countries said they were keen for their three organizations
to become observers because the three help countries improve their ability to
meet international standards and therefore to export to international markets.
Some delegations find it difficult to attend all meetings and therefore the
regional observers will also help them keep track of work in the WTO.
And, making these organizations observers also ties in with technical assistance
they receive from some developed countries on sanitary and phytosanitary issues.
Specific concerns: overall
One of the SPS Committee’s most important functions is
to provide an opportunity for members to raise concerns they have about each
others’ SPS measures. This is the SPS Committee’s bread-and-butter work in
overseeing the agreement’s implementation.
The latest summary of specific trade concerns was presented to this meeting. It
says 290 issues were raised from 1995, when the WTO was set up, until the end of
last year (2009). This contrasts with 36 formal legal disputes citing the SPS
Agreement out of more than 400 formal legal disputes across all subjects brought
to the WTO in the same period.
Although a number of concerns raised in the SPS Committee are not potential
legal disputes, the committee’s discussions are partly seen as a way of avoiding
Number of new issues raised per year
The peak year for new cases was 2002, when 42 were
first raised in the committee, but the number has stayed below 20 since 2006,
with 13 new issues in 2009.
The largest number of cases (40%) are about animal health and among these mad
cow disease (BSE), foot and mouth disease, and avian influenza account for over
two thirds of issues.
Altogether, 79 cases have solutions reported, 18 have partial solutions
reported, and 193 are on-going (or are resolved without being reported to the
The report shows that developing countries have been active in raising concerns,
asking or joining others in asking around half of the issues raised (146.)
The document is in four parts: G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.10 (23 pages in English) is a
statistical summary and list of issues. G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.10/Add.1 (51 pages in
English) gives details of the 29 concerns raised in 2009, 13 of them new. G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.10/Add.2
(182 pages in English) summarizes the cases not raised in 2009 but not reported
resolved. G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.10/Add.3 (74 pages in English) summarizes the cases
reported as resolved. They are available in WTO Documents Online. The data are also available in the
SPS Information Management System.
Specific concerns: discussed this time
Code numbers, eg, “no. 278”, identify particular issues and can be used to
search the WTO’s
SPS Information Management System.
Several issues raised were old ones, raised in previous meetings. Those
summarized here tend to be issues that have generated concerns among a number of
members. The full list of issues on the agenda is under “P.S.” below
Australia’s new import requirements for beef. Australia described the steps it
is taking to revise the requirements and said an import risk analysis will be
needed, which will take up to two years. Canada, the EU and the US were
disappointed with the 9 March announcement that two years will be needed for
fresh beef. They said they had previously understood that this lengthy process
would no longer be needed. Australia said the concerns would be taken into
account and that it would use scientific methods and those of the World
Organization for Animal Health (OIE), one of the standards-setting bodies
recognized by the SPS Agreement.
The EU and Switzerland repeated their more general concern about countries’
import restrictions because of BSE, even on products that the OIE considers to
EU’s warning label requirements for artificial colouring: These colourings are
used in drinks and confectionary, including those consumed by children. The US,
New Zealand and Mexico said the labelling would create alarm when scientific
research (including an often-cited study by Southampton University), showed the
colouring has no risks. The EU said the Southampton study had aroused public
interest leading to the requirement to use warning labels, which are designed to
offer consumers choices. Companies have time to adjust because of the 18-month
transition period, and European producers would also have to adapt, it said.
Colombia’s complaint against Venezuela (no. 290): Colombia repeated its
complaint that Venezuela had stopped issuing import certificates, which Colombia
said affected virtually all its agricultural exports to Venezuela. Venezuela
denied that trade had been disrupted and asked Colombia for copies of the
evidence it cited. Ecuador, Bolivia and Cuba supported Venezuela and urged the
two sides to settle the issue amicably.
India’s measures on bird flu (no. 185): The EU and US continued to complain
about India’s import restrictions for example on pigs and poultry products,
which they said were not justified, and do not comply with the standards of the
World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). India repeated that the measures are
necessary to protect health.
Other specific trade concerns: Also discussed were: Costa Rica complaining about
US restrictions on ornamental plants larger than 18 inches (the US said it is
working with Costa Rica to find a science-based solution and is waiting for
information from Costa Rica); a complaint from Brazil about Malaysia’s
import restrictions on plant and plant products, China’s concerns about
continuing US restrictions on cooked poultry products (no. 256, raised several
Private sector standards
Consultations among about 30 members in an ad hoc working group continued
earlier in the week. In the committee, Kenya said the provision in the SPS
Agreement dealing with this should be clarified.
Since the agreement mainly deals with government measures, some members doubt
whether the committee can act on private sector standards. The agreement’s
Art.13 includes this sentence: “Members shall take such reasonable measures as
may be available to them to ensure that non-governmental entities within their
territories, as well as regional bodies in which relevant entities within their
territories are members, comply with the relevant provisions of this Agreement.”
But there is no indication of how this should be done.
When first raised in 2005, this issue took the SPS Committee into comparatively
new territory — the committee generally deals with standards set by
international standards-setting bodies and those imposed by governments. A
number of developing countries in particular are concerned that private
standards could undermine the disciplines negotiated in the SPS Agreement (see
also SPS news archives)
Mediation by the chairperson
Members continued to debate whether to aim for specific rules in SPS until
similar guidelines across all issues are agreed under the Doha Round
negotiations on non-agricultural market access (NAMA).
The discussion arises because Argentina and the US have proposed guidelines for
applying Art.12.2 of the SPS Agreement,
which deals with members’ consultations to resolve issues. In particular they
envisage members using the “good offices” of the chairperson to settle specific
trade concerns. India and a number of other developing countries would prefer to
wait for the outcome of the NAMA negotiations.
Chairperson: Ms Miriam Chaves of Argentina
These dates (with informal meetings on other days in the week) could still be changed:
20—21 October 2010
These are some of the trade issues or concerns discussed in the meeting or
information supplied to the meeting.
Activities of members
Argentina — control of fruit fly (G/SPS/GEN/994)
Indonesia — implementation of ISPM-15
Zambia — activities of plant quarantine and phytosanitary services (G/SPS/GEN/996)
Australia — measures related to BSE and imported food policy
Madagascar — information on its national SPS committee and other arrangements
Malawi — update on recent SPS activities
Specific trade concerns
Chinese Taipei’s BSE measures — concerns of Canada
US prohibition of ornamental plants larger than 18 inches — concerns of Costa
France’s exports of carambola from French Guyana and fruit fly risks —
concerns of Brazil
Malaysian import restriction on plant and plant products — concerns of Brazil
EU artificial colour warning labels — concerns of the United States
Code numbers, eg, “no. 267”, identify particular issues and can be used to
search the WTO’s
SPS Information Management System
Japan’s pesticide maximum residue level (MRL) enforcement system — concerns of
China (no. 267)
US import restrictions on cooked poultry products from China — concerns of
China (no. 256)
Import restrictions due to BSE — concerns of the European Union (no. 193)
India’s restrictions due to avian influenza — concerns of the United States
Venezuelan suspension of inspection and of emission of phyto- and zoo-sanitary
certificates (G/SPS/GEN/983) — concerns of Colombia (no. 290)
US rule on importation of wooden handicrafts (G/SPS/N/USA/1921) — concerns of
China (no. 284)
Consideration of specific notifications received
Ukraine import measures on animals and animal products (G/SPS/N/UKR/3/REV.2
ADD.1) —concerns of the European Union
Canada’s proposed MRL for 1-methylcyclopropene in bananas (G/SPS/N/CAN/413
CORR.1) —concerns of Ecuador
Information on resolution of issues
This meeting’s magic number
… “specific trade concerns” discussed in the SPS
Committee in the WTO’s first 15 years 1995—2009. In comparison, around 40
legal complaints citing the SPS Agreement were brought to the WTO.
• notification: a transparency obligation requiring
member governments to report proposed measures to the relevant
WTO body if the measures might have an effect on other
• regionalization: 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).
• 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.
• S&D, STD, special and differential treatment: special
treatment given to developing countries in WTO agreements. Can
include longer periods to phase in obligations, more lenient
> More jargon:
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