WTO: 2011 NEWS ITEMS

SANITARY AND PHYTOSANITARY COMMITTEE

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The programme of the workshop can be found in G/SPS/GEN/1110.

The objective of the workshop was to bring together officials responsible for participation in and implementation of the SPS Agreement, Codex, IPPC and OIE for an in depth discussion, at a technical level, on best practices in coordination at national and regional levels.

The first part of the workshop included presentations by the Three Sisters
(Codex, IPPC, OIE) that addressed (i) benefits and weaknesses of their standard setting procedures, (ii) concerns raised regarding these procedures and (iii) changes under consideration.  The Secretariat presented its background document (G/SPS/GEN1115) that describes and compares the procedures used by the Three Sisters to develop standards, as some WTO Members have suggested that effective national coordination may be hampered by assumptions that the standard-setting procedures of the Three Sisters were the same.

National Coordination

In a session on national coordination, the STDF Secretariat presented the preliminary recommendations of the Study on National SPS Coordination Mechanisms in Africa.  These recommendations are to: (1) raise SPS awareness, (2) clarify organizational matters, (3) build on existing mechanisms (4) follow "good mentoring practices", (5) establish clear and effective communication strategies, and (6) promote sustainability.

The Philippines and Belize shared their experiences of coordination at the national level.  Belize provided information on its creation of a National SPS Committee, while the Philippines shared experience related to increasing awareness of the SPS Agreement.

Regional Coordination

Concerning regional coordination, a scoping study undertaken by STDF regarding African regional SPS protocols was presented.  This study flagged concerns about the ability of the Regional Economic Communities to assist Members implement the SPS Agreement.  The study described inadequate and highly fragmented SPS frameworks, slow decision-making and a very limited political awareness.  The African Union and COMESA agreed with some of the study’s conclusions, and noted that changes were underway.  The WTO Secretariat presented a preliminary analysis of the treatment of SPS in Regional Trade Agreements.

MERCOSUR and COMESA provided their experiences of coordination at the regional levels. COMESA outlined the role of its SPS Sub Committee and how they propose to implement a "Simplified Trading Regime".  MERCOSUR provided specific information on its regulatory framework concerning SPS matters, including harmonization and coordination within the region.     

Breakout Sessions

Four breakout sessions took place during the workshop, two in English (Session 1, Session 2) one in French and one in Spanish.  At these breakout sessions participants discussed their own experiences with ensuring coordination at the national level, and identified (i) the impact originating from poor coordination, (ii) causes of poor coordination, (iii) solutions to improve coordination and (iv) the entity responsible for the implementation of the these solutions identified.

Conclusions 

The problems identified by Members that arose from poor coordination at the national level were very similar, and included:

(a)   Duplication of work, resulting in the waste of scarce resources;
(b)    Conflicting / non-coherent positions, which lead to a loss of credibility of competent authorities;
(c)    Missing opportunities, including for training and capacity-building assistance;  and
(d)    Loss of market access.

Among the identified causes of poor coordination was the existence of many players involved in SPS matters, as well as limited human resources.  The lack of awareness of the importance of SPS at the political level and by other stakeholders was also frequently mentioned.

The workshop resulted in a number of specific recommendations, where the responsibility of implementation remains with the Members themselves.  The recommendations include:

(a)   The need to identify someone as specifically responsible for national coordination;
(b)    The establishment of an effective mechanism to share information;
(c)    The establishment of an SPS policy at the national level;
(d)    The creation of an SPS agenda for work at the national level;
(e)    Continual sharing of experiences on coordination;
(f)    Ensuring that all stakeholders understand the importance of SPS issues;
(g)    Involvement of the private sector and academia in the coordination of SPS issues;
(h)    The building of institutions, guaranteeing continuity.

The workshop also resulted in two specific recommendations for consideration by the SPS Committee:

(e)   Development of guidelines on national coordination; and/or
(f)   Development of a manual of good practices on coordination.

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