Ruggiero's speeches, 1995-99
The over 150 participants included officials, based in
the capitals of WTO member governments, whose duties
include preparing and implementing measures to deal with
food safety and animal and plant protection (sanitary and
phytosanitary measures SPS).
workshops focus was on how to analyse risks to
health, in order to decide on necessary measures, as
required by the WTOs Agreement on the Application
of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS
Agreement). It provided an opportunity for
officials from around the world to share their
experiences. The chairperson was Dr Alejandro Thiermann,
a former chairperson of the WTOs SPS Committee.
The objective of this workshop is to shed light on
the complex relationship between risk analysis and the
disciplines of the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and
Phytosanitary Measures, said Mr Frank Wolter,
Director of the WTO Secretariats Agriculture
Inaugurating the two-day workshop, he underlined the
fundamental right of all WTO Members to provide their
consumers with safe imported food, and to protect their
animals and plants from health risks associated with
imports; this right took priority over trade.
However, he said, to ensure that this right is not
misused for protectionist purposes, one of the basic
obligations under the SPS Agreement is that measures to
protect health should be based on scientific principles.
They should not be maintained without sufficient
scientific evidence, although the agreement also allows
for the adoption of provisional measures in cases where
relevant scientific evidence is insufficient. This is why
health risk assessment and reference to internationally
developed health standards are critical elements of the
SPS Agreement, he said.
How to go about ensuring a scientific justification in
practice is a major implementation issue for WTO Members,
in particular for many developing countries, Mr Wolter
A second idea behind the workshop was to bring
capital-based developing country officials working in the
areas of food safety, animal health or plant health to
Geneva so as to enable them to also participate in the
regular meeting of the SPS Committee scheduled for 21-22
June. The US Department of Agriculture provided funding
which allowed the WTO to sponsor the participation of six
experts from least-developed countries.
During the course of the workshop, participants discussed
how the notion of science had been brought into the SPS
Agreement during the negotiations, including the early
contacts with the three relevant standard-setting
organizations (FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission,
Office Internationale des Epizooties (OIE) and FAO
International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)).
Participants also heard presentations on the fundamentals
of risk analysis, as well as details on the provisions of
the SPS Agreement directly relating to scientific
Throughout the workshop, experts from Member governments
and from observers organizations presented case studies
of actual risk assessments made by countries and how
these had, in the real world, resulted in specific
health-related measures aimed at ensuring food safety, or
the protection of animal or plant health. The health
issues discussed in the workshop are the kind of specific
trade concerns which WTO Members have also been raising
at the regular meetings of the SPS Committee.
A summary report of the workshop and presentations made
by experts, will be put on the WTOs Internet
website in July 2000.