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Also discussed in the committee were the latest review of the
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Agreement, which deals with food
safety and animal and plant health, and special treatment for developing
countries. The committee aims to complete reports on these at its next
meeting in June.
And mad cow disease (BSE or bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and foot and
mouth disease repeatedly emerged as concerns, both underlying the broader
issues and in the more specific trade concerns raised.
With the latest Secretariat round-up of specific concerns highlighting the
domination of the two animal diseases, the US brought in its ambassador
specially to stress how seriously it is concerned about a continuing
Japanese ban on its beef.
Regionalization back to top
(‘Adaptation to regional conditions, including pest- or disease-free areas
and areas of low pest or disease prevalence’)
Article 6 of the SPS Agreement requires governments to recognize regions
within other countries as being safe sources for imports of food and animal
and plant products, instead of basing their measures entirely on national
boundaries. The regions concerned can extend beyond a single country’s
borders as well as be contained within a country.
Following consultations earlier in the week, a draft decision on
regionalization was circulated, drawing on members’ ideas, the latest in
papers from Chile (G/SPS/W/171) and Australia (G/SPS/W/172). It would set
out a work programme for enhancing the implementation of Article 6 of the SPS Agreement. This would include: making this issue a standing item on the
committee’s agenda, with a number of specific questions that might lead to
guidelines for implementing regionalization; information-gathering on
members’ opinions about implementing the article; and co-ordination and
information sharing with two key international bodies with their own
approaches to regionalization. The two are the World Animal Health
Organization (OIE) and the FAO’s Secretariat of the International Plant
Protection Convention (IPPC).
Both within this debate and under other agenda items various members
complained about measures that other governments have taken against products
from anywhere in their territories even though problems are localized.
Related to this is some countries’ concern that unreasonably long and
difficult procedures are required before some importing countries will
recognize the disease- or pest-free status of a supplier, especially after a
limited outbreak of a disease.
Canada said all its chicken products had been banned in some countries even
though avian flu had broken out in a small part of British Columbia. The EU
said some countries banned products from all its member countries on the
grounds of foot and mouth disease, even though some areas such as Austria
had not seen the disease for 25 years. And Argentina repeated its call for
other countries to recognize that part of its territory is free of
The issue will be considered again at the next meeting in June. The draft
decision that was not accepted.
The Committee’s failure to agree on the work programme arose because of
differences of opinion among members on whether it would be useful for the
committee to develop guidelines. Latin American countries broadly favour
guidelines. Some others such as the US would prefer to leave the task to the
OIE and IPPC, with their technical and scientific expertise. The EU supports
the development of guidelines, but is concerned that work on drafting
guidelines might encourage countries to delay implementing regionalized
measures until the guidelines are agreed — Article 6 already makes
regionalization an obligation, the EU says.
Special and differential treatment back to top
(For a summary of proposals and the discussion so far, see Secretariat
This is part of the Doha agenda, and under the 1 August 2004 General Council
decision (sometimes called the “July 2004 package”), the SPS Committee has
to report back to the General Council by July 2005.
The chairperson reported that informal discussions on 8 March had been “very
positive and pragmatic … with broad-based and constructive participation”.
These focused five proposals referred to the SPS Committee by the General
Council (see SPS work programme
G/SPS/W/135). But he also highlighted “an
apparent expectations gap” between countries that had submitted or supported
specific proposals (see paper cited above), and others.
The “positive and pragmatic” approach in the informal meeting was reflected
for example in the fact that countries that had advocated amending the SPS
Agreement were willing to focus on the issues and the underlying problems
because many countries want to avoid altering the agreement. Furthermore,
countries making the proposals clarified that these should be considered as
input for further discussions, not “take-it-or-leave-it” proposals. Speakers
also recognized that there had been various developments in recent years
which partly addressed some of the concerns underlying the five proposals.
During the discussion in the formal meeting, part of the “expectations gap”
was exposed when Canada argued that some proposals would conflict with
members’ assertions that they do not want to obstruct governments’ rights to
introduce SPS measures.
For example the African Group has proposed (TN/CTD/W/3/Rev.2) that if a
country introduces a measure, it has to provide technical assistance for
others to adapt to the measure or else withdraw the measure immediately and
unconditionally. Canada said that according to this proposal even a
developing country introducing a measure would have to provide technical
assistance or withdraw the measure. But more importantly, the proposal has
lost sight of the fact that SPS measures are necessary health and safety
measures, for example to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease,
Review of the SPS Agreement back to top
(For a summary of issues, see Secretariat document
This is the second review, now required every four years under a decision of
the 2001 Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar. (The first review was in
The subjects discussed in informal talks earlier this week include
transparency, clarification of definitions, Article 8 and Annex C (control,
inspection and approval procedures), good offices of the chair for mediating
disputes, the relationship between Articles 2.1 and 5.6 (ensuring measures
are no more restrictive than required to achieve the appropriate level of
SPS protection), the relationship between the committee and the
international standards-setting bodies, good regulatory practices and undue
delays (proposed by Uruguay in document
G/SPS/W/169, raising concerns about
lengthy and burdensome processes for approving imports).
A draft review report, based on Secretariat document
will be discussed at the June meeting, when the committee hopes to approve
the report and a work programme for tackling the issues raised.
Technical Assistance back to top
During the discussion of technical assistance, a number of developing
countries reported on their experiences as recipients, noting the types of
assistance that have been particularly useful in improving their use of the
SPS Agreement, or in opening markets for their exports.
The Secretariat, several members and various international organizations
reported on their technical assistance activities that are related to SPS.
Although the focus of the Secretariat’s activities are primarily on training
officials on their governments’ rights and obligations under the SPS
Agreement and on WTO procedures and practices, the WTO Secretariat also
manages the new
Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF). This fund, established
jointly with the FAO, WHO, World Bank and OIE, and with funding from several
donor countries, provides financing for SPS capacity-building projects.
Specific trade concerns: the discussion back to top
Mad cow disease (BSE). The US expressed
“extraordinary … serious and urgent” concerns at Japan’s continued
restrictions on US beef.
Only one cow, an eight-year-old imported from Canada, had been detected with
BSE in the US, the American ambassador said. Since the detection in December
2003, the US introduced a number of measures and strengthened safeguards to
prevent BSE being established and spreading, she said. It has also
undertaken a comprehensive epidemiological investigation, set up an
international review and evaluation panel, and tested over 260,000 animals
so far — all the cattle yielding negative test results.
The US said it had agreed with Japan in October 2004 a framework for
resuming trade, but he Japanese ban remains. The US therefore urged Japan to
act immediately to remove the ban.
Japan said it had addressed US concerns sincerely at all levels of
government. The October 2004 framework agreed with the US said trade would
resume when a domestic appraisal was completed. This is now underway and
Japan will report on progress, the delegation said.
Canada and the US also described in detail the actions they have taken on
BSE, including the US designating Canada as a minimal risk region. The EU
said it has not changed its policy on imports from Canada and the US because
it accepts that the two countries’ controls are good enough to ensure
products can be traded safely. The EU urged the two to recognize that the
EU’s own controls are state-of-the-art, and urged the US to reciprocate by
giving the EU minimal risk status.
Other issues. Among a long list of other
specific concerns raised were: problems with the implementation of new
international standard for wood packaging materials; draft new food and feed
hygiene rules in the EU; Japan’s proposed new minimum residue levels for
pesticides, veterinary drugs and food additives; Guatemala’s restrictions on
chicken meat and avocado imports; Greek inspection and testing procedures
for wheat; Australia’s restrictions on grapes; Thailand’s new food safety
rules; and various countries situations on foot-and-mouth disease.
Complaints made included measures that are allegedly too strict, not based
on science or may discriminate against imports. Bilateral consultations have
resolved some problems, those involved reported.
SPECIFIC TRADE CONCERNS: THE SECRETARIAT ROUND-UP back to top
Animal health, particularly mad cow (BSE) and foot and mouth diseases, have
dominated 10 years of discussions in the SPS Committee, the Secretariat
reports in its latest round-up of specific trade concerns. “Animal health
and zoonoses” accounts for 40% of concerns raised since the committee began
work in 1995, and within this group of concerns, mad cow disease (more
accurately transmissible spongiform encephalopathy or TSEs) totalled 40% of
concerns raised with foot and mouth disease taking up another 25%. (Figures
for 2004 alone are 37% of the total for animal health and zoonoses, and 48%
of this taken up by TSEs and 32% on foot and mouth disease.)
Over the decade, plant health accounted for 29% of all concerns (31% in
2004), food safety was 27% (26% in 2004), and other concerns (such as
transparency) 4% (6% in 2004). Of the 204 issues raised in the first nine
years, 56 were announced as resolved by the end of last year, another 15
were partly solved, and 133 had no solution reported.
The Secretariat paper reports that developing countries have been
participating actively. Over the 10 years, 101 issues were raised by
developing countries (sometimes by several countries) compared to 143 raised
by developed countries, and two by least-developed countries.
This latest annual update is in four parts: a 19-page overview (G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.5);
issues raised for the first time in 2004 (67 pages, G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.5/Add.1);
issues raised in the first nine years with no resolution reported, but not
raised again in 2004(68 pages, G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.5/Add.2); and issues
reported resolved before 2004 (28 pages, G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.5/Add.3).
Next meeting back to top
29–30 June 2005, but the dates could change
Find out more … back to top
WTO website SPS gateway:
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Chairperson: Mr Gregg Young, US