SPS regulators and practitioners shared examples of how GRPs — such as transparency, consultations, stocktaking and forward-looking regulatory agendas — are being used across Asia to modernize and improve SPS regulations.

“GRPs encourage good governance and have the potential to increase public trust and the confidence of investors and trading partners in the long run,” said WTO Deputy Director-General Jean-Marie Paugam, referencing the STDF GRP Guide as a practical resource for SPS regulators.

All countries have SPS measures in place to ensure food safety and to prevent the spread of pests and diseases among animals and plants. GRPs help to improve the quality and effectiveness of SPS measures so that they achieve the expected policy outcomes.

Participants noted the benefits of using GRPs, including exporters' improved compliance with the WTO SPS Agreement and greater alignment with international standards — that is, those of the Codex Alimentarius, the International Plant Protection Convention and the World Organisation for Animal Health — as well as a reduced regulatory burden, and increased trust in SPS regulatory processes. 

The result: Facilitation of safe trade worldwide, especially for traders in developing and least developed countries, who face more challenges in meeting food safety and quality standards. Compliance with international standards is required to access higher-end markets.

“This is an ongoing process,” said Marlynne Hopper, Deputy Head of the STDF. “We're talking about planning, implementing and reviewing SPS measures, and making revisions or updates as needed, so they achieve what they're designed to do.”

Transparency in trade-related regulatory processes and consultations on draft regulations are key to creating a sense of ownership and to ensuring compliance, said Mary Grace Mandigma, Assistant Director at the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards of the Philippines.

The Bureau is implementing an STDF project preparation grant in support of implementation of GRPs, including regulatory impact assessments, to improve SPS regulations and improve coordination across government agencies. Mandigma also pointed to the need to take stock of existing regulations before drafting new regulations, as part of a coordinated, whole-of-government approach.

In Sri Lanka, regulators are digitizing services to streamline SPS processes. The South Asian country piloted the use of electronic phytosanitary certificates (ePhytos) in Asia, a move that is not only cutting costs and speeding up processing times, but increasing trust and accountability, according to Thushara Wickramaarachchi, the country's official contact point of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), which manages ePhytos.

In using GRPs to improve the quality and effectiveness of SPS regulations, Sithar Dorjee, STDF developing country expert from Bhutan, recommended taking a “One Health” approach to prioritize animal, plant and human health across multiple sectors. He also emphasized the need to scale up capacity building at the regional level to encourage mutual recognition and trust building.

Fit for purpose

While SPS regulators are already using GRPs, greater use can further ease safe trade. It was noted at the webinar that GRPs do not add an additional layer of substantive requirements for SPS regulators. Rather, they are processes to ensure SPS measures are “fit for purpose”, protecting human, animal and plant health while keeping trade flowing. 

In addition to promoting effective and efficient SPS systems while mitigating costs, GRPs also generally support better policymaking by allowing for various factors to be considered when SPS measures are developed and implemented.

Download the GRP Guide, developed by the STDF and partners, for step-by-step guidance on GRP use, examples of replicable success stories and links to various resources. The Guide is available in EnglishFrench and Spanish. For a summary of key points, see the two-page briefing note.

The STDF is a global multi-stakeholder partnership to facilitate safe and inclusive trade, established by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the World Bank Group, the World Health Organization (WHO) and WTO, which houses and manages the partnership.

The STDF responds to evolving needs, drives inclusive trade and contributes to sustainable economic growth, food security and poverty reduction, in support of the United Nations' Global Goals.




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