Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements


Establishing an SPS notification authority and enquiry point

The following part of the handbook explains how to establish an SPS notification authority and SPS enquiry point and the resources needed. It also describes the differences between the roles of the two offices.

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1.1 Responsibilities of the SPS notification authority

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Under the SPS Agreement, countries are required to designate a single central government authority as responsible for implementing, on a national level, the notification requirements of the SPS Agreement. This is the SPS notification authority.

The notification authority is responsible for:

  1. ensuring proposed regulations are published early, to allow for comments;
  2. notifying other countries through the Secretariat of SPS regulations, using the appropriate notification forms;
  3. providing copies of proposed regulations on request; and
  4. ensuring that comments are handled correctly.


Choice of agency  back to top

The task of establishing a notification authority is not very difficult. Most countries already have existing government departments or agencies responsible for handling the areas covered in the SPS Agreement (food safety, animal and plant health measures), or for disseminating government information. One of these agencies can be designated by the government to fulfill its notification obligations. The notification authority must be part of the central government, so this function cannot be carried out at the sub-national level (by a state, provincial or regional agency).

Most countries find it most convenient for the notification authority to be operated by the government department that is most concerned with the responsibilities covered by the SPS Agreement (i.e., food safety, animal health, plant health). Even if these functions are the responsibility of more than one government agency, there should be only one SPS notification authority.

The notification authority should have access to or have relationships with the technical experts in the sanitary and phytosanitary areas who will be writing regulations (potentially future SPS measures). But it does not need to have such experts on its own staff. The primary role of the notification authority is to oversee the notification process, and scrutinize outgoing notifications to see they are correctly completed.



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