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Private Standards and the WTO SPS Agreement

Private Standards and the WTO SPS Agreement

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Private Standards and the WTO SPS Agreement

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  1. Private Standards and the WTO SPS Agreement Brussels Rural Development Briefings Meeting Food Safety Standards: Implications for ACP agricultural exports 11 May 2009 Robson Fernandes Economic Affairs Officer Agriculture and Commodities Division WTO

  2. Chronology of the discussions on Private Standards in the WTO SPS Committee June 2005 October 2006 June 2007 St. Vincent and the Grenadines raised concern in SPS Committee about EurepGAP certification for bananas WTO Information Session with participation of EurepGAP and UNCTAD. UNCTAD/ WTO joint Information Session on Private Standards and discussions in SPS Com. as specific agenda item

  3. Chronology of the discussions on Private Standards in the WTO SPS Committee October 2007 – June 2008 October 2008 October 2009 Ongoing discussions and several papers circulated to the SPS Com. • 1st meeting of the informal ad hoc group on private standards: • Countries’ questionnaires • Descriptive report • Analytical report Expected Analytical report with proposed specific actions to be taken by the SPS Com.

  4. Reasons Why Private Standards are being Discussed in the WTO SPS Committee • Market access implications • Developmental implications • Legal aspects Trade Creation Potential Vs. Trade Barriers

  5. Market Access – Possible Implications • Private Standards going beyond international standards (e.g., very low or zero Maximum Residue Levels - MRLs) • Private Standards going beyond official requirements (e.g., Good Agricultural Practices, Labour requirements, Environment requirements) • Becoming de facto market access requirements • “Blurring” of private and official requirements • Multiplication of different schemes - Overlap and/or contradictions • Lack of harmonization • No equivalence

  6. Developmental Implications • Costs associated with private standards • Costs of compliance • Certification costs • Lack of price premium • Greater Impact on Small- and Medium- sized Farmers and Enterprises

  7. Legal Aspects • Coverage and Applicability of SPS Agreement • Art. 1.1 and Annex A(1) • Art. 13 • Mechanism/forum to address concerns

  8. Legal questions Principles of the SPS Agreement: • Scientific basis of measures • Least trade restrictiveness • Harmonization based on international standards • OIE, Codex, IPPC • Recognition of equivalence • Transparency • Participation in (international) standard setting • No unjustified costs in testing, certification, approval

  9. SPS Agreement - Article 13Implementation ... Members shall: • take suchreasonable measures as may be available to themto ensure that non-governmental entities within their territories ... comply with the relevant provisions of this Agreement. • ...not take measureswhich have the effect of, directly or indirectly,requiring or encouragingsuch ... act in a manner inconsistentwith the provisions of this Agreement. • ensure that theyrely on the servicesof non-governmental entities for implementing sanitary or phytosanitary measuresonly if these entities complywith the provisions of this Agreement.

  10. The TBT context • Similar language: • Role of non-governmental bodies with respect to (mandatory) technical regulations • Code of Good Practice • For bodies setting (voluntary) standards • Contains key principles of TBT Agreement

  11. The Committee on Trade and Environment • Environment requirements and market access • Difficulties faced by developing countries • Recently: discussion on organic products • Lack of harmonized standards

  12. Latest Developments in the SPS Com. Identifying Practical Actions for the SPS Committee (G/SPS/W/230) • Undertake study to compare private standards with international and official requirements (based on products / markets / standards/ data from WTO members) • Encourage information sharing on studies regarding SPS-related private standards • Organize ad hoc information sessions with private standards bodies and others

  13. Latest Developments in the SPS Com. • Responses to the Questionnaire (G/SPS/W/232) on real examples of implications by private standards: • Argentina, Belize, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, the EC, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, South Africa Thailand, Tunisia, United States and Uruguay. • Descriptive Report on the Responses to the Questionnaire (11 June 2009) • Analytical Report (expected to October 2009)

  14. The way forward Options suggested by WTO Members: • Focus on practical trade problems • Find another forum • Dialogue at national and int’l levels • Guidance on implementation of Article 13 • E.g. decision, guidelines, code of practice • Consensus required • Dispute settlement Outcomes from the consultative group work ...