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WTO News Item, 8-10 March 2016
WTO members raised the 500th specific trade concern at a meeting of the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade on 8-10 March 2016, marking a milestone in their discussions about product regulations and standards. Director-General Roberto Azevêdo qualified this work as “essential to avoid concerns escalating into disputes and to keep trade flowing.”
DG Azevêdo said: “Today WTO Members discussed the 500th specific trade concern. It sounds technical but actually this is about dealing with all sorts of real-life issues that we all care about — from the use of chemicals in toys to the sugar, salt and fat content of our food. The WTO provides a forum for members to raise and resolve these concerns thereby avoiding them escalating into disputes. This is the unseen but essential daily work that keeps trade flowing — and it can only be done through the WTO.”
The following is the extract from the News Item relating to food
Specific trade concerns — food and drinks in focus
The Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee gives WTO members an opportunity to discuss each other’s product regulations and standards and the impact these have on companies and consumers. These discussions are called “specific trade concerns” — STCs for short.
According to WTO rules, members can regulate their products to protect consumer safety and health, but they need to do it in a way that does not make trade in these products unnecessarily burdensome. This preliminary discussion may contribute to avoid trade frictions from reaching the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). Since 1995, less than 2 per cent of STCs discussed in the TBT Committee have become trade disputes.
Following the trend from 2015, STCs on food and drink regulations were at the top of the agenda of this meeting. Among the eleven new trade concerns raised, seven related to food and drinks. In total, 60 specific trade concerns were raised. The full list of STCs is here.
New STCs addressed at the meeting include:
Members discussed two new STCs on India's draft food safety and standards regulation on alcoholic beverages, and South Africa's amendment to regulations for health messages on labels of alcoholic beverages.
Eight members (Australia, Canada, Chile, the European Union (EU), Guatemala, Japan, the United States (US) and New Zealand) questioned the consistency of India's requirements with international standards and practices of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and the CODEX Alimentarius Commission, such as with respect to compositional requirements and alcohol content limits for beer, wine and spirits. Members said these new requirements could prevent certain alcohol products from being placed on the Indian market. India said it would consider members' concerns in the finalization of the regulation.
The EU and Canada supported South Africa's objective of reducing the harmful use of alcohol, but expressed concerns about the changes to alcohol regulations requiring manufacturers to use seven different health warning labels during a twelve-month cycle. South Africa emphasized the importance of reducing the harmful use of alcohol for public health, and said that a public consultation was conducted on the regulation and all comments received were considered.
Two new STCs were raised on infant formula; the first regarding China's infant formula registration requirements, and the second on Thailand's draft act on marketing and promotion of food for infants and young children.
The EU, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand voiced concerns about China's requirements that would limit the number of infant formula products that a company could register to nine recipes, and three product lines. Members questioned the rationale for these limits, and asked about possible duplication with existing registration requirements. China said that the comment period on the notification of this regulation closed a few days before the meeting, and that the concerns of members would be brought back to Beijing for discussion.
While the US expressed strong support for Thailand's efforts to ensure that marketing of infant formula did not negatively impact breastfeeding, it asked about the scientific explanation for Thailand's proposed ban on marketing and advertising of follow-up formula intended for children up to 36 months of age. Thailand said this measure had recently been notified to the WTO, and that it would forward the US comments to the Thai Ministry of Public Health for consideration.
The full News Item with links to documents can be found at: https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news16_e/tbt_11mar16_e.htm