Food Law News - FAO/WHO/WTO/Codex - 2008

WTO News Item, 30 May 2008

WTO - Decision on SPS transparency confirmed

Revised recommendations agreed by WTO members in April on improving the information they share with each other on food safety and animal and plant health have been confirmed because no objections were raised within the 30 May 2008 deadline.

The revised recommendations deal with how governments provide information on new or proposed measures they adopt on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. They were approved in the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Committee's 2–3 April 2008 meeting, provided no country objected by the end of May. (Officially, the committee adopted the guidelines “ad referendum”.)

The recommendations will take effect in the latter part of 2008. Some time is needed to prepare the new formats for countries to use when they supply the information, and for the WTO Secretariat to adapt the electronic system it uses to manage and circulate the notifications to the rest of the membership.

Sharing and commenting on information about new or changed measures is one of the SPS Committee's most important tasks — members use the committee to ensure that SPS measures comply with the WTO agreement, meaning they are based on science or international standards and are not protectionism in disguise.

The new recommendations are a third revision of the present set, and include new forms and procedures for countries to submit information, together with details of new on-line databases where notifications and other relevant information are compiled. The recommendations will be circulated to members in document G/SPS/7/Rev.3 when the date for implementing them is known. A draft is available in document G/SPS/W/215/Rev.2.

The recommendations also encourage WTO members to notify when they adopt international standards — this would be voluntary because members are only required to notify when their measures do not follow international standards.

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