Since the Uruguay Round, when agricultural trade was first covered by the GATT/WTO in a more comprehensive manner, several new or redefined legal and regulatory frameworks have been developed which define basic rules for conducting agricultural trade, and more specifically about the use of non tariff barriers, i.e sanitary or phytosanitary measures (for the SPS agreement) as well as technical barriers to trade (for the TBT agreement).
For the developing countries, in general, and the LDCs among them, in particular, complying with these rules and developing associated infrastructure and services so that they can all participate in trade has become a challenge. The common aim of all FAO services in this category is to assist countries to both comply with these rules and develop an associated infrastructure.
FAO hosts the Secretariat for two international standard setting organizations recognized as benchmark for the purpose of the SPS Agreement:
- on food safety: Codex Alimentarius, whose secretariat is joint with WHO.
- on phytosanitary issues: the International Plant Protection Commission.
In addition the Codex Alimentarius Commission is recognized as one of the international standard setting organizations for purpose of the TBT agreement. It provides FAO with a unique position to deliver targeted assistance to member countries to ensure compliance with these two agreements.
The services provided under this category include:
On food products ( both on safety - SPS and quality – TBT issues):
FAO works with concerned stakeholders at international, national and local levels from both public and private sectors in identifying weaknesses in the management of food safety, in formulating strategies that promote the application of good practices along the food chain and in ensuring compliance with national and internationally recognized food safety requirements.
i) Development of policy support tools to guide planning and investment in national food control systems harmonized with Codex standards and WTO requirements; and technical advice for the development and improvement of integrated and modern food control systems
This includes development of technical tools and guides related to various policy, managerial and technical aspects of food control including: risk analysis (core to the SPS agreement); food laboratories, food sampling and inspection, food safety/quality management, traceability, specific quality schemes and consumer awareness and education. Strengthening monitoring and inspection programmes is one of the key challenges many developing countries have to face in order to be able to access international markets. For many countries, the shift to risk-based food inspection may require significant changes to food inspection policy, legislation as well as changes to inspector training programmes; and new education and information programmes targeting the private sector. FAO supports member countries to implement or strengthen risk-based food inspection systems and related food safety and quality management systems through specific in-country capacity development projects, and the provision of broad policy and technical advice through the publication of a number of manuals, guidelines and training materials.
ii) Enhance effective participation in the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and other international fora
This includes development of countries’ capacities in relation to Codex through a wide range of activities both upstream and downstream of standard-setting: developing capacities of countries to contribute with data and expertise to the development of scientific opinions that underpin Codex discussions; supporting improved national consultation on Codex issues; supporting national capacities for implementing and enforcing food standards harmonized with Codex. FAO’s Food safety capacity development activities also support the ability of developing countries and countries in transition to participate more effectively in Codex meetings and discussions.
iii) Address emerging food safety issues including new technologies applied in food and agriculture
FAO assists countries in building food safety emergencies prevention and management systems, thus contributing to strengthen country resilience to food chain crises though improved coordinated surveillance throughout the food chain, the development of coordination frameworks for the preparation of emergency plans and the application of risk analysis procedures during food safety emergencies. It also provides support for targeted scientific and policy advice about emerging technologies consistent with the risk analysis framework highlighted in Codex principles and referred in the SPS agreement.
vi) Support to field projects addressing food safety and quality issues that have been prioritised by member countries
FAO combines expertise in a range of food production and food safety disciplines to identify sources of food safety risk and to develop measures to prevent or minimize these risks at the most appropriate stages of the chain, and allow safe trade. FAO works with concerned stakeholders at national and local levels from both public and private sectors in identifying weaknesses in the management of food safety in specific sectors and in formulating strategies that promote the application of Good Hygienic Practices and ensure compliance with national and international food safety requirements
On phytosanitary issues
(i) Strengthening plant health to meet IPPC and SPS requirements
The main purpose of these services, in general, is to assist countries in improving plant health and, in particular – in the context of international trade / market access in agriculture and forestry – to assist members as they harmonize phytosanitary measures necessary to achieve the appropriate level of protection in their trade in line with the IPPC and the WTO SPS agreements. Key activities include: (i) building capacities (technical assistance through, for example, establishing and strengthening national plant health control systems); (ii) coordination and resource mobilization to help countries comply with the IPPC and SPS standards; (iii) assisting countries to participate in international standard-setting work; and (iv) sharing information (web portal www.ippc.int, network groups and regional and global forums).
(ii) Capacity building work in the framework of the IPPC
In the area of plant health, FAO’s capacity building work in the framework of IPPC, in collaboration with relevant partner organizations and institutions, is coordinated directly by the IPPC Secretariat to upgrade the phytosanitary capacity of developing member countries, and to support their effective participation in IPPC work, resulting in strengthening national phytosanitary control systems. Specifically the Phytosanitary Capacity Evaluation (PCE) tool allows countries to undertake a self evaluation of their country’s phytosanitary capacity (with initial guidance only provided by a consultant) according to their needs and in compliance with international frameworks and standards. This allows countries to undertake a phytosanitary gaps analysis, create a strategic plan (to feed into many processes), establish their national phytosanitary priorities, and use the results of this analysis to engage FAO and donors to develop the necessary national phytosanitary capacity.
(iii) Encouraging Implementation of the IPPC
IPPC contracting parties encourage compliance through an active programme that analyses IPPC and standards implementation challenges and gaps, and then suggests programmes to overcome these weaknesses. This positive approach encourages participation instead of the negative compliance measurement. The IPPC Implementation Review and Support System (IRSS) encourages participation, transparency and cooperation to meet the implementation of the IPPC and associated standards.
For more information: www.fao.org/ag