REVIEW OF THE STATUS OF CODEX TEXTS UNDER THE WTO AGREEMENTS
ACCEPTANCE PROCEDURE FOR CODEX STANDARDS IN THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE WTO SPS AND TBT AGREEMENTS
IDENTIFICATION OF THOSE STANDARDS, GUIDELINES AND RECOMMENDATIONS HAVING A MAJOR TRADE IMPACT AND THE EXTENT TO WHICH THESE STANDARDS ARE USED BY MEMBER COUNTRIES
81 ALINORM 97/7; ALINORM 97/4, paragraphs 15-20.
168. The Representative of WTO reminded the Commission that the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) allowed WTO Members to deviate from international standards for various reasons when Members considered that the international standards were inappropriate to their circumstances. The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), on the other hand, made specific reference to Codex texts without providing any clear distinction between standards, guidelines and recommendations. The Representative also expressed a view that those Codex texts that were meant to apply only within a geographic region would not be particularly relevant outside that region and that other Codex texts or provisions not intended for application by governments but by commercial partners would not be relevant under the SPS Agreement either. Neither would guidelines intended for the working procedures of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and its subsidiary bodies. The Representative however noted that these issues could formally be clarified through two possible ways: either in the form of decisions by WTO Panels resulting from individual dispute cases or by requesting clarification from the SPS Committee.
169. Several delegations stressed that the Commission should preserve its right and authority to pursue its work based upon its own priorities. It was also stated that the Commission should be able to differentiate between different categories of texts, such as standards, guidelines and recommendations, on the basis of the statutory objectives of Codex. The Delegation of the United States and others recommended that the Committee on General Principles initiate work on the type and nature of Codex texts in relation to their intended use by Governments.
170. In regard to the opportunity of deleting those Codex texts not intended to be applied by governments for the purpose of protecting the health of consumers or for ensuring fair practice in the food trade, one delegation noted that the elaboration of such texts should be discouraged in future.
171. The Commission recognized the views expressed in paragraph 9 of the ALINORM 97/7 and endorsed the following recommendations:
· In view of the confusion created by the use of the term "advisory" and as the term cannot be defined satisfactorily and the SPS and TBT Agreements do not appear to distinguish between mandatory and advisory texts, its use within the Codex framework should be discouraged, as well as the use of the term "mandatory";
· All Codex texts specific to the control of food moving in international trade should be elaborated with the same degree of rigour and scientific justification where appropriate as Codex standards;
· Codex standards or any other texts which establish quality criteria for products additional to essential quality factors should clearly indicate that such criteria are intended for voluntary application by commercial partners, as follows: "This text is intended for voluntary application by commercial partners and not for application by governments".
· The degree of explanatory material contained in Codex texts should be adequate for the interpretation of the text; and
· That Codex Committees review the codes, guidelines and related texts under their responsibility in order to determine to what extent they should be redrafted as standards.
172. The Commission also concurred with the view of the Executive Committee82 and decided to request the SPS Committee through the Secretariat to clarify how the SPS Committee would differentiate "standards, guidelines and other recommendations" in relation to the implementation of the SPS Agreement by WTO Members.
82 ALINORM 97/4, paragraph 15.
173. The Representative of the WTO expressed concern that insufficient understanding of the WTO Agreements was apparently hampering the adoption of Codex standards and guidelines at a time when WTO Members, and especially developing countries, had an immediate need for Codex texts to assist them to fulfil their obligations under the WTO. The Representative urged increased involvement of all Commission members in the work of the WTO, in particular, through their participation in the work of the SPS Committee.
174. The Commission decided to proceed with a revision of the acceptance procedures rather than abolishing them and requested the Committee on General Principles to expedite its work along the previously proposed lines.
175. It was suggested that the revision of the acceptance procedures should be considered in conjunction with the revision of the elaboration procedures. It was pointed out that the Committee on General Principles might need to meet more frequently in view of the amount and urgency of its task.
176. The Commission endorsed the recommendations contained in paragraph 25 of the working document and agreed to discontinue the exercise of identifying Codex texts of major trade impact.