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International trade

The Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations established a new World Trade Organization (WTO) and included negotiations on reducing non-tariff barriers to international trade. Included in the Final Act were the Agreements on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement) and on Technical Barriers to Trade (the TBT Agreement). Both Agreements have implications for the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

The SPS Agreement confirms the right of WTO member countries to apply measures necessary to protect human, animal and plant life and health provided that "such measures are not applied in a manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where the same conditions prevail, or a disguised restriction on international trade"2.

2 The SPS Agreement defines SPS Measures as those measures applied:

- to protect animal or plant life or health within (a country's) territory from risks arising from the entry, establishment or spread of pests, diseases, disease-carrying organisms or disease-causing organisms;

- to protect human or animal life or health within the territory of (a country) from risks arising from additives, contaminants, toxins or disease-causing organisms in foods, beverages or feedstuffs;

- to protect human life or health within the territory of (a country) from risks arising from diseases carried by animals, plants or products thereof, or from the entry, establishment or spread of pests; or

- to prevent or limit other damage within the territory of (a country) from the entry, establishment or spread of pests.

With respect to food safety, the SPS references the standards, guidelines and recommendations established by the CAC relating to food additives, residues of veterinary drugs and pesticides, contaminants, methods of sampling and analysis, and codes and guidelines of hygienic practice.

Therefore, measures need to be taken with respect to feeds to ensure adherence in food of animal origin to the Codex maximum levels or guideline levels for contaminants, and to the Codex maximum residue limits (MRLs) for pesticide and veterinary drugs. Measures also need to be taken to ensure that appropriate hygienic practices are followed at all stages of the animal feeding chain to prevent, eliminate or reduce potential hazards in the food.

The objective of the TBT Agreement is to prevent the use of national or regional technical requirements, or standards in general, as unjustified technical barriers to trade. It covers all types of standards, including all aspects of food standards other than those related to SPS measures, and includes a very large number of measures designed to protect the consumer against deception and economic fraud. The aspects of food standards it covers relate specifically to quality provisions, nutritional requirements, labelling and methods of analysis. The TBT Agreement basically provides that all technical requirements and regulations must have a legitimate purpose and that the impact or cost of implementing the measure must be proportional to the purpose of the measure. It also places emphasis on international standards.

The Consultation recognised that increased scientific, legal and political demands are being made on the standards, guidelines and recommendations elaborated by Codex. This is in part due to increased consumer interest in food safety, the WTO's SPS and TBT Agreements, harmonization initiatives, calls for increased scientific rigour, the need for transparency, and shrinking national regulatory resources. Therefore, a code of practice for good animal feeding was drafted by the Consultation which would facilitate international trade in animal feedstuffs and animal food products.

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