50. The Delegation of the United States described a number of initiatives discussed more fully in document CX/NASWP 98/7. These initiatives included the development of a strategic plan addressing five critical issues, two involving Codex operations and three involving US Codex operations. These were:
51. The Delegation of the United States complimented the Secretariat on improvements made since the last session of the Commission especially in the use of electronic dissemination of information and working documents for Codex Committee meetings. In order to enhance transparency, US Codex was establishing public forums to discuss US positions on issues before Codex sessions and how Codex standards would be evaluated in US standard-setting activities since there was a lack of information about the consequences of Codex under the WTO Agreements among industry and consumers. It noted the need for a public understanding that, while Codex standards based on sound principles of science could be utilized as a basis for developing national food regulations, national governments maintained their sovereign right to set their own levels of protection. In this connection, US Codex had been making information on Codex available through its Web Site linked to other US agencies such as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FDA.
52. The US delegation also informed the Committee that a Senior Executive position for a US Manager for Codex had been established and a staff established to work in support of the Codex Manager and the US Delegations to Codex Committees. A new interagency Codex Steering Committee would work at two different levels, a policy level and a technical level to prepare US delegates and alternate delegates to attend Codex meetings.
53. The Delegation of New Zealand, speaking briefly to its report (CRD 2), provided information on a plan of strategic objectives for New Zealand in Codex activities relating to an open and transparent process for consultations. This included clear recognition of the importance of Codex standards; promotion of Codex activities; promotion of the principles and objectives of international harmonization, equivalence and mutual recognition; application of risk analysis to Codex standards and assistance to activities facilitating greater participation of developing countries of the region in Codex activities.
54. The Delegation of Canada informed the Committee that the Canadian Codex Programme was managed by an interdepartmental committee consisting of representatives from Health Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The Codex Contact Point for Canada was located within the Food Directorate of Health Canada. In view of the changing role of Codex, particularly with the increased significance of Codex standards as a result of WTO Agreements, Canada was reviewing its participation in Codex in order to ensure that Canadas objectives in support of the work of Codex could continue to be met.
55. In accomplishing this aim, Canada had established an e-mail system to facilitate the distribution of Codex documents which had contributed to more timely responses to draft positions. Furthermore, an e-mail Codex address has been also established to serve as a focal point for receiving and distributing all Codex mail. Another tool that Canada was utilizing to facilitate the dissemination of Codex information was the Internet. A Codex Canada Website was being developed as part of the Health Canada, Food Programme website which provides links to related sites such as the FAO Codex Alimentarius Website in Rome.
56. The Delegation of Australia provided the Committee with highlights of recent activities of the Codex Contact Point, especially with regard to the work of the Codex Committee on Food Import/Export and Certification Systems (CCFICS) hosted by the Government of Australia. In this regard, the delegation referred to the terms of reference of CCFICS, especially in relation to the development of principles of equivalence to be used in international food trade.
57. The Committee was informed that, like Canada, Australia was also developing electronic means of communication in order to speed up the reception and distribution of Codex information. The Australian Delegation also expressed its continued interest and support in working closely with FAO and New Zealand in assisting developing countries in the region to become aware of Codex matters.
58. The Delegation of Tonga informed the Committee that a national workshop was scheduled to be held in November this year to raise awareness on Codex among the government, industry, consumers organizations and other concerned parties. The workshop was expected to provide the basis for the establishment of a National Codex Committee and the development of a TCP/TCDC project which would assist Tonga to develop an action plan for food control and provide infrastructure assistance in the area of food laboratory. In this regard, the Delegation of Tonga expressed the hope to receive support from New Zealand, Australia, the FAO Codex office in Rome and the FAO Sub-regional Office for the Pacific Islands.
59. The Committee was informed that Solomon Islands had not yet designated a Codex Contact Point, as the country had only recently become member of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. In this connection, discussions were in progress to define whether the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries or the Ministry of Health would be the future Codex Contact Point.
60. The Delegation of Samoa reported that the Ministry of Health was the Codex Contact Point in Samoa. In this regard, initial steps had been taken to establish a National Codex Committee. The Delegation also reported that its Codex Contact Point was working actively in promoting awareness on Codex among the government and private sector and that technical assistance for development of Codex activities was been sought.
61. The Delegation of Fiji informed the Committee that the Codex Contact Point was the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forest, which was responsible for:
62. The Committee was informed that the Ministry of Agriculture was taking the leading role in establishing a National Codex Committee and a Codex Contact Point in the country. In this regard, the Delegation expressed the wish to receive technical and financial support from FAO for the organization of a national Codex workshop in February 1999 aimed at promoting awareness on Codex issues among all stakeholders (government, industry, private sector, etc).
63. The Codex Secretariat informed the Committee that a new booklet on Understanding the Codex Alimentarius would be published by the end of the year and would be accompanied by several leaflets addressing issues raised in the booklet. A CD-ROM containing full texts of all Codex texts in English, French and Spanish would be shortly made available to all Codex Contact Points. Up to date, over 600 Codex documents have been placed on the Codex Web Site and these would be made available as an electronic archive following the next Commission session. In this regard, a possibility to archive all Codex documents since 1962 was being considered. This would be undertaken with external resources. The Codex-L email distribution list was available to all Codex Contact Points to facilitate distribution of Codex documents and exchange of national positions on Codex matters. Two-thirds of the Codex Contact Points represented on the Codex-L list were from developing countries. The Secretariat noted that the postal distribution would be maintained for some time but at a reduced level since some member countries did not have yet an e-mail address.
64. The Secretariat also informed the Committee on the organization of regional and national workshops to provide information on the structure and functioning of the Codex Alimentarius Commission as well as consumer protection and importance of Codex standards under the WTO Agreement on TBT and SPS Measures. The workshops also served as a forum to bring together stakeholders to establish the basis for the best national system to set up a Codex Contact Point and/or Codex National Committee.
65. The Observer from Consumers International welcomed the publication of the revised booklet on Codex since it would be very helpful in assisting consumers to understand Codex work.
66. The Committee noted the work undertaken by the individual Codex Contact Points in countries of the Regions and the progress being made to improve or strengthen these activities. It noted the development of Guidelines for Codex Contact Points and National Codex Committees being undertaken by the Regional Coordinating Committee for Asia, but was the opinion that individual countries should develop their own national Codex structures in the framework of national constitutional, legal and administrative traditions. The Committee therefore supported the idea of the development of a statement of Core Functions of national Codex Contact Points by the CCGP. It agreed that the application of these Core Functions would be discussed in relation to the work of national Codex Contact Points in the Regions at it next session.