GLOBAL – The latest meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures has seen a record-breaking 55 specific trade concerns raised by member countries.

Delegates engaged in  comprehensive discussions on topics related to food safety, animal health, and plant health, marking a significant increase from the 46 concerns addressed in the previous meeting.

A diverse array of concerns surfaced during the meeting, encompassing issues such as delays in import authorizations, potential radionuclide contamination, high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI), and pest-related challenges.

Products affected included seafood, citrus fruits, grapes, apples, pears, live poultry, and poultry meat, among others, reports Food Safety News.

Seven concerns were raised for the first time, introducing new dimensions to the dialogue. Emerging topics included delays in import authorizations, publication of import requirements and restrictions due to radionuclide contamination, and challenges related to high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) and pests.

These developments underscore the evolving nature of trade dynamics and safety considerations.

The meeting revisited persistent challenges, including pesticide tolerances, veterinary medicinal products and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), approval procedures for animal and plant products, and import restrictions due to diseases like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), HPAI, and African swine fever (ASF).

Concerns related to beef imports, dairy product restrictions, and listing and reinstatement of exporters were recurrent themes.

International perspectives and disputes were evident in statements made by various countries. The United States expressed disappointment with China’s delays in publishing import requirements and relisting meat facilities.

The discharge of treated water into the ocean following the Fukushima nuclear accident was a key point raised by Japan, emphasizing ongoing global discussions on safety and trade.

USDA commits support for international food safety

In a separate development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) signed a five-year agreement to support the Standards and Trade Development Facility.

The Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) is a global partnership which works to strengthen food safety, animal and plant health capacity in developing countries by encouraging the use of good practices – including through digital technologies – to facilitate safe trade worldwide.

“The United States continues to invest in technical assistance to support the implementation of the WTO SPS agreement. We recognize STDF’s important contributions in delivering programs and disseminating effective, transparent, and science-based results,” said María Pagán, Ambassador and permanent representative to the WTO.

The SPS Committee plans to reconvene for its next meeting from March 20 to 22, 2024.

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