Relationship between private standards and the WTO’s SPS Agreement
Mr Robson de Moura Fernandes (World Trade Organisation) presents the relationship between private standards and the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement. He mentions the development of discussions in the SPS Committee to date, how the issue emerged in the SPS Committee and is now being discussed in order to define what the relationship is between private standards and the SPS Agreement. He identifies ways for countries to overcome private standards by either complying or regulating them. He hopes to provide incentives for countries to get more information on the implications of private standards, either individually, regionally or as a group of countries, and to get more involved in the discussions taking place in the SPS Committee.
Concerns over the multitude of private standards
Dr. Andrew Graffham (Natural Resources Initiative, University of Greenwich) highlights that food safety and quality have now become major issues to be respected to access export markets. Public and private standards can become barriers to trade due to their lack of transparence and participation by ACP actors in setting these standards. Smallholders from ACP countries are likely to suffer the most from the rise of private standards.
Trends in private standards
Mr Steve Homer (BIOS Partners) presents the trends and the drivers behind the setting of new standards. He also sheds a light on how standards have evolved in the last decade and the trend for emerging combination standards, which are mainly food safety standards with environmental and sustainability criteria. He looks at how farmers in ACP countries can be affected and can cope with these changing trends.
Building quality and compliance infrastructure
Mr Steffen Kaeser is programme manager in the Trade Capacity Building branch at UNIDO and shares his experience on the development of quality infrastructure. Country programmes are run by UNIDO for particular commodities, as a result of an FAO inspection or report, when a deficiency is discovered. He highlights some of the challenges faced in setting up quality and compliance infrastructure. Some of these include the design of the programme, work with the regional economic commissions and technical challenges (such as selecting laboratories, developing harmonized standards within the region, etc.).
Cost of compliance should be shared between all parties
Mr Fred Kong’ong’o (African Cotton and Textile Industry Federation) highlighted the difficulties faced by small-scale farmers in developing countries to adapt to ever-changing and secretive private standards, set by every supermarket. He called upon the WTO to engage with the private sector in the developing world to set uniform standards which can be met by developing countries. He also insisted on the cost of standards to be borne by all the actors along the supply chain (including consumers paying a higher price), thus helping move towards achieving the MDGs.
Food safety to start at the farm level
Mr Jethro Greene is chief coordinator for the Caribbean Farmers’ Network Organisation and represents farmers’ organizations in over 30 Caribbean countries. He highlights the importance of farmers’ organisations’ involvement and of receiving a fair share for their products. He insists on changing mentalities so that the question of food safety starts at the farm level and applies to products for the domestic market as well as international markets.
Protection of consumers’ health and assistance to third countries exporters
Mr Jacky Le Gosles (European Commission) informs us that the EU aims to protect its consumers, without however harming smallholders’ production and exports in ACP countries. The EC offers technical assistance to producers, through inspections and training sessions organized in third countries. These training sessions enable a real exchange between European experts and ACP producers and aim to assist countries wishing to export to the EU, to reach the requirements in terms of protection of consumers.
Read more about the Briefing “Meeting food safety standards: implications for ACP agricultural exports” (11th May 2009)