More Trade, Safer Trade: Strengthening Developing Countries’ Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Capacity
Published: August, 2013
Trade is an ‘engine of development’, and one-third of all official development assistance is now ‘aid for trade’. But trade carries risks. Shipments of food can harbour microbes capable of causing sickness and even death among consumers. Pests and diseases of plants and animals can inadvertently be transported along with the goods, threatening the importer’s agricultural production. Food and feed may be contaminated with pesticide residues or other chemical toxins.
To reduce these risks without unduly restricting trade, the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) allows importing countries to adopt SPS measures. SPS measures must be scientifically justifiable, and preferably based on international SPS standards recognized by the Agreement. Sometimes the market itself also sets standards as a way of providing customers with an assurance of quality.
Countries that want to access and maintain export markets must be able to comply with the importing country’s public and market standards. Government regulatory agencies and the value chain actors must have the capacity to undertake a range of SPS functions, which together provide assurance to the importing country that SPS risks have been managed to an acceptable level. Shortcomings in SPS capacity mean developing countries lose market opportunities.
SPS capacity development seeks to strengthen countries’ abilities to support their exports and maintain their own biosecurity. Capacity is a function of organizations and systems, not just individuals, so capacity development is much more than training. The identification, prioritization, conduct and type of SPS capacity development activities all affect the extent to which intended outcomes and impacts are achieved.