Memorandum by the Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
UK PARTICIPATION IN WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION
(WTO) SANITARY and PHYTOSANITARY (SPS) COMMITTEE MEETINGS
1. Defra is the UK Government Department
which houses the UK SPS enquiry and contact point, and which represents
the UK at WTO SPS Committee meetings in Geneva.
2. As highlighted in DTI's note the setting
and enforcement of SPS measures is decided at EU level and discussed
by several "expert" bodies such as the Standing Committee
on Plant Health and the various veterinary committees. The UK
is represented by Defra and/or the Food Standards Agency (FSA)
at these meetings and consult other Government Departments as
3. The function of the SPS Committee is
not to set standards, but to act as a forum for WTO members to
discuss such issues as the application of SPS measures (these
discussions largely focus on differences in interpretation of
WTO rulesthat measures exceed international standards,
or are not science-based, for example), the need for Special and
Differential Treatment for Developing Countries, Equivalency and
Mutual Recognition, and Transparency.
4. Defra ensures that the relevant "expert"
Defra divisions (notably, but not exclusively, Plant Health Division
and International Animal Health Division) and other Government
Departments (principally FSA on public health issues, DTI as the
trade lead, and DfID given the importance that SPS measures hold
for Developing Countries, but also FCO) are aware of and are able
to incorporate their views into the UK position by:
Circulating the agendas for the co-ordination
and formal meetings, beforehand to gain expert/OGD input on the
items to be raised, and also giving them the opportunity to raise
any items of UK interest not on the agenda.
Writing and circulating a report
of the meeting, highlighting items of UK interest.
Regularly circulating notifications
of measures which have been proposed by WTO Member States, which
may be of interest to the UK.
5. In addition, Defra welcomes representatives
of any Government Department to attend the co-ordination and formal
meetings if they wishFSA, DTI and DfID representatives
have all attended in the past few years.
6. Defra officials work closely with other
Government Departments to ensure that WTO/SPS concerns are taken
into account on those extremely rare occasions (three times since
1996) when the UK wants to introduce an emergency measure prior
to full discussions at the EU level. The most recent example of
this was the close work between Defra, FSA, DTI and DfID over
FSA's proposal to ban the use of Kava-kava in the UK, due to concerns
over its effects on human health.