Improving Agricultural Trade Policy and Regulatory Reform
In policy, getting substantive rules “right” is important, but how those rules are developed is equally important. Within the Feed the Future Initiative, the use of Good Regulatory Practices (GRP) is about improving the quality and effectiveness of policy and regulatory measures to address poverty, hunger and malnutrition. For sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, GRPs are aimed at protecting human, animal or plant life or health, without creating unnecessary barriers to trade.
Earlier this year, the Food Safety for Food Security partnership (USDA, USAID, FDA), along with Texas A&M University and the New Markets Lab, embarked on an activity to assist Feed the Future countries to better implement GRPs for SPS measures through the development of a regulators’ toolkit. The activity builds off the practical guidance document developed by the Standards and Trade Development Facility and is partnering with the African Union Commission and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat to ensure the product is supportive of SPS agricultural and trade policy and regulatory reform efforts in African countries, but is also applicable globally.
As initial steps, the team hosted a workshop of African SPS regulators to exchange experiences on the different uses of GRPs and identify opportunities to strengthen and scale the use of GRPs to improve SPS systems. The team also conducted a literature review of “African Continental and Regional SPS approaches and alignment with SPS GRPs.”
This is what we have learned thus far, and where we would like to go next:
- African continental and regional SPS measures are largely based on the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), which calls for science-based measures that follow international standards and also provides for harmonization, equivalence and mutual recognition across systems.
- There are, however, a few notable differences across African instruments, which raise regulatory concerns and will impact the implementation of SPS measures at the national level, considering that most countries have overlapping membership in the Regional Economic Communities (REC).
- It will be important to address questions of duplication, overlap and contradiction of obligations, both between the AfCFTA and the RECs, horizontally across the RECs and vertically with the WTO SPS Agreement. This will be particularly important as the AfCFTA, which is relatively new, is fully implemented.
- There are challenges associated with the absence of SPS legislation in some countries, duplication and overlap in regulatory functions, insufficient notification by member states of new laws or regulations, lack of trust and confidence between enforcement agencies in different countries, political insecurity, poor adoption of regional and international standards in domestic SPS controls, limited understanding and interpretation of SPS standards and regulations, ineffective SPS risk management, and insufficient use of Mutual Recognition Agreements and agreements on equivalence.
- Within the RECs, some SPS GRPs have commendably been adopted both under regional SPS rules and in practice. While there has been notable progress to align SPS measures with GRPs, significant regulatory and implementation gaps remain, necessitating more strategic approaches in institutionalizing the adoption and implementation of SPS GRPs.
Based on our consultations and literature review, the activity appears well-positioned to assist countries in their SPS reform efforts, particularly those needed to meet regional, continental and international trade commitments.
Based on a range of criteria, the program has tentatively identified the countries of Zambia, Uganda and Kenya for stakeholder engagement and piloting of a draft toolkit. Following this piloting, the toolkit will be finalized in 2024 for broader uptake by stakeholders in Africa and beyond.
We encourage those interested in this work stream to reach out and engage with our team!