International Trade and Animal Health
Over the past year, the Food Safety Network has partnered with Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services to develop an online learning module covering topics related to animal health and emergency preparedness and response. To commemorate this work, the Food Safety Network is releasing a series of blogs focused on select topics discussed within this online learning module. This blog is the second in a six-part series and focuses on the topic of International Trade and Animal Health.
Foreign animal diseases are a looming threat to countries around the world, due to their potential for significantly impacting animal health, production and trade. Rapid control and eradication of any identified foreign animal disease is necessary to protect the long-term success of a country’s animal agriculture sector. With global markets expanding, animal production practices intensifying and infectious pathogens continuing to evolve, these challenges have made a distinct impact on how we develop and implement national animal health systems, including risk-based animal health legislation to safeguard against animal disease incursions. From the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the development of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) and the role of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the international community has made numerous advances over the past decades in creating legislation and initiating standards that prioritize improving global animal health and safeguarding trade.
Benefits and Challenges of International Trade
Throughout human history, the desire to trade has always existed and can greatly benefit individuals and countries. First, trade gives people access to goods they may not otherwise be able to get themselves. Second, producing a commodity that a country can sell to others provides an additional pipeline of currency. As a result, international trade increases the overall wealth of a country.
Although trade is mutually beneficial to both trading partners, it is not without its challenges. Sometimes, trading partners are interested in protecting their national markets from outside competition. To protect national markets, sometimes countries will impose trade barriers, such as tariffs, or import quotas. These practices make imported goods more expensive or limit their supply, creating an unfair advantage for domestically produced goods. It might appear that import restrictions would promote healthy national economies and internal stability; however, these policies often have a negative effect on consumers by increasing the overall price of goods and reducing choice in the marketplace.
Establishment of the WTO and the SPS Agreement
In 1995, the WTO was established to address the needs and challenges associated with international trade and market liberalization in the modern era. One of the first orders of business for the group was to address non-tariff trade barriers and agricultural trade. Their collaborative efforts resulted in the development of the SPS Agreement, which outlines basic rules for measures intended to protect human, animal and plant health. These measures should be based on internationally agreed guidelines and recommendations, as well as be technically justified and based on an assessment of risk. To summarize, the SPS Agreement allows countries to protect themselves from unwanted pests or disease agents that could harm human, plant or animal health, but not in ways that unfairly restrict trade.
The transparency provisions in the SPS Agreement are designed to ensure that measures are made known to both domestic and international stakeholders. Because new requirements must be published promptly, and other members can request an explanation of the reasons for new requirements, trading partners experience much less uncertainty than they would in the absence of such rules. Uncertainty can arise when requirements are not transparent, are not based on risk or scientific evidence or are applied in a discriminatory manner. By providing risk assessment guidance and a formal means through which disputes can be resolved, the WTO and SPS Agreement encourages members to base requirements on science and to apply them consistently among all trading partners. Trade relationships are more stable when trade policies are established within international standards to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably, and freely as possible. For this reason, the international agricultural trade community benefits when countries adhere to the WTO and SPS Agreement.
The OIE is the intergovernmental organization responsible for improving animal health worldwide. Formerly the Office International des Epizooties, the OIE was created to fight animal diseases at the global level. The OIE was formed by an international agreement on January 25, 1924, with 28 member countries.
Under the WTO/SPS Agreement, the OIE is recognized as the international standard-setting organization for animal health. The main objectives of the OIE are:
- Scientific information
- International solidarity
- Sanitary safety
- Promotion of veterinary services
- Food safety and animal welfare
One of the primary missions of the OIE is to provide international standards for animal health to safeguard the trade of animals and animal products. The main standard-setting documents are: the Terrestrial Animal Health Code, the Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals, the Aquatic Animal Health Code and the Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals. The animal health standards and recommendations in the codes and the manuals should be used by the veterinary authorities of member countries to provide for early detection, reporting and control of agents that are pathogenic to animals or humans, and to prevent their transfer via international trade in animals and animal products, while avoiding unjustified sanitary barriers to trade.
While the SPS Agreement is the foundation upon which all agricultural trade policy with respect to food safety and animal and plant health is based, the OIE specifically translates the key concepts of the SPS Agreement pertaining to animal health into international guidelines for the safe trade of animals and animal products. Recognizing the interconnectedness of the WTO, the SPS Agreement and the OIE is vital to understanding the safeguards, policies and practices put into place to maintain global animal health while supporting international trade efforts.
Want to learn more about the concept of animal health? Check out our free, self-paced, online Animal Health Learning Module, which explores the evolution of the United States surveillance process, the value of a modern surveillance system and emergency response process, international trade and animal health, import risk analysis, risk management and risk communication, emergency preparedness and response, and concludes with a case study that allows learners to walk through a fictional country’s response to an African Swine Fever outbreak. Visit http://www.spscourses.com today to sign up for a free account and access this module and so much more!