The tremendous growth in world trade, including food and other agricultural products have made most countries to tighten their sanitary and phytosanitary laws in the midst of food scares and the spread of pests and diseases which could result in significant losses running into the millions of dollars. The challenge has been how to ensure that these laws are not arbitrary and a disguised restriction on international trade.
The PACER Plus Parties are determined to strike a careful balance between the right of countries to adopt SPS measures to promote and protect human, animal, plant life and health and at the same time ensure that they do not unreasonably restrict trade between the Parties. In that regard, the Parties aim at following the disciplines in the WTO SPS Agreement, under which SPS measures can be adopted if there is adequate scientific justification for the measures. The adopted measures must not be arbitrary and should not be a disguised restriction on trade. They should be applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, ‘and should not unjustifiably discriminate between countries where identical or similar conditions prevail, including between the territory of the country imposing the measure and that of other countries.
Under the SPS Agreement, measures must conform to relevant international standards or the country adopting the measure must undertake appropriate risk assessments. Where an SPS measure ‘conforms to’ international standards, guidelines or recommendations, it shall be deemed to be necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, and presumed to be consistent with the SPS Agreement. Provisional SPS measures can be adopted in the absence of scientific evidence if such measures are ‘based on’ pertinent information related to the subject matter and if steps are taken to provide the scientific evidence within a reasonable period of time. The PACER Plus Parties aim at harmonizing their SPS measures or accepting each other’s measures as equivalent where the necessary conditions are fulfilled.
Given the significant costs for complying with the obligations under the SPS Chapter, the PACER Plus Parties have agreed that Australia and New Zealand will provide technical and financial assistance to the FICs so that they can implement their obligations under the SPS Chapter and improve their market access opportunities under the Agreement.