58 Trade in animal and plant products is facilitated in accordance with international rules and guidelines. The WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement 6 is the most important of these and requires that any sanitary measures that are applied to imported animal and plant products are based on science and risk assessment.
59 The SPS Agreement is underpinned by the work of international standards setting agencies. The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) and its subsidiary bodies, the Office Infectious Epizooties (OIE) 7 and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), set international standards for animal and plant product safety. It is a priority for MAF and NZFSA to influence the multilateral standard setting processes to benefit New Zealand. MAF and NZFSA must work strategically within the CAC/OIE/IPPC environment to achieve the best outcomes for New Zealand.
60 MAF and NZFSA have a role in ensuring standards set by OIE, CAC and IPPC are complementary and address animal and plant product safety issues throughout the food chain. NZFSA is heavily involved with a range of Codex committees 8 and manages the overall Codex relationship. Relationships with the OIE and IPPC sub-committees are managed by Biosecurity NZ reflecting the focus of these sub-committees. MAF and NZFSA have a primary role in negotiating market access requirements (covering safety and suitability) for animal and plant products, and providing the official assurances to governments of importing countries through health certification.
61 International trade relies on consistent application of the principles of the WTO SPS Agreement to ensure that health-based requirements are risk-based, proportionate to the specific risks involved and do not create unnecessary technical barriers to trade.
62 It is a key priority for New Zealand, and to our standing as a principled trader, that trade is treated as a 'two way street'. This means that MAF and NZFSA must:
- apply international trade agreements and protocols for both imported and exported animal and plant products in a consistent manner
- ensure all standards and legislation affecting trade in animal and plant products (regardless of which Government department administers them), are risk based and proportionate to risk; are consistent with international obligations and in particular the principles of the SPS Agreement, and
- establish and maintain effective liaison with other government agencies.
63 Inconsistent application of the principles of the WTO SPS Agreement by our trading partners to animal and plant products from New Zealand creates unnecessary compliance costs and/or barriers to trade for New Zealand industry and exporters. MAF and NZFSA must continue to challenge unjustified bilateral trade requirements and ensure effective international representation of New Zealand interests. MAF and NZFSA must also ensure that legislation that they administer is aligned with and does not contradict these international obligations.
64 The reciprocal of this is that MAF and NZFSA (and other Government departments) should be following the same principles and a risk-based approach for imports of animal and plant products and other risk goods and not be putting in place unnecessary barriers to trade.
65 In short, trading partners expect that the conditions NZ seeks for import into foreign countries will be reciprocated in terms of their exports to NZ. By implication, there is need for extraordinarily close co-operation and involvement between the work of NZFSA in relation to exports and the work of Biosecurity in relation to imports.
66 The need for consistency in the design and application of the regulatory framework applies not only to the import and export of food and related products, but also to domestic food. The credibility of NZ's regulatory regime depends on being able to demonstrate that the standards applied to domestic food production are no less stringent than those applying to imported food. Moreover, being able to demonstrate the efficacy of domestic food safety regulation is important when it comes to negotiating trade agreements for the export of NZ food and related products. The strength of New Zealand's negotiating position is based on international standards, the robustness of New Zealand's own standards and the integrity of our programmes and their administration.
6 The formal title for the SPS Agreement is the "Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures"
7 OIE is also known as the World Animal Health Organisation and it deals with diseases of animals that are transmissible to humans. OIE sets standards for international trade in animals and animal products.
8 Codex Committee on Nutrition and Food for Special Dietary Interests, Codex Committee of Food Additives and Contaminants and the Codex Committee on Food Labelling.