To become a full-fledged member of the WTO, Uzbekistan must bring its rules and regulations into alignment with all existing WTO agreements. One of these Agreements is key in ensuring that a country’s consumers are being supplied with food that is ‘safe’ to eat: the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures sets out the basic rules in the WTO on how governments can apply food safety, animal and plant health measures without creating unnecessary obstacles to trade.
This Agreement navigates between 2 key considerations in international trade: ensuring that SPS measures adopted nationally have a legitimate objective and that they conform with a key set of rules and criteria commonly agreed by all WTO Members, ensuring that health and safety regulations are not being used as an excuse for protecting domestic producers.
To help Uzbekistan’s policy makers and technical regulators better understand this Agreement and its implications, the European Union project’s ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’ and implemented by the International Trade Centre, organized a series of webinar trainings on SPS measures between November 2020 to February 2021 for government officials, and representatives of the State Plants Quarantine Inspection (Uzstatequarantine in short).
Particular emphasis was placed on guidelines and methodologies of international bodies on Pest Risk Analysis (PRA). Specific recommendations in that sense were made to help Uzbek officials improve and complement the existing national legislation. In addition, technical assistance was also focused on reviewing plant health/quarantine legislation with a view of providing recommendations on legislative amendments that were discussed with the national counterparts. The capacities of the SPS-related institutions have been also built with regarding to phytosanitary treatment (disinfection and application of alternative methyl bromide fumigants, phytosanitary treatment methods in organic agriculture) and recommendation on its further development.
As a result of this series of trainings, participants delved deeper into specific aspects of applying measures and international requirements on food safety in accordance with the WTO Agreement on SPS. Participants expressed their gratitude for the productive and practical nature of the webinars held. As one of the participants stated: “I was able to get the information I needed about the role of the PRA, which I will be able to use in my everyday work.”
Safeguarding food safety, animal and plant health measures on the basis of the WTO SPS Agreement should boost the export of Uzbek food products by improving foreign trade-related practices and consumers’ trust. Likewise, by regulating quarantine measures, it will be easier to protect Uzbek’s internal market from the intrusion of harmful food products through the borders which may actually threaten the health and safety of the population.