Written by: Mallory Gaines | January 14, 2021
Hang around the American Feed Industry Association international trade team long enough and you will hear “SPS issues,” “SPS barriers to trade” and “more commitment to SPS in trade negotiations” pretty frequently. Gina Tumbarello and I love throwing around the acronym “SPS!” Many of you may ask, “what does SPS mean and how can SPS issues or barriers affect AFIA members?” I look forward to a challenge, so here we go on a blog journey about SPS measures and why they matter to the feed industry.
Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures, or “SPS,” are sanitary (human and animal health) and phytosanitary (plant health) measures that are laws, regulations, standards and procedures that governments implement to protect human, animal and plant health. Specifically, the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement)
“allows governments to act on trade in order to protect human, animal or plant life or health, provided they do not discriminate or use this as disguised protectionism.”
That last part, “disguised protectionism,” is where we often run into trouble.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) created the SPS Agreement in 1995 to solve the problem of maintaining food safety for consumers when different countries have different standards or ideas of what is “safe.” The SPS Agreement outlines the basic rules for food safety and animal and plant health. They rely on the standard-setting bodies of the Codex Alimentarius for food safety, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) for animal health and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) for plant health to determine the international level of “acceptable” safety. However, SPS measures can be used inappropriately to protect domestic producers, causing trade barriers for others trying to import into that country.
An example of protectionist SPS measures that impact the animal food industry is when animal feed or pet food containing ruminant ingredients are not allowed into a country because of BSE (i.e., mad cow disease) concerns, even though the OIE has already given the United States a “negligible risk” status for the foreign animal disease. There is no scientific explanation why U.S. ruminant-based materials and products would not be safe to consume for nonruminant animals or pets.
This brings us back to why we tout science-based SPS measures in trade agreements. The stronger the language around SPS measures, upholding the WTO SPS Agreement or commitment to science-based standards and regulations, the stronger U.S. trade agreements can be. It aligns us with our trading partners and solidifies our commitment to science over public perception at an international level. It allows us to battle the protectionist SPS measures from being put in place or for their removal.
The U.S. animal feed and pet food industry is innovative; we want our members to have every opportunity to grow their business, export their products and do their part to feed a growing human and pet population. Agreement between countries on SPS measures is foundational for a productive and long-term trading relationship. So, join us in learning to love the acronym “SPS!”