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The WTO's regional seminar on sanitary and phytosanitary measures a success in Taiwan


A decade after being granted membership by the World Trade Organization (WTO), Taiwan (under the designated title "Chinese Taipei") became the host of the “2012 Pan-Asia SPS Training and Seminar,” a four-day event that focused on the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS). The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ), a subsidiary agency of the Council of Agriculture (COA),was appointed the main organizer of the seminar that took place on Nov. 6-9, 2012.

The WTO Secretariat, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CODEX) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) were all represented at the event in Taipei, which also featured keynote presentations by pest control experts from New Zealand, Lithuania and the Netherlands. Altogether, 47 officials from 17 WTO member nations in the Asia-Pacific region, including Singapore, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, received intense SPS training during the four-day multinational affair.

The importance of the SPS Agreement

The concept and practices outlined in the SPS Agreement are used to guide agricultural trade policies and border control around the world. Given the ever-increasing volumes of international trade in fresh produce and fruits, more steps need to be taken to ensure that imported products are free of pest harm and bacterial infection, for the introduction of an invasive species would otherwise disrupt local agricultural productions, threaten the eco-systems in place and pose a serious threat to human health. In light of this issue, the SPS treaty was formally ratified by the WTO in 1995 as a multi-nation framework for handling agricultural imports. The same year, the WTO also expanded the jurisdiction of its affiliated groups responsible for overseeing international food safety standards – namely the OIE, the CODEX and the IPPC, the three organizations that now monitor and review SPS guidelines. To facilitate the adoption of uniform standards among its member nations, the Geneva-headquartered WTO also began a series of international seminars aimed at distributing information and providing technical assistance. The impact of the trade organization's ongoing efforts are reflected in the strengthened protection of human health, the preservation of flora and fauna diversity as well as the overall sustainability of our environment.

Taiwan to comply with the WTO’s standards

In accordance to President Ma Ying-jeou's two groundwork policies, "Golden Decade" and "LOHAS Agriculture," the COA has been actively implementing programs relating to agricultural sustainability, environmental protection and food safety inspection and quality management. More importantly, the Council hopes to advance the nation's global status through the participation of international events such as the WTO's World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, which provides a valuable platform for Taiwan to discuss relevant issues with trade partners and to extend invitations for top WTO officials to visit the island. By enhancing the nation's foreign presence and hosting world-class seminars, the COA has been able to steadily enhance Taiwan's agricultural edge, solidify international friendships and forge trade ties, all of which play important roles in securing a sustainable future for our nation.

Closer pan-Asia cooperation is the key to regional prosperity

With the majority of the group placing among the top ten purchasers of Taiwanese agricultural products, Asian-Pacific nations have always been close trade partners with Taiwan and crucial in the exchange of fresh produce, production skills and human resources. Given the stable economic and political status quo of the region, the vast array of territory and the similarities between cultures and climates, Asia should bank on closer interregional partnerships and collaborate for a common brighter future, the COA pointed out, adding that the honor of being selected as the host nation of the "2012 Pan-Asia SPS Training and Seminar" also reflects the WTO's acknowledgement of Taiwan’s upgraded SPS capabilities. The Council pledged to continue its endeavors in strengthening relations with foreign SPS experts, improving food safety standards and boosting the nation's agricultural trade volume.