Stakeholders attend three-day WTO workshop for improving agricultural trade
September 12, 2014

Stakeholders attend three-day WTO workshop for improving agricultural trade

Following the execution of a three-day workshop funded by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), it is expected that there will be an improvement in sanitary and phytosanitary measures within local agricultural trade.{{more}}

The workshop, which was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Commerce and Information Technology, took place from Monday, September 8 to Wednesday, September 10, catering to government officials and private sector stakeholders.

Workshop facilitator Anneke Hamilton – economic affairs officer with the Agriculture and Commodities Division of the WTO – said that the workshop aimed to teach participants about the tools provided by the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Agreement (SPS Agreement), how to best use them, the specific rights and obligations, and how to address SPS issues in company trade.

“Part of the objective of this workshop also was to allow you to directly discuss your national agriculture and safety issues, and identify some of these SPS issues being faced – with a view to identifying solutions,” said Hamilton.

The SPS Agreement is an international treaty that was enforced by the WTO in 1995. It sets constraints on the policies of member countries that relate to food safety and animal and plant health (phytosanitary), with respect to imported pests and diseases.

Hamilton said that the workshop was conducted through presentations, interactive group exercises and group discussions, and expressed her hope that this format was sufficient in clearly relating the particulars of the SPS Agreement.

Ashley Cain, agricultural diversification officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, also attended the workshop – describing it as one that encouraged learning, questioning and further exploration.

“Training such as this one, in terms of content and information that has been provided, will put us as a country… in a position where we can better understand SPS related issues, and make policy and other practical decisions, so that we meet the requisite standards internationally,” explained Cain.

“The benefits of that would be an improved agriculture, better standard of living and sustainability of our agricultural industry though time.”

He praised Hamilton for facilitating such an “engaging” workshop; pointing out that the positive way in which participants responded to it was a testimony to Hamilton’s “enthusiasm for the subject at hand.”

Cain further noted that the challenge now for participants is to expand on what they have learnt, and broaden their knowledge of SPS measures/best practices, so that they can be applied in practice to the local agricultural trade.

Hamilton expressed deep gratitude to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all other authorities involved for their “tremendous support” in coordinating the workshop. She also thanked participants for their enthusiasm and attention, acknowledging that SPS related matters are not the easiest to tackle.

“I hope that the information gained… will further assist you in supporting your country’s implementation of SPS…”

The workshop was held in two segments, with the facilitator catering to government officials from September 8 – 9, and private sector stakeholders on September 10. The closing ceremony also took place on Wednesday, September 10.

Three international organisations set the standards for the SPS Agreement that the WTO enforces. Namely, Codex Alimentarius Commission, World Organization for Animal Health, and the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention.(JSV)