Member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) proposed over 3,700 regulations across sectors in 2016, with the food sector facing the maximum regulations – 39 percent of the total notifications issued at the WTO.
The other commodities covered by these proposed regulations included fuel, iron and steel and chemicals.
The regulations were proposed using two agreements of the WTO- the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
Ten countries, USA, Brazil, Israel, EU, South Korea, Chile, Kenya, Mexico, Uganda, Egypt, accounted for 50 per cent of the notifications under the TBT agreement. The food sector faced the maximum number of notifications under this agreement.
Under the SPS agreement, the top 10 countries included Canada, Brazil, USA, Japan, Chinese Taipei, European Union, India, Australia, South Korea and Philippines. The SPS agreement that covers only the food sector saw a number of notifications covering residue levels of pesticides on food.
Among the NAFTA countries Canada topped the list, but the US final rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) provides a comprehensive view of how the food sector will be regulated by the US. 2017 will mark the beginning of the compliance era under the FSMA in the US. Food exporters to the US will need to understand the exact nature of these rules to ensure that they are compliant with the new US laws and regulations.
In Canada, the new rule to keep a close watch will be the Food Labelling Modernization Initiative. While it is still at a consultative stage the proposal at the WTO indicates that the ingredients list, nutrition and health claims are most likely to garner maximum attention from the Canadian authorities.
In the European Union the food sector saw a major regulation covering endocrine disruptors. Under this, the European Commission has proposed to set scientific criteria in relation to endocrine disrupting properties for the approval of active substances for use in plant protection products. This notification is expected to have a major disruption in global trade to the EU.
In case of Australia, exporters have been a given a chance to respond to the Imported Food Control Regulations 1993 as the regulation is to be amended prior to the expiry in October 2018. This becomes important since Canberra has been issuing several notifications concerning various features of the Bio-Security Act of 2015. Industry has been given a transition period on certain provisions so that they are completely in sync with the new provisions.
Some of the ASEAN countries like Indonesia have also been amending the regulation concerning Food Safety Control on the Importation and Exportation of Fresh Food of Plant Origin. The new regulation lays down rules for food safety control and testing at points of entry.
South Korea has in 2016 issued notifications on food covering both horizontal and vertical standards. The issues covered range from labelling, contaminants, MRLs, animal diseases, certification, control and inspection, animal health, GMO, food additives, etc. China in the food sector has focused mostly on food additives in 2016.
The chemicals sector witnessed 64 notifications from NAFTA relating to Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), e-liquids, transportation system for liquids and slurries, hazardous materials, bulk storage and control of volatile organic compounds.
Overall, 2016 continued the trend of increasing use of non-tariff measures by countries to protect human, plant and animal life. There was a greater push towards harmonization, though in several places harmonization was limited to regions thereby posing difficulties for other countries to access markets.
Industry will need to keep a sharp look out for changes happening at a fast pace across sectors to ensure that trade remains robust.
(T S Vishwanath is with ASL. The Firm tracks regulations across the globe on a daily basis and provides insights and analysis to industry and other stakeholders)