Prague, 15 April 2001
Dr Mike M o o r e
World Trade Organization
154, Rue de Lausanne
1211 Geneva 21
Re: Abolition of the WTO Agreement on Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
Dear Dr Moore,
many thanks for your letter of 16 March 2001 answering my letter of 31 January 2001 about the WTO Agreement on Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS). I should like to stress again that my letters refer only to "Sanitary measures" components of the SPS.
1) I should never write to you if the WTO itself would analyze negative impacts of the SPS, inform governments and apply adequate correcting actions ! I only fulfilled my moral duty, as former United Nations officer responsible for international animal health programmes, to inform you about alarming consequences of the SPS.
2) Apparently, you have other information than I have. I am convinced that in case of having complex true information on the SPS consequences, you would react differently.
3) I have been monitoring animal health and diseases development in the world for decades. Rapid worsening of animal health situation due to transmissible diseases spreading through international trade was the reason why I decided to write to International Office of Epizootics (OIE) in Paris. I was asking Director General of the OIE several times to stop implementing SPS anti-medical policy and to return to original role to protect consistently animal health, what the OIE was founded for. However, the SPS converted the OIE in a subordinate position to the WTO, which plays in this case decisive role and has basic responsibility for negative consequences of benevolent and risky international trade in animals and their products. This can be documented by the OIE Code, where you can find sentences such as: "The Code thus forms an integral part of the regulatory reference system established by the WTO."
4) Director General of the OIE wrote me in his letter of 16 January 2001: "I am not in a position to criticize, for diplomatic reasons... an Agreement supported by the governments of 135 countries." Therefore, I wrote myself to you as to Director General of the organization where the problem started !
5) My intention is to support the defense of global animal and human population health and the protection of results achieved in this field by all previous generations. The only tool I have is to warn relevant international organizations about catastrophic development of animal diseases situation in the world, to point out to main causes and to recommend solutions hoping in follow-up rectifying actions. I cannot do more. Rectification depends upon mentioned international organizations.
6) I should like to stress that my letter was prepared after very careful study of the WTO documents and official information reported by the country governments. The letter presented facts and t r u t h and not my personal impressions or imaginations. I cannot change the truth, which is independent of opinions of persons and organizations. The truth can be kept under wraps only for a short period. Your letter doesn't express any interest to take into serious consideration these facts and the truth.
7) It is not my personal invention that the SPS application has caused catastrophic negative consequences. This is objective fact. It is not my fault that the WTO and other international organizations involved have not presented to member country governments any sound analysis of the negative impacts of the SPS. Now, I understand better why the governments didn't receive, before the SPS approval, any analysis of expected disease spreading risks.
8) On the one hand veterinary services are able to recover health and save life of many diseased animals and on the other hand at the same time several times more animals become sick due to diseases spreading, mainly through international and national trade.
9) I have never called in question the formal procedure of the ratification of the SPS. I am concerned only with professional aspects, i.e. with negative impacts of the SPS application conducing to transmissible diseases spreading through legal international trade. This should not be concealed again as in 1994.
10) Your statement about the SPS doesn't correspond with its whole text. You mentioned that the SPS "recognizes the right of governments..". You didn't mention other words changing the sense, such as "provided that such measures are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Agreement.". The SPS becomes "transparent" when studying very carefully its text and its application through the OIE Code. Decisive criteria for the evaluation of any document of this type are the impacts of its practical implementation and not theory, impressions or unfounded opinions.
11) Analyzing rapidly worsening of animal health situation in the world, as never before, I found the SPS as the main causal factor negatively influencing other organizations and member country governments. The SPS started a "chain reaction" providing, for the first time in the history, legal framework conducing to benevolent risky trade officially admitting and even supporting diseases spreading.
12) SPS follow-up complex to "facilitate trade" at the expense of animal and human health consisted, inter alia, in:
a) as the consequence of the WTO/OIE Agreement, fundamental change of the OIE policy against its original function to protect rigorously animal health, what the OIE has been financed for; the SPS converted the OIE Code from useful recommendations into imposed obligatory benevolent, i.e. risky import conditions;
b) changes of international animal health information system which instead to provide more data to member countries (for "risk assessment") was reduced ad absurdum in comparison with before-SPS system: "blinding" importing country governments by deliberately concealing the grades of diseases occurrence and their dynamics in exporting countries; abolition of regular reporting cases "only in imported animals", etc.; devaluated information prevented many importing country governments from correct decisions on import conditions and measures;
c) theoretical "risk assessment" methodology confusing importing countries was "combined" with lack of necessary information for it; the SPS doesn't respect that there are also countries sending no reports (in 1999 about one fourth) or sending them irregularly or incomplete;
d) relative reduction of government veterinary services capacities to cope effectively with rapidly increasing requirements for disease control and health inspection of trade;
e) creating international atmosphere for accepting dangerous philosophy "trade first" while "quality, i.e. health, only second".
13) You have mentioned the developing countries. I am sorry to inform you that during 1995-2000 number of officially reported cases of disease introduction through international trade in animal commodities in developing countries was higher than in developed ones ! Developing countries reported also more cases of disease reintroduction. The reports of diseases "recognized in country for the first time" have similar proportion. During the same period animal commodity import in developing countries was only a half of size of developed countries import. A lot (it could be the majority) of newly introduced and spread diseases are becoming unmanageable, mainly in developing countries.
14) The question is not to "allow too much trade" or not. The problem is to allow and support fair trade based upon quality aspects, i.e. trade with "healthy animals" and "wholesome products". Unfortunately, these terms the SPS doesn't know at all.
15) You have mentioned foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)
16) United Kingdom has been known as the country
"number one" in the world as far as anti-FMD preparedness is
concerned, having world reference laboratory for the FMD, training thousands of
foreign fellows in veterinary epidemiology (Reading, Edinburgh), providing a lot
of international experts advising organizations and countries how to control
diseases, having veterinary service with above-average material, financial and
political support, having competent farmers, etc.. What about other countries,
firstly developing ones, where the conditions for disease control are by far
not so favorable
17) This FMD case has demonstrated once more enormous
complexity, diversity and dynamics of the diseases as biological phenomena,
which the SPS doesn't respect at all. This FMD case has shown once more the
difficulties to control introduced diseases. The FMD belongs among diseases
with clinical symptoms easier to detect in comparison with the majority of
important diseases. How many more examples of disease spreading through trade,
having also backfiring impact on global trade, the WTO needs to start
rectifying its policy in this field
18) You are right that in the past there were also diseases outbreaks. However, the conditions for diseases spreading were different (trade of minor size and intensity, shorter distances, smaller number of origin and destination places, etc.) and consequences were not so dramatic as today. Country governments could decide without outside dictate. That time no one international organization was officially admitting or even supporting disease spreading through international trade as today the WTO through its SPS. This is fundamental difference !
19) You write "The SPS Agreement now provides
a forum for governments to discuss appropriate responses to such disease
outbreaks". Such forum is nothing new. There are also other
organizations, the FAO and the OIE, dealing for decades with animal disease
outbreaks of international importance and providing forum for governments to
discuss responses to such situation. Similarly, the WHO deals with outbreaks of
animal diseases transmissible to man. I am now confused. Which organization
is the responsible one for global animal health policy and for the
consequences of disease spreading through international trade
20) It seems that the WTO is not interested to know SPS consequences (often irreparable) of animal and human health, ecological, economical and social character. I cannot believe that you would support man-made spreading of diseases, including transmissible to man, through legal international trade.
21) Consequences of the introduction, reintroduction and first appearance of diseases in a country are generally known. To import them is easy, however to discover them in time and to control them is difficult; to eradicate them is not always possible. What about the losses and other consequences including negative impact on future export ? What about poor developing countries having not yet government veterinary services to be able to cope with new situation and defend their territory ? Government veterinary services are weak when comparing them with rapidly increasing trade requirements. In some countries, mainly developing ones, these services instead to be strengthened, were reduced due to pressure from other international organizations. In some countries these services are able to carry out only administrative tasks and not to control effectively the diseases and to create health conditions for export.
22) The SPS asks countries for risk assessment, however the WTO doesn't carry out the risk assessment of its own SPS policy. The SPS asks for scientific justifications of import conditions, however the WTO ignores scientific justification of the SPS not respecting the reality, facts and the difference between theory and practice.
23) It is obvious that "the WTO Secretariat itself has no authority to either create or abolish internationally developed agreements such as the SPS Agreement" and that "WTO Members alone may make such a decision, on consensus basis." However, the Secretariat can act immediately, i.e. to inform the Member countries about critical situation suggesting adequate rectifying solution. Emergency calls for immediate practical actions ! From your letter I understand that the WTO, instead of reconsidering and change its policy in this particular field, will continue to apply the same strategy as up to the present, irrespective of accumulated experience.
24) International organizations should cooperate to be able to assist member countries as best as possible. Cooperation (including an eventual new agreement) between the WTO and the OIE as two inter-government organizations will be welcome, but only if based upon the principle "quality first", in our case "health first"; trade yes but only with healthy animals and wholesome products, i.e. with pathogen free commodities. In this case the WTO could play very important role when supporting health protection and disease control programmes to achieve the best possible sanitary quality of exporting commodities and thus to facilitate the trade.
25) The WTO has other documents for international trade policy applicable on all commodities including animals and their products. The superfluous and damaging SPS, contributing to diseases spreading, has needlessly complicated international trade. For animal health aspects of animal commodities trade, the OIE Code will be sufficient when no more admitting diseases spreading and after updating to fit to the new conditions !
26) Let the country governments to decide themselves,
respecting WTO general principles of fair trade and following OIE
recommendations as before the SPS, i.e. freely, without any dictate from
I am sorry to conclude that your letter didn't invalidate a single argument or statement I wrote in my letter of 31 January 2001 !
It is up to you to what extent my arguments will be considered and recommendations implemented.
May I ask you to send copies of my both letters to all member country governments for information and comments ? I think that this will be fair step in the right direction.
Primum non nocere !
Prof. Dr Vaclav K o u b a , DrSc.
Former Chief, Animal Health Service,
Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations
P.B. 516, 17000 Praha 7