Sanitary and Phytosanitary Management
The agricultural trade policy environment in which Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) operates changed significantly after 2000, when the United States began to pursue greater liberalization through bilateral, regional, and multilateral agreements.
In addition to implementing pre-existing trade agreements such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States has opened formal trade negotiations with over 20 countries. This trend supports USDA’s strategic objective of seeking new markets and outlets for U.S. agricultural goods to ensure future prosperity and growth in the farm sector.
However, each new regional and bilateral negotiation and agreement results in an increased demand on APHIS to respond to market access requests by foreign governments wanting to export their countries’ animal and plant products. And while these requests are consistent with the negotiating process, they nevertheless present unique challenges coming from developing countries which may lack the veterinary and plant health infrastructure sufficient to meet minimal safeguarding standards.
Recognizing these deficiencies has led to a renewed appreciation for foreign assistance focused on developing foreign technical capacity in the agriculture sector to support the "trade not aid"
agenda. Accordingly, as a world leader in animal and plant health protection, APHIS is called upon to assist developing countries in this area. At the same time, however, U.S. exporters of animal and plant health products are facing stricter Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) regulations abroad, prompting them to seek APHIS intervention to remove SPS hurdles that are politically motivated and are neither consistent with international standards nor based on sound science.
This new environment presents APHIS with new challenges. Most importantly is the challenge to APHIS’ safeguarding function. APHIS must protect U.S. agricultural and natural resources by ensuring that the risks of introducing exotic animal and plant pests and diseases are properly managed.
The second challenge is associated with the increasing demands placed upon APHIS to negotiate and resolve technical trade issues constraining movement of agricultural products. In this regard, SPS measures have become prominent, complex, and visible factors affecting U.S. trade relationships.
APHIS participates in resolving these regulatory difficulties for both U.S. export and foreign import market access requests.
A third important challenge is balancing the need for rigorous and defensible regulatory analyses while also making sound decisions in a timely manner. While APHIS has been criticized by some, including foreign trade partners, for the sometimes cumbersome and lengthy U.S. regulatory process, APHIS strives to improve its risk assessment and rulemaking procedures to address this challenge.
Last Modified: November 30, 2006