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The development of livestock production is acknowledged to be necessary by the governments of most countries in the Caribbean region, to diversify agricultural production in the face of growing demand for food products of animal origin, mainly resulting from the expansion in tourism. The countries of the Caribbean are therefore required to facilitate the import of products and genetic material while at the same time ensuring that their own herds remain in good health.

In order to help the countries involved to adapt to this new context, the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) held a seminar in Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago) from 9 to 11 December 1997 on safeguarding animal health in trade in the Caribbean. The World Trade Organization (WTO), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) all contributed to the seminar.

The seminar was funded by the OIE, the French Ministry of Cooperation, the WTO (through a support fund from the Netherlands) and the IICA.

Inaugurated by The Honourable Dr Reeza Mohammed, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources of Trinidad and Tobago, the seminar was attended by 29 animal health service officials from 22 countries or territories, and 9 representatives from 6 international and regional organisations.

The aim of the seminar was to provide detailed information to the above-mentioned officials on the new health rules that now apply as a result of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures of the WTO (known as the SPS Agreement), to ensure that they take them into account when amending their national regulations.

The first part of the seminar included a description of the WTO’s role and operational procedures, focusing in particular on the SPS Agreement, as well as the OIE’s role in the harmonisation of the health requirements applying to international trade in animals and animal products.

The participants went on to examine, by means of presentations and discussions, all of the factors that need to be taken into account as soon as a trade flow is likely to be established: surveillance and notification of animal diseases, design and implementation of preventive health programmes, and health risk analyses associated with imports. Concerning this last point, special attention was paid to the different methods of evaluating specific product risks and of evaluating Veterinary Services.

During a special workshop held as part of the seminar, participants were able to compare their experiences and difficulties concerning imports and exports and to consider priority actions and solutions for reducing to a minimum the health barriers to trade at regional level, while respecting the SPS Agreement.

Several recommendations were made in concluding the seminar:

  • that Caribbean countries should make a commitment to working towards updating and harmonising national animal health regulations that apply to international trade to bring them in line with the SPS Agreement;

  • that a network of national veterinary diagnostic laboratories and regional reference laboratories be built in the Caribbean region;

  • that a list of priority problems in animal health for the Caribbean countries be drawn up, and a document addressing these problems using risk analysis methods be developed for discussion within the region;

  • that the competent organisations should spearhead and coordinate these efforts at regional level, in particular by holding regular consultation meetings with the heads of animal health services;

  • that the competent international and regional organisations, in particular the WTO, OIE, FAO, IICA and PAHO/WHO should provide technical assistance to Caribbean countries in order to promote activities pertaining to the harmonisation of health regulations and the control of animal diseases;

  • that international and regional donor organisations should pay attention to the needs of Caribbean countries with regard to the diagnosis, surveillance and preventive treatment of animal diseases, as well as to border health controls on live animals and animal products.

The OIE, the world organisation for animal health, was created in 1924 and has its headquarters in Paris. It brings together 147 countries, Delegates from which form an “International Committee”, and is based on the work of four specialised Commissions and five regional Commissions. Its task is to inform and advise the Veterinary Services of its Member Countries in order to contribute to the eradication of the most dangerous animal diseases for animals and humans and to determine the health standards for international trade.

Paris, 11 December 1997

Contact : Maria Zampaglione