Australia’s international biosecurity obligations

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources conducts risk analyses consistent with Australia’s international biosecurity obligations including those unde​r the:

  • World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement)
  • International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)
  • World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
  • World Health Organization (WHO).

The SPS Agreement

The basic obligations of the SPS Agreement are that SPS measures must:

  • be based on a risk assessment appropriate to the circumstances or drawn from standards developed by the OIE or the IPPC
  • only be applied to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health
  • be based on science
  • not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between WTO members, or be a disguised restriction on trade.

An SPS measure is applied to protect human, animal or plant life or health from the biosecurity risks arising from pests or diseases or, to limit the economic and environmental impact. SPS measures include any legislation, requirements or procedures developed for this purpose which may directly or indirectly affect international trade.

Notification obligations

Under the transparency provisions of the SPS Agreement, WTO members are required, among other things, to notify other members of proposed sanitary or phytosanitary regulations, or changes to existing regulations that are not substantially the same as the content of an international standard and that may have a significant effect on trade of other WTO members.

International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)

The IPPC is a multilateral treaty for cooperation in plant health and protection under the auspices of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The IPPC addresses plant health protection by the establishment and use of international standards to meet phytosanitary needs.

The Convention recognises countries’ right to use phytosanitary measures to regulate imports of plants, plant products and objects that may harbour plant pests. Parties to the IPPC have obligations to comply with the Convention’s principles of necessity, technical justification and transparency in regulating imports.

Read more about the IPPC on their official website.

World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)

The OIE is the WTO reference organisation for standards relating to animal health and zoonoses. The OIE regularly updates its international standards as new scientific information comes to light, following its established transparent and democratic procedures. The SPS Agreement encourages the members of the WTO to base their sanitary measures on international standards, guidelines and recommendations, where they exist.

Read more about the OIE on their official website.

The World Health Organization (WHO)

The International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) were established by the WHO to prevent, protect against, control and respond to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade. As a Member State of WHO and a signatory to the IHR, Australia upholds the standards and values of the IHR in protecting public health.

Read more about WHO on their official website.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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