Australia and international plant protection

​​Australia is a party to a number of international treaties relating to the trade of goods that confer rights and obligations. As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Australia is obliged to ensure that sanitary (relating to human and animal health) and phytosanitary (relating to plant health) measures are based on science and applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health.

Under the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is recognised as the international organisation to set international standards for phytosanitary measures.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment works closely with state and territory governments and industry to implement international plant protection standards to protect Australia’s plant resources from harmful pests , while ensuring that the measures are justified and are not used as unjustified barriers to international trade.

International Plant Protection Convention

Australia is a contracting party to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), which is a multilateral treaty for cooperation in plant health and protection under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The goal of the IPPC is to protect the world's cultivated and natural plant resources from the spread and introduction of plant pests while minimising interference with the international movement of goods and people.

The IPPC recognises a 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 its principles of necessity, technical justification and transparency in regulating imports. The benefits to these parties include international trade agreements, standard setting, technical assistance and information exchange. More than 180 countries are signatory to the IPPC.

International Plant Protection Convention text  PDF [103 KB, 18 pages] —revised in 1997 and entered into force in October 2005.

Commission on Phytosanitary Measures

The IPPC is governed by the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM), which meets annually to promote cooperation to help implement the objectives of the IPPC. It has established the rules and procedures for the CPM and its subsidiary bodies, including the IPPC Standards Committee. In particular, the CPM:

  • reviews the state of plant protection around the world
  • identifies action to control the spread of pests into new areas
  • develops and adopts international standards
  • establishes rules and procedures for resolving disputes
  • establishes rules and procedures for the sharing of phytosanitary information
  • cooperates with international organisations on matters covered by the Convention.

International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures

International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) are developed through an agreed and defined process of draft development and member consultation, and in accordance with the legal framework established by the IPPC and the SPS Agreement.

Although the IPPC is a legally binding international agreement, the standards developed and adopted by the Convention are not. However, WTO members are required to base their phytosanitary measures on international standards developed within the framework of the IPPC.

Phytosanitary measures that conform to the ISPMs are presumed to be consistent with the relevant provisions of the SPS Agreement. Measures that are not based on international standards, or measures that exist in the absence of international standards, must be developed through the assessment of the risk to plant life or health, and m​​ust be based on scientific principles and evidence.

Emergency (or provisional) measures may be taken without such analyses, but must be reviewed for their scientific justification and modified accordingly to be legitimately maintained.

Australia's​ Fruit Fly pest free areas

Australia’s vast continent, regional environmental conditions and significant commitment and investment to the effective management of Mediterranean fruit fly and Queensland Fruit Fly provides for internationally recognised fruit fly pest free areas to facilitate trade of horticultural commodities susceptible to these pests.

Australia’s nationally coordinated approach to effectively manage and control these economically significant fruit flies and the biosecurity systems in place to maintain the freedom of central and eastern Australia from Mediterranean fruit fly and the established fruit fly free areas of Tasmania and the Riverland in South Australia. These include domestic controls and a national surveillance trapping network which are maintained in accordance with the relevant International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures.

Australian participation in international standards setting

Australia actively participates in international standards setting for plant health (phytosanitary) measures by contributing through international and regional organisations, such as :

Public consultation

Members of the public, particularly those with an interest in plant health technical matters, are invited by the Australian IPPC Secretariat to comment on draft ISPMs. As an international treaty, only contracting parties can provide comments on draft standards, so members of the public can only submit comments via the official Australian IPPC Secretariat.

All Australian comments on draft ISPMs must be submitted through the Australian IPPC Secretariat—see member consultation on draft ISPMs for information about the consultation process.

To get involved in international standard setting, contact the Australian Chief Plant Protection Office on 1800 900 090, by email or by mail:

Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
GPO Box 858
Canberra ACT 2601 ​​​​
Last reviewed: 9 November 2020
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