Globalization has connected us all in a complex web of trade and travel, allowing consumers everywhere to access goods of the best quality at the optimal price. It has been particularly helpful for developing countries, which have taken advantage of their resources and inexpensive labor to produce exports that have lifted untold millions in their countries out of poverty. But trade comes with risk, and ensuring that risks are minimal when trading in animals and animal products is paramount. Fortunately there is an excellent system for determining those risks (stay tuned)!
As trading and travel increases, won't it require regulations? Who will do that? Shall we just ask the WORLD GOVERNMENT?
Sorry, can’t do that because there is NO WORLD GOVERNMENT. Help! Help! We are all co-existing in a state of anarchy! Well, not really.
Fortunately, there are a number of Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) that help to organize how countries interact each with each other. These IGOs have become increasingly important as the world becomes globalized and international trade proceeds apace. Back in the 1930’s, we didn’t really need any, but today, there are approximately 400 IGOs, each of which consists of a TREATY or CONVENTION that all member countries sign, agreeing, to abide by the standards they created by consensus.
Well, the United Nations (UN) has to be number one. Then the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a close second. If you said World Health Organization (WHO) or Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), those are also good, but guess what, both of those are actually parts of the UN.
THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION (WTO)
The World Trade Organization, a VERY LARGE IGO, launched in 1995, set the international “guidelines” for trade. Their goal, as clearly stated on their website, is to ensure that every single WTO member be treated as a “most-favored nation” in trading, and that governments not be allowed to unfairly stop trade. However, in their wisdom, they realized that they needed some specific guidelines, to ensure that plants and animals remained healthy. So the WTO framers created a very simple document, the SPS, or “Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures”, which spelled out in general terms what a country had to do to ensure that particular products traded were disease free. They sent this document to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and asked them to craft detailed STANDARDS which could be used for more granular assessment of trade. In response, the OIE produced Codes and Manuals, a total of 2,800 pages, describing in great detail how a VS should work and how to provide proof of freedom from specific diseases. It is these 2,800 pages of standards that the trade specialists (or each VS) use to determine if another country’s animals or products can enter.
To be a member of an IGO, a country has to apply, and when it is accepted it agrees to abide by the rules for mutual benefit of all members. The new country will enjoy benefits of being a member, such as having improved trade. All member countries pay annual dues, and each country sends their government representative. The IGO is run as an independent entity, with all member countries deliberating together. Most IGOs work on a basis of consensus. Once they decide what the rules are, members are EXPECTED to follow these rules.
It is all based on HANDSHAKES.
If a country doesn't follow the rules, it will suffer financial losses as other countries can then apply sanctions. Remember, there is no world government, no global legal system per se, so nobody can go to jail, but the sanctions create significant financial losses, which equates to a big penalty for the transgressing country.
It's the World Organisation for Animal Health. It still goes by the acronym OIE, for Office International des Epizooties, its old name. The OIE has 182 member countries which agree to abide by the terms regarding trade in food animals. Countries also agree to voluntarily report any new disease or health problem that arises in their herds or flocks.
The OIE has already established how to assess animal health, and this is recorded in the Codes and Manuals and also in multiple databases found on the OIE website.
The CVO (remember, that stands for Chief Veterinary Officer) is each country’s representative to the OIE, and the CVO is responsible for reporting to the OIE every six months about all the diseases that are present in the country. The CVO is also known as the OIE Delegate. And, if a new disease appears, the CVO is obliged to notify the OIE within 24 hours. The OIE then disseminates this information to all member countries.
So, now if a company in Country A wants to buy special goats from a company in Country B, that company would contact the VS in Country A and ask for a thorough assessment of goat health and the capabilities of VS in Country B. If the VS of Country A gives a heads-up that all is good, then the trading can proceed. (Yes, this is a little bit of a simplification, but it gives you the flavor.)
If the VS in Country A says no, we will not allow this because the situation of animal health in Country B is not "up to snuff", Country B COULD take this to the World Trade Organization to complain. That has happened before and here is what happened….
An example of a dispute at the WTO between the US and Europe involved American use of hormones in cattle. Europe planned to ban American beef because Europe claimed this practice was unsafe. The US did not agree and went to the WTO claiming the ban would be unfair. The US showed that it can be proven scientifically that this use of hormones was entirely safe. However, Europe refused to accept this proof. The WTO said too bad, we’re siding with the US on this one. As a result, the US ended up placing extra import taxes on European goods, which led to financial losses to the Europeans.
Go to the OIE website, www.oie.int, and find the Codes and Manuals. You can click on the gray box, “Standards and International Trade”. Have a very brief look at all the information contained in these extensive volumes. We’ll focus for now on Chapter 1 of the Terrestrial Animal Health Code – peruse this chapter lightly and then answer the following questions:
1. Chapter 1.1 - The CVO has a responsibility to report diseases to the OIE – how often and under what circumstances?
2. Chapter 1.3 - Approximately how many diseases must be reported annually (presence or absence)? Name a few.