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OIE discusses role of veterinary services in global trade

Veterinary services play critical role in facilitating international trade of animals and animal products by preventing spread of diseases.

Access to international markets is very important for the economy of many countries. When it comes to the trade of live animals or animal products, in addition to economic drivers, several aspects come into play, including, potential risks of disease transmission or questions linked to animal welfare, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

This can create barriers to trade, which should be justified in accordance with international regulatory frameworks, OIE said. Understanding and complying with international regulatory frameworks for trade is an important development pathway for countries participating in international trade.

Trust and confidence between the veterinary services of trading partners are key factors for the safety and fairness of trade, OIE said. These must be developed and maintained throughout the entire trade process on the basis of three pillars: transparency, good governance and the quality of veterinary services.

The "OIE Technical Item for 2020" discusses the role and activities of veterinary services as a critical feature of safety and fairness of trade and reveals challenges and some examples of best practices, OIE said in an announcement. Additionally, it details the benefits of international regulatory cooperation for veterinary services that currently engage in or aspire to expand trade activities.

The findings result from a qualitative analysis of OIE member experiences that were gathered through interviews and different data sources, from the World Trade Organization as well as from OIE, notably the PVS Pathway mission reports, the official status and self-declaration of health status.

Veterinary services contribute to a safe and conducive environment for trade operations, with a complex role in the international trade of animals and animal products that requires a wide range of legal, institutional, technical, collaborative and policy competencies, according to OIE. Today, in the face of varying international trade regulations, along with the opportunities and common difficulties encountered, it is crucial to ensure that national veterinary services understand and are well prepared to fulfil their role.

OIE said its capacity development role for veterinary services provides the support required by its members to enable participation in international rules-based systems for safe trade in animals and animal products.

International safe trade rules

International regulatory frameworks exist to find a common basis of dialogue and facilitate negotiations between exporting and importing parties. These frameworks contribute to finding agreement on requirements that are “fit for purpose” and help avoid the creation of inappropriate and unnecessary barriers to trade, OIE said.

Among them, OIE International Standards provide recommendations on the sanitary measures necessary to ensure the safe trade of animals and animal products. These evidenced-based standards are adopted by all OIE members and are recognized as references for WTO.

Constraints

OIE said the technical report constructs an in-depth analysis on the challenges facing veterinary services in relation to imports and exports across all phases of the trade process: before trade commences, the negotiation process and when trade is occurring. The major constraints identified for export are related to insufficient veterinary service technical capacity and training, in addition to limited infrastructure for diagnostic testing and surveillance and inappropriate legal frameworks.

Therefore, it remains essential for countries to continue building accurate capacities for these services.

Among the presented solutions, OIE said better engagement with the private sector through public/private partnerships is a good practice that can strengthen a country’s capacity to export.

OIE initiatives for trade

The findings were also used to develop recommendations that will improve the delivery of OIE’s capacity development program for the benefit of OIE members. Three activities were identified as key to move forward: the OIE PVS Pathway, the OIE Observatory and the OIE Training Platform.

  • The PVS Pathway for the sustainable improvement of veterinary services allows for the identification of strengths and areas for improvement of national veterinary services and recommends solutions specifically adapted to each country's context. This mechanism, created more than a decade ago, has been upgraded recently to better respond to country-specific needs, OIE added.
  • The OIE Observatory will analyze the ways OIE standards are used with the aim of better understanding the challenges members face and how to better accompany them through different capacity-building programs. The data collected will provide a solid basis on which to build a common language among members, particularly in international trade. The technical report emphasized that the OIE Observatory can serve as an overarching analytical mechanism for the data and intelligence members receive through multiple channels.
  • The OIE Platform for the Training of Veterinary Services was created in 2018 to assist in reform of the OIE training system. This platform, together with its training portal, is the mechanism through which all future OIE training activities, both distance and in person, will be developed, coordinated and monitored using a competence-based approach, OIE explained. Its content will be tailored with the information collected through the PVS Pathway and the OIE Observatory.

These three programs are closely correlated and should be recognized as a coherent whole to efficiently serve the interests and needs of OIE members according to personalized trade profiles and gaps.

OIE members and its network are invited to read the full "OIE Technical Item for 2020" and explore the related resources on the dedicated webpage.

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