STC Number - 249

Reform of Australia's IRA process

Maintained by: Australia
Raised by: European Union
Supported by: Philippines
First date raised: February 2007 G/SPS/R/44 paras. 53-55
Dates subsequently raised:
Number of times subsequently raised: 0
Relevant documents: G/SPS/N/AUS/203
Products covered:
Primary subject keyword: Other concerns
Keywords: Other concerns; Risk assessment; Undue delays
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In February 2007, the European Communities welcomed Australia's proposed reform of its import risk analysis (IRA) process, and in particular the establishment of maximum timeframes for completion of IRAs. However, it was unclear what circumstances, if any, could permit the extension or suspension of the timeframes. How could trading partners be assured that the clock would not be stopped for unjustifiable reasons? The European Communities welcomed the establishment of the eminent scientists group, and expressed the hope that this would ensure that all scientific opinions were fully taken into account.

The Philippines shared the concerns of the European Communities, as the new process provided flexibility and allowed for the suspension of the timeframes. They sought clarifications on what regulations under the Quarantine Act might be modified, and the effect of the new process on pending requests for IRAs. In particular, the Philippines questioned whether pending IRAs would be subject to review by the eminent scientists group, and what would be the composition of this group.

Australia clarified that pending IRAs that were well-advanced would be finalized under the current rules. Australia would announce the transitional arrangements, other existing market access requests, and their prioritization. Australia would also clearly define the criteria for suspending the prescribed timeframes ("stopping the clock") - this would not be for unjustifiable reasons. However, the possibility of stopping the clock was necessary in light of experience and reflected the practical circumstances in completing risk assessments - for example, the need to wait for information to be provided by an applicant country. The details of the procedures would be publicized, and Australia would inform the Committee once the new procedures were in place.