CAREC Institute Director Mr. Kabir Jurazoda spoke at the Third Meeting of the CAREC Regional Working Group on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures, organized by CAREC Program on January 23-25, 2023, in Tbilisi, Georgia. The meeting participants discussed the implementation progress of the CAREC Common Agenda for Modernization of SPS Measures for Trade, specifically the activities implemented under the CAREC SPS Technical Assistance: Modernizing Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures to Facilitate Trade. The participants also deliberated on SPS initiatives aimed at improving market access, facilitating safe trade, and helping countries participate in global value chains.
In an open discussion with development partners on strategic direction for CAREC SPS work, Mr. Kabir Jurazoda spoke about the importance of SPS measures in the CAREC region, especially for agriculture, fisheries, and food production. The contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP and employment remains significant: the share of value added in agriculture, forestry and fisheries is about 15% of GDP; the share of agriculture in employment is 33.5%, and in the value of exports is 9.4%. There is a high potential for regional trade in agricultural products, which is not yet fully exploited.
Most CAREC countries are landlocked and a number of border crossing points in the region pose serious impediments to cross-border transport and trade. Estimates of the CAREC Corridor Performance Measurement and Monitoring, produced by the ADB and the CAREC Institute, show that a huge percentage of the transportation delays were due to insufficient facilities, including poor customs services and inspections during border crossings, a lack of or outdated cargo-handling equipment, restricted parking space for cargo vehicles near border crossings, additional sanitary controls and health checks, weak logistics support infrastructure and etc. This is exacerbated by cumbersome customs regulations and inadequate use of information and communication technologies.
Furthermore, a joint study by the CAREC Institute and the ADB assessed the relevant interventions of mutual recognition and accreditation of SPS certificates to facilitate trade, focusing on perishable goods. The results of the study highlight the importance of policy coordination, especially in the area of interoperability with the national single window, as well as risk profiling and management. This study also discussed the possibilities of digitizing SPS certificates, assessed the possibilities of paperless certificates, and analyzed the main mechanisms for mutual recognition of laboratory results and resulting SPS certificates. The study concluded that most CAREC countries have a legal basis for the recognition of phytosanitary certificates and the exchange of electronic certificates — systems already exist for moving from a paper-based certification system to the ePhyto system. The PRC and Uzbekistan are already using their national ePhyto systems, which are integrated with the HUB, and are a good example of a functioning ePhyto system. In other countries, there is little indication of digital capabilities to recognize the GeNS web-based system to produce, receive and exchange ePhytos through this HUB.
Mr. Kabir Jurazoda advised CAREC countries on developing comprehensive national strategies for formulating and implementing relevant legislative reforms on SPS, including efforts to develop the capacity of technical staff. Governments should further encourage the use of information management systems and regulate the data exchange protocol as a priority for risk management and assessment. “In addition, the implementation of digitalization initiatives at border crossing points and the promotion of a regional trade agreement for CAREC will further accelerate trade flows and volumes,” said Mr. Kabir Jurazoda.