The International Plant Protection Convention

The IPPC is the phytosanitary (plant health) standardsetting organization of the SPS agreement and is the basis on which countries collaborate to prevent the spread and introduction of plant pests and plant products. The purpose of the Convention according to the IPPC preamble is "international cooperation in controlling pests of plants and plant products and in preventing their international spread, and especially their introduction into endangered areas." The scope of the Convention extends to the protection of both cultivated and natural flora and includes both direct and indirect damage by pests.

From its creation in 1951 until 1992, the IPPC existed as an international agreement administered through the FAO and implemented primarily through the cooperation of regional and national plant protection organizations. However, the FAO recognized the role that the IPPC would play in the then-developing WTO/SPS agreement and created an IPPC Secretariat in 1992. The FAO also established a standard-setting process and formed the Committee of Experts on Phytosanitary Measures (CEPM) in 1993. The IPPC currently has more than 100 member countries and is administered through the UNFAO's Plant Protection Service.

In addition to the Secretariat and CEPM, amendments to the Convention resulted in the creation of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures to review the state of plant protection in the world, provide direction to the work of the IPPC Secretariat, and approve international standards.

The Secretariat is responsible for coordinating the work of the IPPC and, most importantly, the elaboration of International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs). These standards are developed by a process that begins with submission of proposed standards from the Secretariat, by expert groups organized by the Secretariat, or by regional or national plant protection organizations. Draft standards are reviewed by the CEPM and are sent to member governments for consultation before being submitted to the Commission for adoption.

IPPC standards fall into three categories: reference standards, concept standards, and specific standards. To date, the IPPC has produced primarily reference and concept standards to support the subsequent specific standards.

The IPPC also has a dispute settlement clause to help resolve international trade disputes, although this process is separate from the WTO dispute settlement process and is not legally binding.

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