Under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Agreement, World Trade Organization (WTO) members are entitled to maintain a level of protection they consider appropriate to protect life or health within their territory.
This is called the Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP).
The Australian Government, with the agreement of all state and territory governments, has articulated Australia’s ALOP in qualitative terms.
It is contained in the Biosecurity Act 2015 and is applied in risk analyses conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
Australia’s Appropriate Level of Protection
Australia’s ALOP is expressed as providing a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection aimed at reducing risk to a very low level, but not to zero.
A risk assessment is undertaken to determine whether any SPS measures are required to be applied to an import in order to achieve Australia’s ALOP. It is important to clearly distinguish between the ALOP and SPS measures. ALOP is a broad objective. The SPS measures are established to meet that objective. In the BIRA process, SPS measures are also known as risk management measures.
Each WTO member has the right to determine its own ALOP. However, in determining their ALOP, WTO members should take into account the objective of minimising negative trade effects.
Under the SPS Agreement, risk management measures must not be more trade-restrictive than required to achieve ALOP, taking into account technical and economic feasibility. In addition, WTO members are required to apply the concept of ALOP consistently; that is they must ‘avoid arbitrary or unjustifiable distinctions’ that ‘result in discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade’.
Consistency in the application of ALOP means that the Australia cannot, for example, be less restrictive to risk where imports are desired, or more restrictive than necessary to manage the risk where trade would create competitive pressure on a domestic industry.
ALOP and risk analyses
If the assessed level of biosecurity risk associated with a good proposed for import does not achieve Australia’s ALOP, the department will seek to identify risk management measures that would reduce the biosecurity risk to achieve the ALOP.
If there are no available risk management measures that reduce the biosecurity risk to achieve Australia’s ALOP, trade will not be allowed until suitable measures are identified. If there are measures available to address the biosecurity risk, such as treatments for insects or testing for pathogens, the import will be allowed providing those risk management measures (and any others that are technically justified) are applied.