The CAFTA-DR is the first free trade agreement between the U.S. and Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, as well as the Dominican Republic. The CAFTA-DR promotes stronger trade and investment ties, prosperity, and stability throughout the region and along the U.S. Southern border.
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Explore This IssueFebruary/March 2017
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Combined, the countries in the CAFTA-DR would represent the 16th largest goods trading partner for the U.S., with $53 billion in total (two way) goods trade in 2015, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Exports totaled $29 billion in 2015, while imports totaled $24 billion. The U.S. goods trade surplus with CAFTA-DR countries was $5 billion in 2015.
In August 2015, the “Honduras Premium” label was implemented to certify the safety of exported fruit and vegetables. The initiative, which designates compliance with food safety management systems, is a collaboration of the Honduras Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, through the country’s National Service of Agricultural Health and its Foundation for Rural Business, with support from the Regional Programme Trade and Marketing Alliances.
During 2015 and 2016, OIRSA, in a strategic alliance with the San Jose, Costa Rica-based Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), developed and implemented Train the Trainer courses on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Livestock Production Practices (GLPP), and food safety auditing. “These courses included both face-to-face and virtual courses that addressed a diverse audience, including technicians from government, private, and academic sectors,” Dr. Figueroa notes.
An alliance amongst OIRSA, the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Panamerican Health Organization and the Mexican National Service for Animal and Plant Health, Food Safety of Agri-Food have been fostering capacity building on risk analysis on food safety to agriculture and health ministries/secretaries, and the academic sector throughout the OIRSA member states, Dr. Figueroa adds.
“In 2017, in order to reduce training costs and encompass the broadest possible number of trained people, OIRSA is strengthening its virtual schools with several on-line courses covering food safety related subjects, including food safety audits in animal and plant production systems, and training trainers on GAP and GLPP, and risk analysis on food safety,” he says.
One of the OIRSA´s greatest challenges, Dr. Figueroa contends, is to get a greater commitment from most of the countries in building a robust and sustainable food safety system for both local and export agri-food products.
On May 24 and 25, 2016, IICA and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) held a training course on food safety auditing, which was attended by some 30 academics, technical personnel of official inspection services, and IICA specialists from Central America and the Dominican Republic.
Convened in Lincoln, the event was part of the collaborative activities of the Regional Virtual Food Inspection School for Central America and the Dominican Republic (ERVIA), the IICA initiative that seeks to improve public health and facilitate trade by providing training in modern and harmonized inspection procedures.
The workshop came about as a result of previous interactions with IICA, when UNL first collaborated from April to December in 2013 in a School for Inspectors (part of ERVIA) in Central America by providing curriculum content, according to Andreia Bianchini, PhD, a UNL associate professor of food science, and Jayne Stratton, PhD, a UNL research associate professor of food science.
During the training session at UNL, participants learned about auditing principles and processes, and legal and ethical standards of conduct, along with how to prepare audit reports, Drs. Bianchini and Stratton relate.
“Participants told us the program was beneficial to their professional development, as they had the opportunity to receive training on a standardized set of principles with regards to auditing,” they report. “Having the ability to discuss the activities proposed by the program among a group with such diverse backgrounds, including industry, government, and academia, enhanced the learning process. We believe that this will ultimately improve the quality and safety of the food production systems in the countries where they work.”