Rich countries are attempting to head off moves to weaken international food health import rules for developing country exporters, instead calling for additional technical aid so these traders can comply with the regulations.

The proposals are being made within the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Doha Development Round, launched in Qatar last year. A special session of the WTO’s committee on trade and development has debated changes to its sanitary and phytosanitary agreement, which would be part of an overall trade deal.

Canada, for instance, claimed that existing special rules allowing developing countries some leeway regarding export health checks were “under-utilised.”

The European Union said that proposals tabled by India and the African Group of developing countries were “not feasible,” saying they implied a “withdrawal of (health) measures or unlimited funding” regarding technical assistance.

Australia called for the controlled release of additional aid. However, Pakistan supported the proposals, stressing that its fruit exports had “for a long time” been blocked by existing WTO sanitary and phytosanitary rules.