Health and plant health measures can, by their very nature, lead to trade restrictions. All governments accept that certain trade restrictions may be necessary to ensure food security and the protection of animal and plant health. However, there is sometimes pressure on governments to go beyond what is necessary to protect health and to use health and plant health restrictions to protect local producers from economic competition. This pressure is expected to increase as the Uruguay Round agreements remove new trade barriers. A health or plant health restriction, which is not really necessary for health reasons, can be a very effective protectionist device and, because of its technical complexity, constitute a particularly misleading and difficult obstacle. Although in the 47 years of the previous GATT dispute resolution procedures, only one body has been sought to review health or plant health disputes, ten complaints about the new obligations were formally filed in the first three years of the SPS agreement. This is not surprising, because, for the first time, the agreement clarifies the basis for challenging health or plant health measures that limit trade and which may not be scientifically justified. The challenges included issues as varied as inspection and quarantine procedures, outbreaks, use-by data, the use of veterinary drugs in livestock, and disinfection treatments for beverages. Dispute resolution bodies were invited to review four of the complaints; other complaints have been or should be resolved after the mandatory bilateral consultation process. The transparency provisions of the SPS agreement are designed to ensure that measures to protect human, animal and plant health are made known to the public and trading partners. The agreement obliges governments to immediately publish all health and plant health provisions and to present, at the request of another government, the reasons for a specific food or animal or plant safety requirement.
Technical barriers to CTA trade covered by the WTO agreement on technical barriers to trade. References to the former GATT agreement of the same name are indicated by the OBT Agreement “1979” The WTO secretariat has prepared this text to promote public understanding of the SPS agreement. There are no plans to provide for a legal interpretation of the agreement. Who benefits from the implementation of the SPS agreement? Is the agreement in the interest of developing countries? The decision to start the Uruguay Round trade negotiations was taken after years of public debate, including within national governments. The decision to negotiate an agreement on the application of sanitary and plant health measures was taken in 1986 at the beginning of the cycle. The SPS negotiations were opened to the 124 governments that participated in the Uruguay Round. Many governments were represented by their food safety or animal health officers.