A Critical Assessment of the WTO’s SPS Agreement
Elgar International Economic Law series
Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 INTRODUCTION At the conclusion of the Uruguay Round in 1994, Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) adopted the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement). The SPS Agreement stipulates rules that Members must follow when adopting and enforcing sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. These are measures adopted to protect humans, animals, and plants against risks arising from, inter alia, pests, additives, contaminants, toxins, or diseases. The SPS Agreement’s rules are intended to further its key objectives of ensuring that no Member should be prevented from adopting or enforcing measures necessary to protect human, animal, or plant life or health; and that the negative impacts of domestic SPS measures on trade are minimized. By these objectives, the SPS Agreement recognizes the important role played by both domestic health protection and trade liberalization in advancing global and domestic welfare. Achieving both objectives is complicated by the fact that, even where there is no protectionist intent on the part of lawmakers when they adopt SPS measures, differences between countries in regulatory or standard-setting regimes can impede trade.1 The SPS Agreement seeks to overcome this apparent conflict by recognizing the importance of health protection as a domestic regulatory objective and permitting trade-restrictive SPS measures where they are ‘necessary’ to protect health. This proviso is subject to a number of substantive and procedural rules regarding the SPS measures that countries may enact. The SPS Agreement encourages Member countries to base their SPS measures on international standards, guidelines, or recommendations,...