International Trade and Health Protection

International Trade and Health Protection

A Critical Assessment of the WTO’s SPS Agreement

Elgar International Economic Law series

Tracey Epps

This book examines and critiques the WTO’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), asking whether it strikes an appropriate balance between conflicting domestic health protection and trade liberalization objectives.

Chapter 2: What’s Health Got to do With It? The Linkage between Health and International Trade

Tracey Epps

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, international economic law, trade law, politics and public policy, human rights


2.1 INTRODUCTION SPS measures are a critical component of a country’s regulatory response to risks that might negatively impact human, animal, or plant health or life. Measures often vary considerably between countries, even when dealing with the same subject-matter. As Trebilcock and Soloway note, ‘one nation’s bunch of grapes is another nation’s repository of carcinogenic pesticide residue’.1 A sound basis often exists for SPS measures, but in some cases, suspicions are raised that measures are based on dubious grounds, existing to protect domestic producers or industry, or responding to unjustified consumer pressures.2 Trade tensions may arise in such cases when exporters feel that they are being adversely affected by measures that become non-tariff barriers to trade by either restricting or unduly raising the cost of market access. These cases raise the issue of when divergent domestic regulations should be justifiable in international trade law and it is this issue that lies at the heart of the SPS Agreement and of this book. This chapter begins with an examination of the meaning of human, animal, and plant health as it is crucial that these concepts be clearly understood before continuing with the analysis. It then examines the critical phrase ‘non-tariff barriers to trade’ and describes the nature of SPS measures, exploring how they may come to constitute non-tariff barriers to trade. Michael Trebilcock and Julie Soloway, ‘International Policy and Domestic Food Safety Regulation: The Case for Substantial Deference by the WTO Dispute Settlement Body under the SPS Agreement’ in Daniel Kennedy...

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