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 3: Through the (Historical) Looking-Glass: Health and Trade in Context

Tracey Epps

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


3.1 INTRODUCTION This chapter provides an historical overview of conflicts between health and trade which, it turns out, have been with us for longer than one might expect. This overview will serve to highlight the importance and continuing relevance of the issues discussed here. The chapter then looks at the development of trade rules concerning health regulations in the twentieth century, culminating with the implementation of the SPS Agreement in 1994. Finally, it considers the trade impact of SPS measures and looks at the nature of disputes that have arisen to date under the SPS Agreement. 3.2 DISPUTES OVER TRADE AND HEALTH IN THE 1800s International trade was revolutionized in the nineteenth century with developments in technology and transport. Until the mid-nineteenth century, the consumption of fresh foods was essentially limited to locally produced items.1 However, new preservation techniques such as canning allowed fresh foods to be preserved and shipped long distances,2 while advances in land and ocean transportation meant quicker transit times and cheaper freight costs.3 The advent of refrigeration opened up even greater possibilities to transport fresh produce and meat. In 1876, the first ship equipped with a refrigeration system – ‘la Frigorique’ – was built in France and used to transport meat from Argentina to France. This was followed by the first crossings from Australia and the US to France and England. By 1890, refrigeration equipment became 1 Albert Sonnenfeld, ed., Food: A Culinary History from Antiquity to the Present (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999) at 463....

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