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 14: Conclusion

Tracey Epps

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


At the time of the GATT’s implementation in 1944, the main concern of the signatory nations was to liberalize trade in goods by reducing trade barriers imposed at the border, namely, tariffs and quantitative restrictions on imports. The 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements represented the outcome of an intensified effort that began during the Tokyo Round to tackle non-tariff barriers to trade on a multilateral basis. The SPS Agreement is one of a number of WTO Agreements which recognize that domestic regulations may operate as barriers to trade by restricting entry of goods that do not comply with the standards they impose. In doing so, it widens the purview of trade rules and allows exporting countries to ‘look behind the border’ of importing countries and challenge domestic measures that constitute non-tariff trade barriers. Extending the reach of international trade rules to domestic regulatory measures has significant implications for countries as they must take these rules into consideration not only when setting tariff rates and quotas, but in any regulatory decision-making exercise that has the potential to impact upon foreign producers. This shift in focus to ‘behind the border’ measures has been of particular concern to countries in areas where the right to make regulations is regarded as a fundamental exercise of a nation’s sovereignty. Nowhere is this concern more pronounced than in the areas impacted by the SPS Agreement, namely regulatory decision-making with respect to protection of human, animal, and plant life and health. This book has examined the question of...

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