The World Trade Organization and Human Rights

The World Trade Organization and Human Rights

Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Edited by Sarah Joseph, David Kinley and Jeff Waincymer

This collection of essays from leading academics examines the connection between the World Trade Organization (WTO) and human rights issues, a topic which has provoked significant debate, particularly in the decade since the collapsed WTO talks in Seattle in 1999.

Chapter 11: Public Opinion and the Interpretation of the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures

Caroline E. Foster

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


Caroline E. Foster1 1. INTRODUCTION With the passage of over a decade since the adoption of the World Trade Organisation (‘WTO’) Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (‘SPS Agreement’), it is time to examine experience to date in light of the SPS Agreement’s basic rationales. WTO panels and the Appellate Body have gradually established a jurisprudence that consolidates accepted interpretations of the SPS Agreement’s provisions and identifies how its provisions can work together. This chapter evaluates the state of that jurisprudence and makes proposals for further developments in the interpretation of the SPS Agreement, focusing on the troubled question of the role that may permissibly be played by public opinion in decision-making under the SPS Agreement. Concluded at the end of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations in 1994, the SPS Agreement regulates barriers to trade that are adopted to counter sanitary and phytosanitary risks by requiring them to be based on science. To the extent of their overlap, the Agreement provides a more disciplined footing to the exceptions found in Article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (‘GATT’) which allow Contracting Parties to impose barriers to trade in order to protect human, animal and plant life and health. Under the SPS Agreement, sanitary and phytosanitary measures (defined as measures to combat pests, diseases, and additives and contaminants in food) must be grounded in science. The SPS Agreement thus offers a relatively solid bulwark against economic protectionism in this field by WTO Members. The disciplines 1 A...

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