New and Emerging Issues in International Agricultural Trade Law
Research Handbooks on the WTO series
Edited by Joseph A. McMahon and Melaku Geboye Desta
Chapter 8: Private Standards and Trade
Tim Josling I. INTRODUCTION Among the more intriguing developments in international agricultural and food trade over the past decade has been the rapid growth in the number and scope of private standards. These standards have arisen as a result of developments in the markets for and the marketing of foods, as described below. But they have also been a response to the evolution of public standards, notably those regulating health and safety. This apparent overlap between the public and the private sector standards adds both to the complexity of the issue and to the amount of interest shown in the subject by students of trade law and economics. Along with the proliferation of the standards themselves has been a minor boom in the literature on the subject.1 However, empirical studies that enable one to generalize on the impacts of standards on trade are still relatively rare.2 As with most issues related to qualitative regulations, ﬁnding a basis for the measurement of market impacts is challenging. This chapter will therefore focus on the issue of the impact of private standards on the governance of the international food system rather than attempts to assess the quantitative eﬀects on particular stakeholders. II. WHAT ARE PRIVATE STANDARDS? Standards for products sold on domestic or international markets provide information. Depending on the reliability of the information and conformity with the standard, buyers are given an assurance that the product meets certain requirements and possesses certain attributes. This information is of value to the buyer,...
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