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Globalization and the Environment

Risk Assessment and the WTO

Edited by David Robertson and Aynsley Kellow

One of the unforeseen consequences of the WTO agreements has been controversy over risk. This volume explores aspects of risk with special reference to the WTO, where national instruments to reduce risk may conflict with international trade rules. The book is divided into sections dealing with: accounting for risk in trade agreements; risk and the WTO; managing risk in policy making; negotiating experience with risk; national risks and quarantine standards; and managing biotechnology.
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Chapter 4: Risk management experience in WTO dispute settlement

Thomas Cottier


Thomas Cottier* INTRODUCTION The 1995 WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), negotiated during the Uruguay Round, subjects the adoption and application of national or regional measures relating to the protection of human, animal and plant health to the WTO dispute settlement system (WTO, 1995; Barcel, 1994; Yukyan Shin, 1998). Until 1995, such measures were excluded from international legal scrutiny, as both GATT articles XI and XX(b) and the ‘standards’ agreement did not offer adequate guidance and had not assisted in solving longstanding issues. One unresolved case was the EC ban on the importation of hormone-treated beef from the United States. The persistence of this dispute motivated negotiations on a specific and separate instrument. Since coming into force, the SPS agreement has profoundly affected the international law on food security (WHO, 1998; FAO, 1998). During the Uruguay Round negotiations, work on the SPS agreement did not receive much publicity, despite the looming dispute over hormone-treated beef. The SPS negotiations were overshadowed by major topics, such as liberalization of agricultural trade, the elaboration of multilateral disciplines for services (GATS) and the establishment of a multilateral framework for intellectual property (TRIPs). Once adopted, however, the SPS agreement quickly moved to centre stage. Within four years, it had been tested in three major cases before dispute panels: the expected complaints of the United States and Canada against the EC ban on the importation of hormone-treated beef,1 the complaint by Canada against the Australian ban on the importation...

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