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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 6: Risk assessment and risk management in policymaking

Marion Wooldridge


Marion Wooldridge* INTRODUCTION: SOME THOUGHTS ON POLICY AND RISK Why do we Need Policies? Governments introduce policies to regulate human activities, presumably for the greater good. Free trade and market forces bring economic benefits to consumers and producers, and this is the basis of the WTO system. Therefore, if free trade and market forces were unfettered by any policies, would this allow everyone to benefit from advances in science and manufacturing, and improvements in trade facilities, as much as they wished and without coercion? What would happen without any policies to regulate imports, exports, methods of manufacture of the myriad different types of product available today, and uses of any new scientific discovery which might have a marketable application? There would be some advantages, for example: • consumers would have plenty of choice • manufacturers could utilize the cheapest production methods • new drugs, vaccines and technologies of all sorts could come quickly onto the market. But there would be no control over the outcomes from the use of these new products and processes. Many of these outcomes would be uncertain. The future, always unpredictable, would become much more so. With high levels of uncertainty and lack of knowledge, a common response is the generation of high levels of apprehension, followed possibly by fear and perhaps panic. This * The final version of this paper has benefited from comments on an earlier draft offered by Gareth Davies MRCVS (Independent veterinary consultant to EU), R.A. (Robin) Bell MRCVS (Veterinary International Trade Division, MAFF), Ms Heather...

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