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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 11: National risk management and the SPS agreement

David Wilson and Digby Gascoine


David Wilson and Digby Gascoine THE SPS AGREEMENT Since GATT came into effect in 1948, national regulations on animal and plant health, and food safety measures which affect trade have been subject to international rules. GATT article I, the most-favoured nation clause, has required non-discriminatory treatment of imported products from different foreign suppliers, and article III has required that such products be treated no less favourably than similar domestically produced goods, with respect to any regulations. After the Uruguay Round negotiations, the WTO superseded the GATT, although the rules of GATT (1994) continue to apply when not superseded by a more specific WTO agreement. The Uruguay Round developed new agreements on technical barriers to trade. Sanitary and phytosanitary (quarantine) measures introduced specific concerns for trade, so the separate SPS agreement was ‘carved out’ of the TBT agreement. The SPS agreement, is concerned with the application of food safety and animal and plant health regulations to international trade in animals, plants and their products. The TBT agreement replaced a ‘voluntary’ code negotiated in the Tokyo Round negotiations. The negotiation of the SPS agreement was motivated by concerns that, unless clear rules existed on the use of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, the gains achieved in the negotiations on agricultural trade, in particular, would be eroded by the imposition of new or additional quarantine restrictions and standards. The TBT and SPS agreements differ in scope. The TBT agreement covers all technical regulations and voluntary standards, and the procedures to ensure that these are...

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