Edited by Stuart J. Smyth, Peter W.B. Phillips and David Castle
Chapter 15: Risk assessment frameworks in the multilateral setting
International trade agreements uniformly recognize that countries have the right to take actions to protect domestic health or environmental safety even when these actions will have direct or indirect effects on trade. Indeed, to the extent that imports can act as a vector for particular risks, interventions to manage risk are likely to restrict trade. The challenge for multilateral trade rules is to find the appropriate balance between constraining a country's ability to use measures for protectionist ends while also ensuring that they maintain the right to protect the health of their citizens and their environment. Since the early years of the GATT (1947) multilateral trade rules have included some constraints on the ability of countries to use health as a justification for implementing trade-distorting policies. Nevertheless over time as successive trade rounds reduced tariffs and more attention was focused on the potential impact of non-tariff measures, it became clear that the existing disciplines embedded in the GATT did not adequately limit health-related non-tariff measures. During the Uruguay Round (UR) negotiators were struggling to develop disciplines on non-tariff, health-related measures that would not interfere with the basic right of states to protect the health of their citizens and their environment. With respect to certain types of health risks, negotiators agreed on a solution that recognized the important role played by science in distinguishing between authentic measures implemented to manage risk and measures imposed with protectionist intent.
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