Research Handbook on Environment, Health and the WTO
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Research Handbook on Environment, Health and the WTO

Edited by Geert Van Calster and Denise Prévost

This Handbook provides state-of-the-art analysis by leading authors on the links between the international trade regime and health and environment concerns – concerns that make up an increasing proportion of WTO dispute settlement. Research Handbook on Environment, Health and the WTO surveys fields as diverse as climate change mitigation, non-communicable diseases, nanotechnology and public health care. The volume brings to the fore the debates and complexities surrounding these issues and their implications for the international trading system.
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Chapter 3: Equivalence and risk regulation under the World Trade Organization’s SPS Agreement

Marsha A. Echols


It is recognized that there can be health and safety risks incident to imports of foods, plants, animals and plant or animal products. The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) is about the application of safety measures for humans, plants, animals and their products. It was written, in part, to ensure that safety measures are not used to restrict the trade in agriculture that was liberalized by the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). The negotiators agreed that this goal would be achieved, inter alia, when a covered safety measure is ‘applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, is based on scientific principles and is not maintained without sufficient scientific evidence’.1 The SPS Agreement enshrines in international trade rules a new statement of the right of a World Trade Organization (WTO) Member to take certain sanitary and phytosanitary measures necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health. Much of the SPS Agreement details the limitations on the right to take sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

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