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 4: On the efficiency of health measures and the ‘appropriate level of protection’

Jeffery Atik


The concept of ‘appropriate level of protection’ (ALOP) runs throughout the SPS Agreement. ALOP reflects the considerable margin of appreciation retained by WTO Members in the application of health measures and a resigned acceptance of a permanent condition of heterogeneous (and hence conflicting) national regulatory approaches with their accompanying drag on international trade. By its terms, ‘appropriate level of protection’ emphasizes the continuing discretion WTO Members enjoy in determining their respective SPS policies. Generally speaking each country can mandate what level of protection is ‘appropriate’; the operative presumption of the SPS Agreement is national autonomy in setting health and food safety targets. Of course the SPS Agreement meaningfully cabins these respective autonomies: not all is permitted. Addressing antisocial use of SPS measures in order to achieve otherwise prohibited commercial goals (so-called ‘disguised restraints on trade’) is the raison d’être of the SPS Agreement. The SPS Agreement, by and large, does not set the levels of protection SPS measures are to obtain. That said, the Agreement does pressure WTO Members to adopt international standards, each of which will have a particular level of protection – that is effectiveness – associated with it.

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