World Trade Organization Agreement On Sanitary And Phytosanitary Measures

Member States are invited to apply international standards, guidelines and recommendations, if necessary. However, members may take steps leading to higher standards for scientific reasons. They can also set higher standards on the basis of an appropriate risk assessment, provided the approach is consistent and not arbitrary. Although in the 47 years of the previous GATT dispute resolution procedures, only one body has been sought to review health or plant health disputes, ten complaints about the new obligations were formally filed in the first three years of the SPS agreement. This is not surprising, because, for the first time, the agreement clarifies the basis for challenging health or plant health measures that limit trade and which may not be scientifically justified. The challenges included issues as varied as inspection and quarantine procedures, outbreaks, use-by data, the use of veterinary drugs in livestock, and disinfection treatments for beverages. Dispute resolution bodies were invited to review four of the complaints; other complaints have been or should be resolved after the mandatory bilateral consultation process. 3. Members may adopt or maintain health or plant health measures that lead to a higher level of health protection than would be achieved by measures based on relevant international standards, guidelines or recommendations, if there is a scientific justification, or as a result of the level of health or plant health protection that a member deems appropriate in accordance with the relevant provisions of paragraphs 1 to 8 of Article 5. 2.

Notwithstanding the above, any measure leading to a level of health or plant health protection other than measures based on international standards, guidelines or recommendations must not be inconsistent with other provisions of this agreement. The SPS agreement was intended to fill this potential gap. It establishes clearer and more detailed rights and obligations on food security and measures for animal and plant health that affect trade. Countries are allowed to set only the requirements necessary for health protection and based on scientific principles. A government may challenge other countries on food safety or veterinary and plant health requirements on the grounds that they are not supported by scientific evidence. Procedures and decisions taken by a country to assess the risk to food or animal safety or plant health must be made available to other countries upon request.