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Sps Agreement

Within the WTO, a special committee has been set up as a forum for the exchange of information between Member State governments on all aspects of the implementation of the SPS agreement. The SPS Committee verifies compliance with the agreement, examines issues that may have an impact on trade, and maintains close cooperation with the technical organizations involved. In a trade dispute over a health or plant health measure, the usual WTO dispute resolution procedures are applied and opinions can be sought from appropriate scientific experts. Although import duties on many agricultural products have been reduced or adopted under preferential trade agreements, farmers in developing countries are facing new challenges in selling their products around the world. Technical requirements, particularly in terms of product hygiene and safety, have become one of the main barriers to trade for many manufacturers. In adopting the WTO agreement, governments have agreed to be bound by the rules of all multilateral trade agreements attached to it, including the SPS agreement. In the event of a trade dispute, WTOs dispute resolution procedures (click here for an introduction, click here for more details) encourage the governments concerned to find a mutually acceptable bilateral solution through formal consultations. If governments are unable to resolve their dispute, they may choose to follow one of the different ways of resolving disputes, including good offices, conciliation, mediation and arbitration. Another government may request the creation of an impartial body of trade experts to hear from all parties to the dispute and make recommendations.

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. The agreement on the application of health and plant health measures, also known as the SPS agreement or simply SPS, is an international treaty of the World Trade Organization (WTO).