SPS/TBT measures are considered to be types of non-tariff measures or trade barriers and relate to trade policies such as quotas, import licensing systems, hygiene rules and other types of prohibitions – with the exception of import duties – that can restrict trade.6 Given that import duties have been reduced to relatively low levels in most countries as a result of negotiations. Multilateral trade and bilateral and regional free trade agreements, non-tariff measures have in some cases emerged as significant barriers to international trade.7 SPS/TBT measures relating to food safety and related protection of public health are addressed in various multilateral trade agreements and are regularly notified to and reviewed by the WTO. International trade rules recognize the rights and obligations of governments to adopt and enforce these requirements.2 (Current multilateral rules date back to the development and signing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947, which was followed by a series of subsequent rounds of negotiations that led to the creation of the WTO on 1 January. 1995.)3 These rules are mainly established in two WTO agreements dealing with food safety and animal (health) and plant (phytosanitary) health and safety and other types of technical standards for products in general: the text of NAFTA on SPS issues is contained in Chapter Seven (Agriculture and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures). The NAFTA SPS Agreement prescribes disciplines for the development, adoption and application of SPS measures to protect human, animal or plant life or health from risks arising from animal or plant pests or diseases, food additives or contaminants. NAFTA reaffirms the right of each country to determine the level of SPS protection it deems appropriate and provides that a NAFTA country may achieve that level of protection through SPS measures based on scientific principles and risk assessment; be applied only to the extent necessary to ensure the level of protection chosen by a country; and do not result in unjust discrimination or disguised trade restrictions (Article 712).24 NAFTA also established a Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures to facilitate the improvement of food safety and SPS conditions and activities related to international standards and equivalencies, and to provide for technical cooperation and consultations on specific bilateral issues. (Section 722). Compiled by CRS from various sources, including the text of the SPS Agreement, is available on the WTO website. See also J.C. Buzby, ed., International Trade and Food Safety, AER Report 828, USDA, November 2003. One of the provisions of the SPS Agreement is the obligation for members to facilitate the provision of technical assistance to developing countries, either through relevant international organizations or bilaterally.
FAO, OIE and WHO have set up extensive programmes to support developing countries in food safety and animal and plant health. A number of countries also have extensive bilateral programmes with other WTO Members in these areas. The WTO Secretariat has organized a programme of regional seminars to provide developing countries (and countries of Central and Eastern Europe) with detailed information on their rights and obligations under this Agreement. These seminars will be organised in collaboration with Codex, the OIE and the IPPC to ensure that governments are aware of the role these organisations can play in helping countries meet their needs and reap the full benefits of the SPS Agreement. Interested private business associations and consumer organisations may participate in the seminars. The WTO Secretariat also provides technical assistance through national workshops and to governments through their representatives in Geneva. Return to summit DR-CAFTA reaffirms the rights and obligations of all parties under the SPS-WTO Agreement, establishes a standing SPS Committee as in the Chile-Australia Agreements, but continues to determine which bodies should be represented in each country. .