The transparency provisions of the SPS Convention aim to ensure that measures to protect human, animal and plant health are made available to the public and interested trading partners. The agreement requires governments to publish all sanitary and phytosanitary requirements without delay and, at the request of another government, to provide an explanation of the reasons for a particular food safety or animal or plant health requirement. Although only one panel has been invited to examine sanitary or phytosanitary trade disputes in the 47 years of previous GATT dispute settlement procedures, ten complaints were formally filed in the first three years of the SPS Agreement concerning new commitments. This is not surprising since, for the first time, the agreement clarifies the basis for challenging sanitary or phytosanitary measures that restrict trade and may not be scientifically justified. The challenges covered topics as diverse as inspection and quarantine procedures, animal diseases, consumption data, the use of veterinary drugs in animal husbandry and beverage disinfection treatments. Dispute resolution bodies were invited to review four of the complaints; the remaining complaints have been or are expected to be resolved following the mandatory bilateral consultation procedure. With the adoption of the WTO Agreement, governments agreed to be bound by the rules of all related multilateral trade agreements, including the SPS Agreement. In the event of a trade dispute, WTO dispute settlement 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 can choose one of the many means of dispute resolution, including good offices, arbitration, mediation and arbitration. Alternatively, a government may require that an impartial panel of trade experts be established to deal with all parties to the dispute and make recommendations. Specific sanitary and phytosanitary requirements are most often applied on a bilateral basis between trading countries.
Developing countries benefit from the SPS Agreement because it provides an international framework for sanitary and phytosanitary arrangements between countries, regardless of their political and economic strength or technological capacity. By the ofsy, developing countries could be at a disadvantage if they challenge unjustified trade restrictions. In addition, under the SPS agreement, governments must accept imported products that meet their safety requirements, whether these products are the result of simpler and less sophisticated methods or advanced technologies. Enhanced technical assistance to support developing countries in the area of food safety and animal and plant health, whether bilaterally or through international organizations, is also part of the SPS Agreement. This introduction deals with the text of the SPS Agreement as contained in the Final Act of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations signed in Marrakesh on 15 April 1994. This Agreement and other agreements contained in the Final Act, as well as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, as amended (GATT 1994), shall become part of the Treaty establishing the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The WTO replaced the GATT as the umbrella organization for international trade. All governments of WTO Member States must maintain an en-information point, an office designated to receive and respond to requests for information on sanitary and phytosanitary measures in that country. .