Who benefits from the implementation of the SPS agreement? Is the agreement in the interest of developing countries? While the SPS agreement allows governments to maintain adequate health and plant health protection, it reduces the potential arbitrariness of decisions and promotes consistent decision-making. It requires that sanitary and plant health measures be applied for purposes other than ensuring food security and animal and plant health. In particular, the agreement clarifies the factors to be taken into account when assessing risk risk. Measures to ensure food security and the protection of animal and plant health should, where possible, be based on the analysis and evaluation of objective and accurate scientific data. The transparency provisions of the SPS agreement are designed to ensure that measures to protect human, animal and plant health are made known to the public and trading partners. The agreement obliges governments to immediately publish all health and plant health provisions and to present, at the request of another government, the reasons for a specific food or animal or plant safety requirement. 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 at the bilateral level. FAO, OIE and WHO have implemented important food, animal and plant security assistance programmes to developing countries. A number of countries also have important bilateral programmes with other WTO members in these areas.
The WTO secretariat has organised a programme of regional seminars to provide developing countries (and Central and Eastern European countries) with detailed information on the rights and obligations conferred on them by this agreement. These seminars are organized in collaboration with Codex, OIE and IPPC to ensure that governments are aware of the role these organizations can play in helping countries meet their needs and to take full advantage of the benefits of the SPS agreement. The seminars are open to the participation of private professional associations and consumer organisations. The WTO secretariat also provides technical assistance through national workshops and governments through their representatives in Geneva. Back to head A special committee has been established within the WTO 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 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.