3. This agreement does not infringe on members` rights under other international instruments, including the right to use good offices or dispute resolution mechanisms of other international organizations or that have been established under an international agreement. Under the SPS agreement, the WTO sets limits on Member States` policy on food security (bacterial contaminants, pesticides, inspection and labelling) and animal and plant health (phyto-hygiene) with regard to pests and imported diseases. There are three standards bodies that set standards on which WTO members should base their SPS methods. According to Article 3, they are the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the secretariat of the International Convention on the Protection of Plants (IPPC). Free Trade Agreement – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Although in the 47 years of the previous GATT dispute resolution procedures, only one body was invited to review health or plant health disputes, in the first three years of the SPS agreement, ten complaints about the new obligations were formally filed. 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 two agreements have a number of common elements, including fundamental non-discrimination obligations and similar requirements for prior notification of proposed measures and the creation of information offices (“Information Points”).
However, many of the substantive rules are different. Thus, both agreements promote the application of international standards. However, under the SPS agreement, the only justifications for non-application of these standards for food safety and protection of animal/vegetable health are scientific arguments arising from an assessment of potential health risks. On the other hand, under the OBT agreement, governments may decide that international standards are not appropriate for other reasons, including fundamental technological problems or geographical factors. 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. In the context of a dispute over SPS measures, the group may seek scientific advice, including by convening a group of technical experts. If the body concludes that a country is not meeting its obligations under a WTO agreement, it will generally recommend that the country bring its measure into line with its obligations.