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China/FAO Citrus Symposium
Beijing, 14-17 May 2001
Sanitary and phytosanitary issues and the SPS Agreement

João Magalhães
WTO Secretariat1,2

Specific Trade Concerns Related to Citrus Brought to the Attention of the SPS Committee

Implementation of the SPS Agreement: Challenges and Difficulties

The Appropriate Level of Protection

Risk Assessment and International Harmonization

Equivalence of SPS Measures and Regionalization

The Use of Precaution

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Concluding Remarks

Annex 1

Annex 2

I was originally asked to speak about sanitary and phytosanitary issues in China and the world leading citrus-importing countries. As explained from the outset to organizers, we are not, in the WTO, citrus experts. Nonetheless, I decided to start my intervention describing some of the citrus-related trade concerns brought to the attention of the SPS Committee. I will then identify and make a few comments about some of the issues or provisions of the Agreement more often identified as the most difficult to implement, from a conceptual and/or technical point of view.

Negotiated almost as a "side" agreement, complementary to the Agreement on Agriculture, during the Uruguay Round Negotiations (1986-1994), the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) grew in importance since its entry into force on 1 January 1995, to become one of the most topical agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO).  Covering human and animal health and plant protection, the Agreement has shown its flexibility and appropriateness, not only by introducing disciplines that have been beneficial in reducing the use of quarantine requirements as unjustified barriers to trade3, but also by offering WTO Members a privileged forum, the SPS Committee, for the discussion of health-related trade concerns, as illustrated below.

Specific Trade Concerns Related to Citrus Brought to the Attention of the SPS Committee

The SPS Committee oversees the implementation of the SPS Agreement and provides for a regular forum for discussion of trade issues related to quarantine measures. The Committee meets normally three times a year and all the 140 WTO Members, 28 acceding countries and observers, have the right to attend its meetings. Discussions of trade concerns, especially market access issues, brought to the attention of the Committee by Members, are central to its work. Since the entry into force of the Agreement, on 1 January 1995, more than 100 health-related trade concerns were raised (human or animal health or plant protection). After a slow "take-off", the number of concerns raised has risen steadily in recent years and, at the last March Committee meeting, 16 new trade concerns were raised. This was a record number of new trade concerns raised at one single meeting, clearly illustrating the dynamism of the Committee. More importantly, a growing number of trade concerns are raised by developing countries, an encouraging sign that participation of these countries in the work of the Committee is improving.

Five citrus-related trade concerns were raised. These included:4

Implementation of the SPS Agreement: Challenges and Difficulties

To raise trade concerns at SPS Committee meetings is an useful practice but doesn't solve all problems. The WTO system provides for a range of alternative approaches to help Member countries to preserve their rights and obligations. These include consultations and voluntary good offices, conciliation or mediation. However, Member countries have the right, under the WTO Dispute Settlement Procedures, to request the establishment of a panel at any moment to resolve their trade disputes. Additionally, parties to a dispute have the right to appeal the panel findings to the WTO Appellate Body.

Three significant health-related trade disputes were resolved through these procedures at the light of the SPS Agreement provisions.5 The Agreement was also invoked in about 20 other disputes, at present still active, dormant or having resulted in mutually acceptable solutions to the parties.6 Moreover, the implementation of the Agreement represents a significant challenge for national authorities around the world and numerous countries, in particular developing countries, face important difficulties to cope with its obligations, and underestimate or under-utilize their rights.

Unsurprisingly, the difficulties of implementation of the Agreement vary according to a number of parameters, not least the level of development of WTO Member countries, but also their degree of involvement in international trade and the practicalities of some of the Agreement's most challenging provisions. Among these provisions, those dealing with the concept of appropriate level of protection, risk assessment (and management), international harmonization, equivalence of sanitary and phytosanitary measures and disease or pest free areas, seem to represent the most serious challenges. The succession of recent health-related occurrences in Europe (BSE, dioxins, foot-and-mouth disease) has reinforced public awareness and concern with food safety issues, resulted in the recourse to precautionary measures in several countries and stimulated international discussions on the use of precaution. We will also see how the SPS Agreement addresses the use of precaution.

The Appropriate Level of Protection

The SPS Agreement defines the Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP) as " The level of protection deemed appropriate by the Member establishing a sanitary or phytosanitary measure to protect human, animal or plant life or health within its territory." The fact that the Agreement itself notes that "many Members otherwise refer to this concept as the "acceptable level of risk"", illustrates the sensitivities involved and perceived by the negotiators with regard to this concept. The right of Members to establish their own ALOP is recognized in paragraph 6 of the Preamble which encourages Members to further the use of international standards, without requiring them to change their appropriate level of health protection. Moreover, in the "Hormones" dispute, the WTO Appellate Body remarks were helpful in alleviating some of the remaining concerns of a few Member countries early after the entry into force of the Agreement. The Appellate Body noted that the Agreement "...explicitly recognize[s] the right of Members to establish their own appropriate level of sanitary protection, which level may be higher (i.e., more cautious) than that implied in existing international standards, guidelines and recommendations..." (Preamble, paragraph 6 and Articles 3.3). And the Appellate Body added that "...this right of a Member to establish its own level of sanitary protection ... is an autonomous right and not an "exception" from a "general obligation".7

Nonetheless, although WTO Members have the right to establish their own appropriate level of protection, they should also aim to achieve consistency in the application of this concept (Article 5.5). The requirement of consistency in risk management troubled more than one Member. If accepting a certain level of risk is part of health protection policies in many countries, the idea of being consistent appears to be relatively recent and was not likely a major concern in the past. Two disputes, "Hormones" and "Salmon", helped clarifying the concept and the Agreement provisions in this regard. In the "Hormones" dispute, the Appellate Body did not find that the EC import ban on US and Canadian beef produced with growth promoters was inconsistent with less stringent measures used by the EC in other situations aimed at achieving the same level of protection, but the reasoning of the Panel and Appellate Body helped furthering the understanding of the concept.

The Salmon dispute, on the contrary, was an illustration of the lack of consistency in risk management. In this dispute, Australia banned the importation of fresh chilled or frozen salmon, allegedly to protect the domestic salmon population from a number of diseases, but Canada claimed that salmon imported for human consumption was very unlikely to lead to the introduction of these diseases. One of the reasons why Australia lost the case was because its measure did not reflect a consistent approach to risk management. Australia applied less stringent import restrictions on certain frozen herring for bait and live ornamental fish which represented similar risks in different situations.

The importance and difficulty of the concept is reflected in the elaborate and long process of development of guidelines on consistency for risk management by the SPS Committee.8 Article 5.5 of the Agreement required the development of such guidelines, and it took five years of long and difficult discussions for WTO Members to finally agree on a set of guidelines. However, the effort was worthwhile and the set of guidelines now available is a useful tool to help regulatory authorities to be consistent in their risk management approach and identify the adequate measures which will avoid arbitrary or unjustifiable distinctions in the levels of protection considered appropriate if such distinctions result in discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade.

Risk Assessment and International Harmonization

The SPS Agreement reaffirms the right of governments to maintain appropriate sanitary and phytosanitary protection, but requires that measures be based on scientific evidence either by being based on international standards or, if there is no international standard, or when a government decides to have a measure providing a higher level of protection than the international standard, the importing country has to be able to demonstrate that its measure is based on a risk assessment. The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) are identified in the Agreement as the international standard setting bodies with competence to develop respectively food safety and

plant health standards, guidelines or recommendations. Import quarantine requirements based on international standards benefit from a (rebuttable) presumption of complying with the SPS Agreement requirements. Although there are a limited number of international standards in the plant health area, the IPPC has finalized and adopted the establishment of a Standards Committee last month which should facilitate and accelerate the development and adoption of international standards.

Risk analysis and the concepts pertaining to it (such as risk assessment, risk management and risk communication) are often seen as costly and complicated, while requiring highly specialized human and technical expertise. There is limited practical knowledge in this area, especially in developing countries. The SPS Agreement gives some guidance with regard to risk assessment. It notes that measures have to be based on an assessment of risks to human, animal or plant life or health "taking into account risk assessment techniques developed by the international organizations". The Agreement also clarifies which factors should be taken into account in the assessment of the risk involved, including relevant economic factors. However, the primary source of information on risk analysis in the plant health area is the IPPC and national plant protection organizations. Because the IPPC has developed only a limited number of standards, in nearly all cases governments need to do their own risk analysis to put phytosanitary measures into place, or base their measures in risk analysis done by countries where similar phytosanitary conditions prevail. Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) is used to:

  1. justify protection measures affecting trade,
  2. evaluate or challenge other countries' measures,
  3. encourage technical dialogue and information sharing, and
  4. prioritize risk management and research.9

The IPPC standard on Guidelines for PRA, developed in the early 1990s and adopted in 1994 is currently under revision.

The good news is that scientists are increasingly realizing their role in risk analysis and are becoming more active in their support for policies applied in trade. An important part of risk analysis is the setting of priorities for research. It appears that scientists are realizing that by being more actively involved in risk analysis they are able to identify areas where research is needed and link that to trade concerns. In many cases this has brought needed resources to the scientific community.7 Countries should nonetheless first consider using international standards when they exist, and do a risk assessment only if the international standard is not appropriate. Risk assessment should only be used for the protection of human, animal or plant health or life. The unnecessary use of national risk assessments to justify SPS measures, could undermine the development, utility and use of international standards. As indicated, developing countries have limited resources and, even if assistance with risk assessment methodologies and their application is being provided by the international organizations and developed countries, much remains to be done. In this context it is important that developing countries actively participate in the development of the IPPC pest risk analysis methodologies and guidelines. A number of inter-agency initiatives to facilitate this participation are under way, including WTO initiatives.

Equivalence of SPS Measures and Regionalization

The SPS Agreement requires governments to recognize that there may be different ways to protect human, animal and/or plant health or life. If an exporting country claims and provides evidence that a particular quarantine measure achieves the level of protection of the importing country, even if its measure is different, the importing country has to accept the measure as equivalent to its own. For example, in protecting against the risks of certain fruit fly species, a number of phytosanitary measures may be considered as providing equivalent protection:

  1. heat treatment (e.g. high temperature forced air, vapour heat treatment, hot water dip);
  2. cold treatment (e.g. cold storage, both in-transit and in country of origin);
  3. chemical treatments (e.g. fumigants, dips, dustings, flood spraying); or irradiation.

The concept appears rather straightforward and is indeed frequently applied at the level of specific measures, as in the example, in the plant protection area. But it is one of the significant stumbling blocks in the implementation of the SPS Agreement. Several developing country Members complained in ongoing WTO discussions about the implementation of the different Uruguay Round Agreements that importing countries rather than recognizing the equivalence of measures, push demands of recognition of equivalence so far that they result in a de facto request for "duplication" or "sameness" of measures. It has also been noted that it is often difficult to understand what is the level of protection required by the importing country. Other countries noted that the process of recognition of equivalence is so costly and time-consuming that it is often easier to apply the same measure.

On the basis of the discussions held to date, the SPS Committee agreed that equivalence may take many different forms, ranging from the acceptance of the equivalence of particular sanitary and phytosanitary measures to protect against specific risks in a specific product, to formal systems-wide or broad-ranging agreements on equivalence. The more broad-ranging the equivalence agreement, the more difficult it may be to conclude. Recognizing that the provision and exchange of data and information is critical for the recognition of equivalence, WTO Members reaffirmed their commitments to transparency and that their SPS Enquiry Point will provide requested information on recognition of equivalence, as well as on their participation in any bilateral or multilateral equivalence agreements, including the texts of such agreements. Members will also inform the SPS Committee of their recognition of the equivalence of the sanitary and phytosanitary measures of other Members. The Committee agreed to continue its work with regard to equivalence to develop concrete guidance, based on contributions from Members and in close cooperation with the relevant standard-setting bodies, that will enhance the opportunity for all Members, and in particular developing country Members, to benefit from the recognition of equivalence, including through equivalence agreements.

The concept of regionalization means that countries should take into account the sanitary and phytosanitary situation of the exporting country, in particular the existence of parts of their territory which may be pest-or disease-free. The SPS Agreement enumerates a number of factors to be taken into account in the determination of such areas, including geography, ecosystems, epidemiological surveillance, and the effectiveness of sanitary or phytosanitary controls. The Agreement requires the exporting country to provide the necessary evidence of the claimed pest-or disease-free status of the areas, including by facilitating inspection, testing, etc. Unlike equivalence, the concept of pest free areas is specifically defined under the IPPC in its "Principles of Plant Quarantine as Related to International Trade" and ISPM 4 develops the "Requirements for the establishment of Free Areas"

Concerns raised by exporting countries with regard to the recognition of pest-free areas are similar to those pertaining to equivalence: costly and long process, excessive demands by the importing countries and so on. Partly because of perceived similarities between the two concepts, the SPS Committee has spent less time discussing this issue. The other reason is that, both in the plant and animal health areas, there are international standards.

The use of precaution

When required for health protection reasons, the need for taking precautionary actions in the face of scientific uncertainty has long been widely accepted. There may be instances when a sudden occurrence of a plant pest, for example, is suspected of being linked to imports, and trade restrictions must be immediately imposed while further information about the source of the occurrence and its extent are gathered.

The SPS Agreement is possibly one of the most elaborated multilateral agreements reflecting the role and use of precaution:

  1. by encouraging harmonization of national SPS measures with international standards without requiring Members to change their appropriate levels of health protection in its Preamble (Paragraph 6);
  2. by permitting Members to adopt SPS measures more stringent than measures based on international standards (Article 3.3); and
  3. by allowing Members to take provisional measures when sufficient scientific evidence does not exist (Article 5.7). The provisional measure must take into consideration available pertinent information. The Member adopting the measure must seek to obtain the additional information necessary for a more objective assessment of risk, and must review the SPS measure within a reasonable period of time.

In the dispute which opposed the United States to Japan (Measures Affecting Agricultural Products)10, Japan claimed that its measure was provisional, in accordance with Article 5.7. The panel found no evidence that Japan had actively sought to obtain additional information in order to review its measure within a reasonable period of time. The Appellate Body added that the "reasonable period of time" had to be established on a case-by-case basis, and that in this case, although the obligation to review the measure came into existence only with the entry into force of the SPS Agreement in 1995, Japan had not reviewed its varietal testing requirement "within a reasonable period of time".

In the "Hormones" dispute, the European Union did not invoke Article 5.7, claiming that its import ban was not a provisional measure. However, the Appellate Body noted that the precautionary principle, invoked by the EC on appeal, was reflected in the SPS Agreement, but did not override the specific obligations in the Agreement.

Several international fora are engaged in discussions aimed at elaborating the appropriate role and use of precaution in the assessment and management of risk. These include the Codex, UNEP and the system of multilateral environmental agreements and the OECD. Highlighting the difficulty of the task, last April discussions in the Codex Committee for General Principles made limited progress. However, governments' significant use of precaution in some of the more recent health-related occurrences suggest that international guidelines in this area could only but help avoiding potential trade conflicts.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

To date, the SPS Committee has not discussed GMOs in any detail. Indeed, aside discussions regarding labelling aspects in the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), especially dealing with the EC labelling requirements, GMOs have not been, to date, a significant discussion matter in the WTO.11 Last year, the United States circulated a paper which pointed out the lack of consistency in notifications and several countries notified GMO-related regulations under SPS and/or TBT. Moreover, Thailand brought to the Committee's attention Egypt's restrictions on its canned tuna, allegedly because of concerns that the tuna was canned in genetically modified soy oil, and in September 2000 requested official consultations with Egypt. It seems that the two countries found a mutually satisfactory solution to the problem, although there has been no official notification to the WTO.12

It is unclear at this stage whether the SPS Agreement applies or not to GMOs. In the absence of discussions in the Committee the question remains opened. If a dispute arises, and the Thailand-Egypt issue clearly illustrates the potential for such situation to develop, a WTO Panel and, in case of appeal, the Appellate Body would apply relevant WTO provisions to the case. For instance, if the SPS Agreement did apply, regulations on GMOs would have to conform to the provisions of the Agreement, such as scientific risk assessment and least trade restrictive measures. Countries could also argue that relevant scientific evidence is insufficient, and choose to use precaution adopting a provisional measure according to Article 5.7 as described above. They would then be obliged to actively seek the additional information needed for a more objective risk assessment, and to review the measure within a reasonable period of time.

Concluding remarks

The implementation of the SPS Agreement represents a significant challenge for all countries, and in particular for developing countries. The Agreement has provisions for special and differential treatment and technical assistance, which are key in ongoing implementation discussions in the WTO General Council, the day-to-day decision-making body of the organization. Broadly, developing countries demand the strengthening of such provisions. At the time of writing it is uncertain what will be the outcome of the discussions. This outcome is important and will likely have a bearing on the agenda and outcome of the 4th Ministerial Conference, to be held in Doha, Qatar, on 9-13 November 200113. In the meantime, Agriculture and Services negotiations started in accordance with the provision in both agreements requiring further negotiations. The Agriculture negotiations14 began in March 2000 and altogether 125 WTO Members submitted 44 negotiating proposals. Negotiators have agreed on a programme for the "second phase" of the negotiations and will now look in greater depth at the proposals. Some proposals, including proposals from developing countries, make specific or indirect reference to the SPS Agreement, but no government has proposed that the SPS Agreement be renegotiated.

The SPS Agreement is a new framework which seems to be contributing to improving international trading relationships with respect to SPS measures. The transparency provisions of the Agreement have been key in this regard, but the implementation issues which give concern to developing country Members need to be addressed properly in order to allow them to take full advantage of their rights and obligations. New difficult issues, such as the use of modern technologies, need to be addressed in a transparent and timely manner by governments, and international cooperation in this regard appears to be fundamental, not only to avoid further trade disputes, but also to avoid potential conflicts or overlaps between different international disciplines.

Specific Trade Concerns Involving Citrus Brought to the Attention of the SPS Committee


European Communities - Notification G/SPS/N/EEC/62 of Emergency Measures on Citrus Pulp

Raised by:


Supported by:


Dates raised:

September 1998 (G/SPS/R/12, paras. 49-50)

Relevant document(s):


Solution (if reported):


Brazil expressed concerns regarding EC emergency notification G/SPS/N/EEC/62, which mentioned very high levels of dioxin found in citrus pulp pellets from Brazil. Brazil pointed out that this accident had already been fully dealt with. Brazilian authorities were maintaining bilateral talks with the European Communities on the subject. The European Communities explained that this accident had involved 90 000 tones of contaminated citrus pulp pellets destined for animal feed. After scientific discussions, including Brazil's private sector, the EC authorities had decided that the lack of information on the origin of the contamination, the amount of stocks involved and the lack of a solution justified the emergency measure. The European Communities hoped that ongoing contacts with the Brazilian authorities would result in a solution before the end of the year.

Australia - Restrictions on Imports of Tropical Fresh Fruit

Raised by:

Philippines, ASEAN

Supported by:

Brazil, European Communities, India, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, United States

Dates raised:

March 2000 (G/SPS/R/18, para. 67), June 2000 (G/SPS/R/19, paras. 15-20)

Relevant document(s):

G/SPS/GEN/189, G/SPS/GEN/194

Solution (if reported):


In March 2000, the Philippines reported that its exports, including mangoes, bananas and pineapples, faced phytosanitary restrictions in Australia. Australia explained that in response to a request for access, Australia conducted an open, transparent and consultative process of scientific risk assessment and risk management to avoid the introduction of diseases. Both countries indicated that they were conducting bilateral consultations on the matter.

In June 2000, the Philippines pointed out that major ASEAN exports to Australia faced stringent SPS measures that were not based on a risk assessment. These measures were more restrictive than necessary, and should be reviewed within a reasonable period of time. Malaysia suggested Australia carry out ASEAN-wide risk assessments. Australia offered detailed comments on each of the points raised by the Philippines and noted that a formal response would be provided in due course. In response to Malaysia, Australia explained that pest risk analysis was specific to the trading partners involved and varied according to the exporter's pest status.

The United States urged Australia to expedite its decisions regarding market access for Florida citrus and California table grapes. Australia replied that an import risk analysis had been completed for table grapes, several appeals had been addressed, and the relevant information was about to be released. In response to Brazil's comments regarding its market access applications for mango and papaya, Australia confirmed that these were on the list of matters to be considered by Australian risk analysts. With reference to India's concern about market access for mangoes, Australia reported that Indian authorities had provided helpful information regarding the efficacy of treatment for pests in mangoes, and that Australia was currently evaluating that information. Regarding EC concerns, Australia confirmed that an import risk analysis was being conducted on bulbs. Australia noted that it was necessary to set priorities for risk assessment given scarce financial and human resources.

European Communities - Citrus Canker

Raised by:


Supported by:

Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Uruguay

Dates raised:

July 1997 (G/SPS/R/8, paras. 30-31), March 1998 (G/SPS/R/10, paras. 6-8), June 1998 (G/SPS/R/11, paras. 31-33)

Relevant document(s):


Solution (if reported):

Measure revised in 1998, problems persisting.

In July 1997, Argentina requested bilateral consultations with EC experts on the proposed measure on citrus canker, and that the measure be suspended during these consultations. South Africa requested that the European Communities reassess its measures in light of the fact that South Africa was free from citrus canker. The European Communities noted that it was preparing a response to the Argentine concern, and was open to consultations with interested parties. The European Communities was moving from a system with internal restrictions in the production areas of Italy, Greece and Corsica to a truly single market with free movement of goods. With no restriction on internal movement of fruit, and considering the risk of introduction and the related economic consequences, alternative protection for the main producing areas had to be considered. This included monitoring requirements in the exporting country, treatment and certification. The European Communities considered that its measures were based on science and minimized trade effects.

In March 1998, the European Communities reported that, in response to constructive consultations organized by the Chairman and involving Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil and South Africa, the measure had been revised and subsequently adopted. The revised text included the possibility for recognition of equivalent certification systems. Argentina agreed, but noted that negotiations on equivalence were not yet finished.

In June 1998, the European Communities indicated that it had come to the conclusion that, for the time being, Argentina could not objectively demonstrate the equivalence of its control measures with EC requirements. Argentina requested information on the risk assessment undertaken by the European Communities.

European Communities - Protected Zones

Raised by:


Supported by:

Chile, Mexico, South Africa

Dates raised:

March 1997 (G/SPS/R/7, para. 60)

Relevant document(s):

Raised orally

Solution (if reported):


Uruguay expressed concern about an EC decision to eliminate the criteria for protected zones within the European Communities, as this might result in a strengthening of phytosanitary requirements for the whole Community. This could also have negative consequences for citrus fruit exports from Chile. Delegations requested a clarification of the scientific basis for this proposal. The representative of the European Communities indicated he would forward the concerns to the relevant authorities. He clarified that according to the policy, access to the European Communities would depend on the conditions in the country of origin.

United States - Imports of citrus fruit

Raised by:


Supported by:


Dates raised:

November 1999 (G/SPS/R/17, para. 89), June 2000 (G/SPS/R/19, para. 10)

Relevant document(s):

Raised orally

Solution (if reported):

Favorable conclusion reported in June 2000.

In November 1999, Argentina expressed concerns regarding the postponement of US measures dealing with imports of citrus fruit from north-western Argentina. Negotiation of the measure had taken seven years and been finalized one year earlier. Argentina appealed to the United States to publish the measure before another harvest was lost for Argentine producers. The representative of the United States answered that the draft measures had passed the technical level and promised to draw the attention of his authorities to Argentina's concerns.

In June 2000, Argentina reported that after years of negotiations with the United States regarding citrus produced in north-west Argentina, a favorable conclusion had been reached.

WTO Disputes Invoking the SPS Agreement

Since 1 January 1995, violations of the SPS Agreement have been alleged in the following invocations of the formal dispute settlement provisions of the WTO. Those which have been referred to a panel are highlighted.

DS Number

Parties and nature of complaint



US complaint against Korea's inspection procedures for fresh fruits

Consultations requested 6 April 1995; pending.


US complaint against Korea's inspection procedures for fresh fruits

More precise complaint apparently covering the same measures as above dispute. Consultations requested 24 May 1996; pending.


US complaint against Korea's shelf-life requirements for frozen processed meats and other products

Mutually agreed solution notified in July 1995.


Canada's complaint against Australia's import restrictions on fresh, chilled or frozen salmon

Panel established 10 April 1997. Panel report issued 12 June 1998; Appellate Body report issued 20 October 1998. Reports adopted 6 November 1998. Reasonable period of time given: until 6 July 1999. Article 21.5 panel (on compliance) report circulated on 18 February 2000; adopted (without appeal) on 20 March 2000. Mutually agreed solution reported on 18 May 2000. Article 22.6 panel (on level of retaliation) established on 28 July 1999, inactive since September 1999; awaiting confirmation of settlement.


US complaint against Australia's import restrictions on fresh, chilled or frozen salmon

Panel established on 16 June 1999. Inactive since September 1999; awaiting confirmation of settlement.


Canada's complaint against Korea's restrictions on treatment methods for bottled water

Mutually agreed solution notified in April 1996.


US complaint against EC's import prohibition on imports of meat treated with growth-promoting hormones

Panel established 20 May 1996. Panel report issued 18 August 1997. Appellate Body report issued 16 January 1998. Reports adopted on 13 February 1998. Reasonable period of time given: until 13 May 1999. Art. 22.6 arbitration on amount of retaliation authorized for US (and Canada, see below) issued on 12 July 1999. Retaliation authorized on 26 July 1999.


Canada's complaint against EC's import prohibition on imports of meat treated with growth-promoting hormones

Panel established 16 October 1996. Same panel handled both complaints; same calendar as above.


US complaint against Japan's "varietal testing" requirement for fresh fruits

Panel established 18 November 1997. Panel report issued 27 October 1998. Appellate Body Report issued 22 February 1999. Reports adopted on 19 March 1999. Reasonable period of time mutually agreed: until 31 December 1999. As of August 2000, parties indicating close to resolution.


EC complaint against India's quantitative restrictions on agricultural and other products

SPS minor issue; mutually agreed solution notified in April 1998.


EC complaint against US restrictions on poultry imports

Consultations requested 18 August 1997; pending.


Swiss complaint against Slovakia's BSE-related restrictions on cattle and meat

Consultations requested 11May 1998; pending.


India's complaint against EC restrictions on rice imports

SPS minor issue. Consultations requested 25 May 1998; pending.


Canada's complaint against EC (French) measures affecting asbestos

Primarily Article XX issue; panel established 25 November 1998. Report circulated 18 September 2000.


Canada's complaint against EC restrictions due to pine wood nematodes

Consultations requested 17 June 1998; pending.


Canada's complaint against US state restrictions (South Dakota, etc) on movement of Canadian trucks carrying live animals and grains

Consultations requested 25 September 1998; pending.


US complaint against Mexico on measures affecting trade in live swine

Primarily anti-dumping. Consultations requested 10 July 2000; pending.


Thai complaint against Egypt's GMO-related prohibition on imports of canned tuna with soybean oil

Consultations requested on 22 September 2000; pending.

1 The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the WTO or WTO Members.

2 All WTO documents referred to in this paper are available from the WTO Website: .

3 A fact recognized by Members during the review of the operation and implementation of the Agreement three years after its entry into force (WTO document G/SPS/12).

4 See Annex 1 for a more detailed explanation of each trade concern.

5 EC Measures Concerning Meat and Meat Products (Hormones) (WT/DS26 and WT/DS48); Australia - Measures Affecting Importation of Salmon (WT/DS18) and Japan - Measures Affecting Agricultural Products (WT/DS76).

6 See Annex 2.

7 Hormones - Appellate Body Report (WT/DS26/AB/R), para.124 and para. 172.

8 WTO document G/SPS/15, "Guidelines to further the practical implementation of Article 5.5".

9 Robert Griffin, Report of the WTO workshop on Risk Analysis, 19-20 June 2000 (WTO document G/SPS/GEN/209)

10 In this dispute the United States challenged Japan's requirement that each variety of certain fruits be tested with regard to the efficacy of fumigation treatment.

11 In preparations for the Ministerial Conference in Seattle in 1999, several Members proposed the establishment of a working group in the WTO to examine GMOs and their relationship with the different WTO Agreements, and evaluate the need for further action. However, no such working group has been established, and since the Seattle Ministerial at the end of 1999, the issue has not been discussed.

12 For an update on the state of play of WTO disputes, see the WTO website

13 For further details, see the WTO Official Doha Ministerial Conference website

14 For further details, see the WTO website

15 For a complete summary of all the specific trade concerns brought to the attention of the SPS Committee, see WTO document G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.1.

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