The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the "SPS Agreement") sets out the rights and obligations of Members when taking measures to ensure food safety, to protect human health from plant - or animal-spread diseases, or to protect plant and animal health from pests and diseases. Governments must ensure that their food safety and animal or plant health measures are necessary for health protection, are based on scientific principles, are transparent, and are not applied in a manner which would constitute a disguised restriction on international trade. The measures must be justifiable through an assessment of the health risks involved. The use of internationally-developed standards is encouraged. Advance notice must be given of proposed new regulations or modifications to requirements whenever these differ from the relevant international standards. Since 1 January 2000, the provisions of the SPS Agreement also apply for the least-developed countries.
By 31 December 2000, the Committee had received close to 1900 SPS notifications since the entry into force of the WTO in 1995. One-hundred-and sixteen-Members had established and identified Enquiry Points to respond to requests for information regarding sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and 109 had identified their national authority responsible for notifications.
In 2000, the SPS Committee held three regular meetings. At each of these, the Committee discussed specific trade concerns identified by Members. The Committee also focused specifically on difficulties faced by developing countries, in particular regarding recognition of equivalence (see G/L/423) and the need for special and differential treatment. The Committee developed practical guidelines to help Members achieve more consistency in their decisions regarding acceptable levels of health protection, and continued to monitor the use of international standards. A number of intergovernmental organizations have been granted observer status by the Committee, either on a regular or an ad hoc basis.
The WTO Secretariat regularly provides technical assistance to developing and WTO-acceding countries to facilitate their implementation of the SPS Agreement. This assistance is usually provided either through WTO-organized programmes or through WTO presentations in programmes organized by other institutions. Most of this technical assistance is undertaken in cooperation with the relevant standard-setting organizations (Codex, OIE and IPPC), as well as with the World Bank. During 2000, the WTO Secretariat participated in SPS training workshops in Belarus, Côte d'Ivoire, Hungary, Mali, Namibia, Senegal, and the United Arab Emirates; in national workshops and seminars in Cuba, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama, Turkey, and Uruguay; and in providing direct assistance and advice to Macedonia in the context of its accession to the WTO.
In June 2000, the WTO organized a workshop on the application of risk analysis in the context of the SPS Agreement, in conjunction with the regular meeting of the Committee. Various risk assessment methodologies were presented, and concrete examples of the use of risk assessment were given by national experts. Many capital-based experts participated in the workshop and the Committee meeting, and the WTO sponsored the participation of officials from six least-developed countries.
As for dispute settlement, to date Panel and Appellate Body reports have been adopted for three distinct cases in the SPS area: EC-Hormones, Australia-Salmon and Japan-Varietals. No further panels were established on new SPS issues in 2000, although formal requests for consultations relating to alleged violations of the SPS Agreement were requested by the United States on Mexican measures affecting imports of live swine, and by Thailand on Egyptian restrictions on imports of tuna canned in soybean oil. The report of the panel considering the consistency of Australia's measures in implementing the recommendation and rulings of the DSB in the Australia-Salmon dispute was issued in February 2000. In November 2000, the United States and Australia reported that they had reached a mutually acceptable resolution to the US complaint regarding Australia's import restrictions on salmon.