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close this bookFood, Nutrition and Agriculture - 11- Edible Fats and Oils (FAO - FPND - FAO, 1994)
close this folderUnderstanding the GATT agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures1
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View the documentThe agreement
View the documentQuestions and answers

(introduction...)

1 This paper has previously been distributed to GATT contracting parties as well as to selected public audiences.

G.H. Stanton

Gretchen H. Stanton is a Counsellor in the GATT Agriculture and Commodities Division. She served as the Chairperson of the Negotiating Group on Agriculture's Working Group on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Regulations and Barriers throughout the negotiation of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.

On 15 December 1993, 117 countries concluded a seven-year effort to negotiate improved rules and conditions for world trade under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The round of multilateral trade negotiations, which had opened in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in September 1986, was considerably more ambitious in its scope than any of the previous seven rounds of GATT multilateral negotiations. The Final Act of the Uruguay Round of negotiations, which was formally adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco on 15 April 1994 and will come into effect in 1995, establishes a new World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO will oversee the implementation of more than 20 trade agreements which cover a vast range of trade issues, from agriculture to trade in services and trade-related intellectual property rights. The results of the Uruguay Round will provide expanded trade opportunities for both goods and services, as well as strengthened trade rules and disciplines.

An aspect of the Uruguay Round of negotiations that has received considerable public attention has been the negotiation of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the "SPS Agreement"). This agreement concerns food safety actions taken by governments, as well as animal and plant health protection. The SPS Agreement builds on the achievements of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a subsidiary body of FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO), in developing international standards to ensure the safety of food. For plant protection, it will make use of the international standards, guidelines and recommendations which may be developed under the auspices of FAO's International Plant Protection Convention.

The GATT secretariat has provided this paper to assist in public understanding of the SPS Agreement. It briefly describes the agreement and addresses some of the questions most frequently asked. This background paper is not intended to provide any legal interpretation of the SPS Agreement.