One of the provisions of the SPS Convention is the obligation for members to facilitate the provision of technical assistance to developing countries, either through relevant international organizations or bilaterally. FAO, OIE and WHO have extensive programmes to assist developing countries in food security, animal and plant health. A number of countries also have important bilateral programmes with other WTO members in these areas. The WTO secretariat has organized a programme of regional seminars to inform developing countries (and Central and Eastern European countries) in detail of their rights and obligations under this Agreement. These seminars are organised in collaboration with Codex, OIE and IPPC to ensure that governments are aware of the role these organisations can play in helping countries meet their needs and reap the full benefits of the SPS Agreement. Interested private professional organisations and consumer organisations may participate in the seminars. The WTO secretariat also provides technical assistance through national workshops and for governments through them in Geneva. Back to top of page Sanitary and phytosanitary measures can only be imposed to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant health on the basis of scientific information. However, governments may introduce TPOs rules if necessary to achieve a number of objectives such as national security or the prevention of fraudulent practices. Since the commitments made by governments under the two agreements are different, it is important to know whether a measure is a sanitary or phytosanitary measure or a measure subject to the OEP agreement. Sanitary and phytosanitary measures can naturally lead to trade restrictions. All governments accept that certain trade restrictions may be necessary to ensure food safety and the protection of animal and plant health. However, governments are sometimes pressured to go beyond what is necessary to protect health and use sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions to protect domestic producers from economic competition.

This pressure is expected to increase, as other barriers to trade will be removed as a result of the Uruguay Round agreements. A sanitary or phytosanitary restriction, which is not necessary for health reasons, can be a very effective means of protectionism and, because of its technical complexity, a particularly misleading and difficult obstacle to challenge. With the adoption of the WTO agreement, governments agreed to be bound by the rules of all related multilateral trade agreements, including the SPS Agreement. In the event of a trade dispute, WTO dispute settlement 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. . . .