The SPS Agreement has a two-fold objective. It aims to both:
- Recognise the sovereign right of Members to provide the level of health protection they deem appropriate; and
- Ensure that SPS measures do not represent unnecessary, arbitrary, scientifically unjustifiable, or disguised restrictions on international trade.
Indeed, the SPS Agreement allows countries to set their own food safety and animal and plant health standards. At the same time, however, the SPS Agreement requires that such regulations be based on science, that they be applied only to the extent necessary to protect health, and that they not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between countries where identical or similar conditions prevail.
In order to achieve its objective, the SPS Agreement encourages Members to use international standards, guidelines and recommendations where they exist. Members may adopt SPS measures which result in higher levels of health protection — or measures for health concerns for which international standards do not exist — provided that they are scientifically justified.