Implementation — the SPS Committee

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4.3 What does the SPS Committee do?

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The SPS Committee oversees the implementation of the SPS Agreement. It has developed procedures and guidelines which help governments implement their obligations under the Agreement. These documents include the recommended procedures for implementing the transparency obligations of the SPS Agreement (G/SPS/7/Rev.2), which contain detailed explanations on how to fill in the notification formats. The SPS Committee has also developed a provisional procedure to monitor the use of international standards (G/SPS/11), and approves annual reports on the results of this monitoring process (see G/SPS/13, G/SPS/16 and explanation on how to find these reports on the website). The Committee has elaborated guidelines (G/SPS/15) to further the practical application of Article 5.5. These guidelines address consistency in decisions dealing with risks, and are designed to aid governments in avoiding arbitrary or unjustifiable decisions that may result in discrimination or disguised trade restrictions. In 2001, the SPS Committee adopted the Decision on Equivalence (G/SPS/19), and a work programme to continue discussing ways of assisting developing countries in the implementation of Article 4 (G/SPS/20).

As required by the SPS Agreement, the Committee conducted a three-year review (G/SPS/12) of the implementation of the SPS Agreement, which concluded in March 1999. In general, the Committee agreed that the SPS Agreement had provided a useful set of rules for trade-related SPS measures, although there were some implementation problems. At the Doha Ministerial Conference, Members decided to review the operation and implementation of the SPS Agreement at least once every four years.

The Review of the Operation and Implementation of the SPS Agreement

Article 12.7 of the SPS Agreement provides that “[T]he Committee shall review the operation and implementation of this Agreement three years after the date of entry into force of the WTO Agreement, and thereafter as the need arises.” As part of the review, the Committee could also prepare proposals for the amendment of the Agreement, and submit them to the Council for Trade in Goods.

During the review exercise of 1998/99, Members emphasized that the SPS Agreement was a framework of rules which had contributed to improving international trading relationships with respect to SPS measures, although a few implementation problems remained. The Committee welcomed the fact that numerous trade-related matters had been resolved after their discussion at SPS meetings and/or bilateral consultations.

Members examined the experience with the implementation of the Agreement, focussing on transparency, including the notification procedures; special and differential treatment of developing countries; technical assistance; international harmonization; equivalence; adaptation to regional conditions; risk assessment and dispute resolution. The Committee revised the recommended notification procedures, including the notification formats.

The report of the tree-year review is contained in G/SPS/12



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