Implementation — the SPS Committee

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4.5 Specific trade concerns

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Many trade problems between Members have been raised at SPS Committee meetings. At the meeting, Members usually commit themselves to exchange information and hold bilateral consultations. Often they report back at subsequent Committee meetings, especially when problems persist.

Examples of specific trade concerns include a range of topics related to BSE, better known as “mad cow disease”. Many countries imposed BSE-related trade barriers, and some exporters feel they are unfairly affected by them. Another example are Mexican restrictions on Thai milled rice, allegedly intended to avoid the introduction of pests. In this case, continued Thai pressure at meeting after meeting led to a change in the Mexican measure.

Raising an issue as a specific trade concern can be an important way of gathering support. Thus, in March 1998, 16 Members raised problems with a notified change in EC maximum levels for aflatoxins in foodstuffs. As a result, the EC consulted with several Members, and revised its maximum levels for some foods, as well as the proposed control and inspection procedure.

At first, mostly developed countries raised specific trade concerns. Now developing countries have become much more active users of this forum to address trade problems. During 2000 and 2001, 58 percent of all trade concerns brought to the Committee’s attention were raised by developing countries, concerning measures applied or proposed by developed countries or other developing countries.

The first of the following figures shows how many trade concerns were raises from regarding food safety, animal and plant health. The data for animal health contains issues related to transmissible spongiform encephalopathies such as BSE, which usually concern not only animals but also human health. A second figure shows how many new trade concerns were reached each year; the figure for 2001 covers only the first two Committee meetings during that year. The following figure shows the percentage of all trade concerns that were raised by developed, developing and least-developed countries from the creation of the WTO in 1995 until the end of 2001 in meetings of the SPS Committee. The fourth figure shows who were the co-complainants, i.e. who took the floor on an issue that was initially raised by another Member. In this category, developing countries were particularly active. The last figure shows who the respondents were, that is the countries whose measures were causing concern to other Members.

For a summary of specific trade concerns, click here. The most recent summary can be downloaded from the WTO website. Click here to find out how to download these documents from the WTO website.

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