Markets working to support sustainable development

WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS)

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) aggreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) seeks to ensure that member-states do not implement food safety policies and health measures that create obstacles for free trade. 

The agreement looks to reconcile two positions:

  1. Ensuring  that food is safe (in a culturally appropriate context) for consumers to eat
  2. Ensuring  that such measures do not hinder trade and are not used as an excuse to favour domestic producers

The SPS agreement allows national governments to set their own standards – recognising that local conditions will play a large part in any consideration of safety and appropriateness - although such regulations are be supported by scientific research. Furthermore, in an attempt to boost transparency, SPS also entails that respective governments inform other countries of any new/changes SPS legislation or requirements.

As with other WTO aggreements, member-states that are found to be e violating SPS are threatened with trade sanctions.

Market coverage: 

All national members of the WTO are subject to the agreement on SPS.

Background information: 

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) was established in 1995 as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). As of October 2013 it has 159 members (nations).

The WTO members agree on rules that govern international trade and cover technical regulations, sanitary and phytosanitary measures as well as intellectual property rights.

It's overall goal is ‘to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible’.


Funding source: 

Annual budget of approximately 196 million Swiss Francs, financed by member contributions.