In October 2007, Craig Thorn provided testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittees on Oversight and Trade. In it he addressed criticisms of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement and the importance of those rules to U.S. agriculture.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
My name is Craig Thorn. I am a partner in the firm DTB Associates. Our firm represents a number of companies and trade associations in the agriculture sector, but I am here today in a personal capacity to talk about international rules governing the application of food safety standards and other sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. It is a subject that has been a particular interest of mine throughout my career.
International trade rules have long recognized the right of countries to impose measures to protect consumers, the agricultural economy and the environment from unsafe products, even if such measures act as barriers to trade. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which entered into effect in 1948 and which still forms the foundation of the international trading system, permits contracting parties to adopt measures “necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health”, provided such measures were not discriminatory and were not disguised trade barriers. During the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, when countries were working to bring agricultural trade more fully under international disciplines and to eliminate most forms of non-tariff trade barriers, negotiators recognized the need for more detailed rules to govern SPS measures. Therefore, they began a negotiation that resulted in the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, or the “SPS Agreement”. That Agreement entered into force in 1995, along with the 16 other agreements that are administered by the World Trade Organization.