Health and plant health measures can, by their very nature, lead to trade restrictions. All governments accept that certain trade restrictions may be necessary to ensure food security and the protection of animal and plant health. However, there is sometimes pressure on governments to go beyond what is necessary to protect health and to use health and plant health restrictions to protect local producers from economic competition. This pressure is expected to increase as the Uruguay Round agreements remove new trade barriers. A health or plant health restriction, which is not really necessary for health reasons, can be a very effective protectionist device and, because of its technical complexity, constitute a particularly misleading and difficult obstacle. High-income countries, which already use high social protection methods, would also expect the imported product to use high protection methods to protect public morals and domestic producers. Producers in developing countries may consider that, in their circumstances, restrictions on production methods are inappropriate or unaffordable. These issues are expected in the near future as the WTO negotiations take place, as global livestock production intensifies and pandemics such as COVID-19 are likely to re-emerge. The GATT rules also contained an exception (Article XX: b) that allowed countries to take measures „necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health“ provided that they were not unjustifiably discriminated against between countries where the same conditions prevailed and that they did not constitute a disguised restriction of trade.
In other words, if necessary, in order to protect human, animal or plant health, governments could impose stricter requirements on imported products than they need for domestic products. One of the provisions of the SPS agreement is the obligation for members to facilitate the provision of technical assistance to developing countries, either through relevant international organizations or at the bilateral level. FAO, OIE and WHO have implemented important food, animal and plant security assistance programmes to developing countries. A number of countries also have important bilateral programmes with other WTO members in these areas. The WTO secretariat has organised a programme of regional seminars to provide developing countries (and Central and Eastern European countries) with detailed information on the rights and obligations conferred on them by this agreement. These seminars are organized in collaboration with Codex, OIE and IPPC to ensure that governments are aware of the role these organizations can play in helping countries meet their needs and to take full advantage of the benefits of the SPS agreement. The seminars are open to the participation of private professional associations and consumer organisations. The WTO secretariat also provides technical assistance through national workshops and governments through their representatives in Geneva. Return to Article 2 of Schedule 1 TBT sets standards that depend on the agreement.
The standards refer to documents „for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for related products or production processes and methods,“ which are not subject to the compliance requirement. Standards may also include requirements for terminology, symbol, packaging, labelling or labelling, or apply exclusively to a product, process or production method. Finally, Section 3 of Schedule 1 of the OBT provides that compliance assessment procedures include „any procedure that is applied directly or indirectly to determine whether the requirements applicable in technical regulations or standards are being met.“ 8 The Italian body of discrimination against imported agricultural machinery examined the „discriminatory treatment“ of