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. Although in the 47 years of the previous GATT dispute resolution procedures, only one body has been sought to review health or plant health disputes, ten complaints about the new obligations were formally filed in the first three years of the SPS agreement. This is not surprising, because, for the first time, the agreement clarifies the basis for challenging health or plant health measures that limit trade and which may not be scientifically justified. The challenges included issues as varied as inspection and quarantine procedures, outbreaks, use-by data, the use of veterinary drugs in livestock, and disinfection treatments for beverages. Dispute resolution bodies were invited to review four of the complaints; other complaints have been or should be resolved after the mandatory bilateral consultation process. This introduction examines the text of the SPS agreement as contained in the final act of Uruguay`s round of multilateral trade negotiations, signed in Marrakech on 15 April 1994. This agreement and other agreements contained in the final act are part of the Treaty establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO) with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade as amended (GATT 1994). The WTO has replaced GATT as the umbrella organization for international trade.
The agreement on the application of health and plant health measures, also known as the SPS agreement or simply SPS, is an international treaty of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It was negotiated during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and came into force with the creation of the WTO in early 1995.  Overall, the health and plant health measures (“SPS”) covered by the agreement are those aimed at protecting life, the animal or the plant or human or plant health from certain risks.  Under the SPS agreement, the WTO sets restrictions on Member States` policy on food security (bacterial contaminants, pesticides, inspection and labelling) as well as animal and plant health (phyto-hygiene) with regard to imported pests and diseases. There are three standards bodies that set standards on which WTO members should base their SPS methods.