All governments of WTO member states must have an investigative body, an office to counter and respond to requests for information on the health and plant health measures of these countries. These requests may be copies of new or existing regulations, information on relevant agreements between two countries, or information on risk assessment decisions. The addresses of the application points can be found here. In 2003, the United States challenged a number of EU legislation restricting the importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in a dispute known as biotech on the grounds that they were “unjustifiable” and illegal under the SPS agreement. In May 2006, the WTO`s dispute resolution body issued a complex ruling that challenged aspects of the EU GMO regulation, but rejected many of the US claims. A summary of the decision can be provided here. Because GATT focused on tariff reductions, the framework before the SPS agreement was not sufficiently sufficient to deal with the problems of non-tariff barriers (NB) and the need for an independent agreement on this issue became critical.  The SPS agreement is an ambitious attempt to address NB due to cross-border differences in technical standards, without reducing the prerogative of governments to implement protection measures against diseases and pests.  In this agreement, Switzerland and New Zealand recognize the equivalence of their respective veterinary rules with respect to the trade in animals and animal products (Swiss-New Zealand Veterinary Agreement). It applies to the following species: cattle, pigs, equines, poultry and hatching eggs, aquaculture animals, sheep, goats and animals in accordance with EU Directive 92/65/EEC. It says that the legislation is equivalent in both countries.
To the extent that they are exploited within the defined scope, trade between Switzerland and New Zealand is subject to the same terms and conditions as trade between the EU and New Zealand. The SPS Committee, created by the SPS Agreement to ensure compliance with its implementation, has reviewed the operation and implementation of the agreement three times since it came into force in 1995 (`). Many governments have enshrined the main obligations of the SPS agreement in their national rules. They first consider whether the application of one of the relevant international standards2 could provide the level of health protection that the country deems appropriate and, if not, base their application on an assessment of the health risks associated with the trade in the product. The SPS committee has developed guidelines to help governments define a coherent approach in defining their acceptable level of risk and select measures taken to achieve this3. 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.