Food Safety Issues, Trade and WTO Rules: A Developing Country Perspective
The SPS Agreement and the related WTO dispute settlement mechanism are an important first step in strengthening the global trade architecture, bringing in greater transparency and orderly conditions to world food trade. However, implementation of the new trade rules has turned out to be a more complex task than the traditional market access issues handled by the WTO. Several factors, including inadequate financial and technical resources, have constrained developing countries from becoming effective participants in the implementation process, and there is widespread suspicion that SPS regulations are being used as hidden protectionist devices by developed countries. However, it must be noted that, despite all the problems, some developing countries have been quite successful in penetrating developed country food markets; they have done so by accepting the consumer preferences and standards in quality-sensitive high-income markets and implementing domestic supplyside measures. The best strategy for developing country food exporters is to learn from the experiences of these successful exporters, while making full use of available international assistance initiatives. Most importantly, the task of complying with SPS standards should be viewed not just as a barrier but also as an opportunity to upgrade quality standards and market sophistication in the food export sector.
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