Appendix 2

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry: Management of Biosecurity Risks.

Summary of World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement)

The SPS Agreement confirms the rights of WTO member countries to protect the health of their people, animals, and plants, and sets out rules by which this can be done while facilitating trade. Members have the right to protect the life and health of their human, animal, and plant populations, provided the measures taken are consistent with the SPS Agreement.

The fundamental principles of the SPS agreement are set out as ‘basic rights and obligations’, and state that:

  • National sovereignty is preserved. WTO members have the right to protect their human, animal, or plant health, but only if the way they achieve this protection is consistent with the SPS Agreement.
  • SPS measures must be necessary, based on scientific principles, and not maintained without scientific evidence.
  • WTO members must not use SPS measures to discriminate between WTO member countries, and between imported and domestically produced goods.
  • SPS measures that are consistent with the SPS Agreement are presumed to be consistent with GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) 1994.
  • SPS measures that can be required by an importing country (which in New Zealand are specified in import health standards) may include treatment, inspection and certification prior to export, and inspection, treatment or quarantine on arrival. WTO members are obliged to ensure that their sanitary or phytosanitary measures are based on an assessment of risks, (which in New Zealand is called ‘risk analysis’). For an SPS measure to be based on a risk assessment there has to be a ‘rational relationship’ between the SPS measure and the risk assessment.

The SPS Agreement defines risk assessment as – the evaluation of the likelihood of entry, establishment or spread of a pest or disease within the territory of an importing Member [country] according to the sanitary or phytosanitary measures which might be applied, and of the associated potential biological and economic consequences; ...

The SPS Agreement sets out the factors to be taken into account when assessing the risks of particular pests or diseases potentially associated with importation of a particular product. These factors include the potential loss of production or sales, and the costs of any control or eradication measures.

Further information on the SPS Agreement can be found on both the WTO and MAF web sites: and

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