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SPS issues and free trade agreements

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

SPS Issues and Free Trade Agreements

July 2004

· Introduction: SPS Issues and Free Trade Agreements
· U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement: SPS Issues Play Important Role
· CAFTA: Multilateral Approach for Central America
· U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement: A Model for Success
· Morocco and Bahrain Free Trade Agreements - Very Different Experiences
· U.S.-Thailand Free Trade Agreement: Negotiations Begin

The Technical Trade Report is on the APHIS Trade Support Team Home Page

Introduction: SPS Issues and Free Trade Agreements

In the past two years, the United States
has successfully negotiated six FTAs
(with Australia, Bahrain, Central
America, Chile, Morocco, and
Singapore) and launched several more
negotiations (with Andean countries,
Panama, Thailand, and countries of the
South African Customs Union). The US
is also engaged in negotiations to create
a broader Free Trade Agreement of the
Americas (FTAA) which would
encompass most of the Western
Hemisphere. This is a dramatic increase
in activity over the previous two
decades, when FTAs were concluded
with Israel (1985, the first FTA
negotiated by the US), Canada (1988),
Mexico (1992 as part of NAFTA, which
also included Canada), and Jordan

This greater focus by the United States
on FTAs is a result of several factors that
include the clear success of NAFTA in
boosting North American trade, the
recent stalling of the Doha Round
negotiations of the WTO that make
bilateral agreements more attractive, and
greater support for using free trade as a
tool for promoting economic prosperity
and political stability in the key regions
such as Africa, Latin America, and the
Middle East. Another factor that could
maintain FTA momentum even if the
Doha Round comes back to life is that
many countries now view FTAs as an
attractive opportunity for obtaining a
wide range of economic concessions,
trade or otherwise, from the United

This proliferation of FTAs creates
challenges in the sphere of sanitary and
phytosanitary issues. While the main
US goal on agriculture in many FTA
negotiations often is to secure non-SPS
related concessions such as lower tariffs,
the foreign partners often see the FTA as
an opportunity to resolve outstanding
SPS issues with the US as well as seek
accelerated new market access to the US
for their animal and plant products.

Experience to date has shown that the
number of SPS related issues raised by
foreign trading partners during FTA
negotiations greatly exceeds those raised
by the US. They also exceed the number
of issues that APHIS can realistically
deal with given other priorities.

The recent acceleration of FTA activity
means that we now have more of a track
record from which to judge what has
worked, and what has not, relative to
SPS issues in FTA negotiations so far.
Such experience could be useful as we
engage in negotiations with more
countries in the future.

In order to explore this “track record,”
we have chosen to describe recent
experience with a number of key FTAs:
1) Australia because it represents a
country of similar economic
development to the US, 2) CAFTA
because it represents an FTA with a
“bloc” of countries and also because SPS
issues posed particular challenges, 3)
Chile because it was the first “major”
FTA signed after NAFTA, 4) Morocco
and Bahrain because of the different
approaches taken by those two countries
from the same region, and, 4) Thailand
because it is the first FTA being
negotiated with an Asian nation that has
a significant agricultural component.