Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Technical Barriers to Trade

Agricultural Trade at the World Trade Organization 

Agreement on Agriculture and the Committee on Agriculture Special Sessions

The Office of Agricultural Affairs is responsible for negotiation and implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agriculture negotiations, covering topics including market access, domestic support, and export competition.  The Office of Agricultural Affairs is responsible for interagency policy coordination for U.S. participation in the WTO Committee on Agriculture (CoA), and co-leads, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. delegation to the CoA meetings.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)

The Office of Agricultural Affairs is responsible for negotiations and policy coordination regarding issues raised in the WTO SPS Committee, and issues raised in the WTO TBT Committee that are of relevance to agriculture.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures 

SPS measures include all relevant regulations, requirements, and procedures used to ensure the safety of agricultural products for people, plants, and animals. This includes processes and production methods; testing, inspection, certification, and approval procedures; quarantine requirements for transporting animals or plants; procedures and methods of risk assessment; and packaging and labeling requirements related to food safety.

The United States supports SPS measures taken by governments to protect their people, animals and plants from health risks. Unfortunately, governments sometimes seek to disguise measures that are discriminatory, unduly burdensome, or not based on scientific evidence as legitimate SPS measures. These measures create significant barriers to U.S. agricultural exports, and USTR is committed to identifying and removing these barriers. The Office of Agricultural Affairs leads the United States delegation to the WTO SPS Committee.

Technical Barriers to Trade

WTO Members have the right to implement measures to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as the protection of human health and safety, or protection of the environment. Technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures must be non-discriminatory and not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. TBT measures can take the form of product standards, testing requirements, and other technical requirements. As tariff barriers to agricultural trade have fallen, standards-related measures of this kind have emerged as a key impediment to market access. USTR actively seeks to prevent and remove unjustified technical barriers to trade.