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AuthorZarrilli, Simonetta
TitleInternational Trade in Genetically Modified Organisms and Multilateral Negotiations
Imprint Geneva, United Nations. 2000
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Descript 43 p


Abstract: International Trade in Genetically Modified Organisms and Multilateral Negotiations. 1. In order to be able to export their products, developing countries increasingly have to be able to prove that they comply with the standards and regulations of the importing countries. Standards and regulations are aimed at ensuring, inter alia, that domestically produced and imported products are safe, of good quality and have as little a detrimental effect on the environment as possible. For quite a long time developing countries' main concern in this field has been that their trade partners could use, for protectionist purposes, measures intended to protect health, safety and the environment, or to ensure high product quality. Because of this, developing countries have tried to be vigilant regarding the imposition of unnecessarily strict regulations, and have opposed modifications of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS). They have also opposed modifications of Article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which deals with general exceptions to GATT obligations. These modifications were proposed by several developed countries to better accommodate non-trade concerns in the multilateral trading system, especially those related to environmental protection. 2. However, the situation seems to have become more complex lately. Developing country preoccupations related to market access are still very much present; but these countries are now facing a new challenge related to trade in products whose safety and possible environmental impacts are currently not well known, namely genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and products derived from them. A GMO is an organism in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. Most developing countries have not yet passed legislation in this field and believe that their limited scientific capacities, their recurrent problems with checking products at the border, and their restricted ability to make their own assessment of the risks and benefits involved do not allow them to manage properly the challenges that GMOs pose. They have therefore called for the establishment of international rules in this field. Once it is in force, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which represents their multilaterally agreed response to these and other non-trade-related concerns, will provide the legal framework for conducting international trade in GMOs, at least among parties to it, although its relationship with the multilateral trade disciplines set out in the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements is unclear. The Protocol gives quite substantial discretionary power to importing countries with regard to the goods they are willing to import. The trade framework established by it is therefore rather different from the one that developing countries have traditionally supported within the WTO. [English only]

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