SPS-Plus and Bilateral Treaty Network: A 'Global' Solution to the Global Food Safety Problem?
41 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2012 Last revised: 14 Nov 2012
Date Written: October 5, 2012
Global food safety is a pressing and complex issue in the terrain of global governance and institutional design. However, the role of international law in food safety has not been satisfactorily appreciated by relevant international institutions and states at the multilateral level. The lack of scientific consensus, bottlenecks in WTO negotiations, and the WHO’s reluctance to further engage in international food-safety lawmaking have arguably discouraged states from seeking multilateral solutions at this stage. When facing increasing public pressure in recent years, some states have gradually shifted to bilateral approaches pragmatic enough to address their imminent needs. This article examines bilateral agreements as such between China, the United States, the European Union, and Japan, and argues that “SPS-plus” elements have emerged as a common feature of such bilateral arrangements. This article further discusses the respective roles of multilateralism and bilateralism in tackling the global food-safety problem. Rather than provide an ultimate solution, the conclusion offers some recommendations and caveats on the search for optimal institutional designs for global food safety.
Keywords: food safety, global governance, international health law, SPS-plus, WTO, WHO, China, bilateralism
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