The SPS Agreement: Can It Regulate Trade in Nanotechnology?

By: James D. Thayer

Recent studies have shown that nanoparticles, which are approximately 1 to 100 billionths of a meter in size, present unique health and environmental risks. Nevertheless, products enhanced by nanoparticles, such as sunscreen, golf balls, and hard drives, are shipped daily in international trade. With these unique risks in mind, would measures regulating the trade in nanotechnology be subject to the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures? If they were, would the Agreement objectively balance the unique risks and benefits of trading in nanotechnology? Whether measures regulating the trade in nanotechnology are subject to the SPS Agreement depends on the purpose of such measures. This iBrief argues that because of recent scientific evidence, many such measures are likely to be subject to the SPS Agreement. In addition, since sanitary and phytosanitary measures must be based on scientific evidence, if Members apply the Agreement appropriately, the Agreement would objectively balance the benefits and risks of trading in nanotechnology.

Cite: 2005 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0015

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