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Global Food Governance

Implications of Food Safety and Quality Standards in International Trade Law


Mariela Maidana-Eletti

With increasingly globalised markets, changing consumer preferences and the steady development of technologies influencing food trade flows, safety and quality concerns have triggered the development of new forms of global (food) governance. Since its creation in 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has succeeded in providing a multilateral legal framework for the development of regulatory practices through its multiple agreements. Similarly, the continuing importance of regional and bilateral trade agreements, such as in the European Union and in Switzerland, has enhanced WTO’s accomplishments through a comprehensive and dynamic set of international rules and standards for trade. However, the changing trends in the production and distribution of food products have questioned the effectiveness of the regulatory status quo. This book addresses the legal aspects of the current global architecture for food governance, particularly with regard to the role of international standards. In doing so, this work attempts at mapping the implications of domestic food measures in international trade law.


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2. The Importance of Food Standards in International Trade Law


2.1 Introduction 2.1.1 The Role of Standards Standards are found in all realms of human activity in order to specify the characteristics of a product or its manufacture. While doing this, they fulfill a range of functions, such as lowering risks, increasing trust and facilitating predictability in a given market.105 Hence, standard set- ting aims at providing a rational process to solve technical problems, based on science and governance.106 Standards reduce information costs for market players, which in turn allow for a more efficient functioning of the market.107 In particular, the harmonisation of the wide variety of food standards appears essential in facilitating the global food-sourcing trend.108 International trade agreements have been influencing these re- cent developments since the establishment of the WTO. As traditional market access barriers are dismantled, non-tariff measures – such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical regulations – seem 105 Smith, para. 25. 106 Thomas Loya/John Boli, ‘Standardization in the World Policy: Technical Ra- tionality over Power’ in: John Boli/George Thomas (eds), Constructing World Culture, Stanford University Press 1999, pp. 169–197, p. 193. 107 Steve Charnovitz, ‘International Standards and the WTO’, The George Washing- ton University Law School Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper Nr. 133, May 2002, p. 12. 108 This chapter is partly based on previously published work, see: Mariela Maidana- Eletti, ‘International Food Standards and WTO Law’, (2014) 19 (2) Deakin Law Review, pp. 217–241 [Maidana-Eletti, International Food Standards]. On the proliferation of food standards in the private sector...

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