a1 Jean Monnet Chair, Professor of International Law and International Organizations and Director of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies and Institute for International Law, Leuven University
a2 Research Fellow at the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies and Institute for International Law, Leuven University
Private standards have increasingly become a contentious issue in the multilateral trading system. The ever increasing number of sector-specific standards developed by businesses, in particular in the food market, may have significant implications for developing countries in terms of market access. Some countries see private food standards as a particular form of non-tariff barriers. The World Trade Organization (WTO) deals with non-tariff barriers in the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) and in the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement). This paper examines to what extent these agreements cover private standards, as they were originally intended to regulate standard-setting by public authorities. We find that there is an important difference between the SPS Agreement and the TBT Agreement in that the drafters of the latter realized the importance of the private sector in standard-setting. Finally, we discuss whether a ‘Code of Good Practice for the Preparation, Adoption and Application of Standards’, similar to that under the TBT Agreement, could be adopted under the SPS Agreement.