1997). To our knowledge, it is so far the only large-scale attempt to quantify the effect of foreign sanitary and technical regulations on trade. Other agencies, such as the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, have also investigated the impact of many national regulations on exports. Both the European Union (EU) and the Canadian government publish an annual report on U.S. trade barriers. The European Commission has also set up a database on market access for a large number of countries. This database describes many foreign regulations that European exporters consider as unnecessary barriers to trade.

These efforts show that domestic regulations impede imports in almost all countries. Regulatory barriers in the EU are often pointed out by U.S. agencies. The EU ban on hormone-treated meat is one of the most quoted examples. In the European Commission's market access database, the pages relative to Japan are particularly impressive. Many regulations, from the list of authorized additives to the technical requirements on meat products and the conditions of fumigation of flowers and vegetables at the Narita airport, are considered excessive. Even Australia, a country known for low tariffs, has technical standards that often preclude imports.2 The U.S. conditions of sanitary inspection, with long and somewhat random delays, open lists for insects which make import authorizations difficult and unpredictable, and complex quarantine rules are also accused of making it unnecessarily difficult to export food products to the United States.3

International rules have been strengthened to address these problems. The Uruguay Round provides a framework for solving disputes through the World Trade Organization's (WTO's) Dispute Settlement Body; it tackles the problem of nontariff trade barriers through the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement and a strengthened Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement; and it gives greater importance to international bodies, especially Codex


According to the EU Commission, ''the fervor with which sanitary and phytosanitary rules are applied in Australia suggests that the system operates as a trade barrier." For example, canned tomatoes that have failed a case pressure test are banned; and it is nearly impossible for cereals to enter Australia even at times of severe drought (when domestic prices are very high) due to disease fears. Import permits are required for over 150 agricultural products, without which they are prohibited, and the significant financial costs of product control and testing, as well as the slowness of the monitoring process, serve to deter trade of chocolate, canned meat, olives, wine, herbs, poultry, or pork meat. Quarantine regulations de facto prohibit the importation of a whole range of meat, dairy, and other products.


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) noticed that there are 11 U.S. agencies involved in import regulations, many of them with different methods of assessments, imposing an unnecessary administrative burden on would-be exporters to the United States (OECD, 1997a). For example, imported foods are treated differently depending on whether they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration or the USDA (the USDA inspects meat and poultry products), and as a result, different processed products exported by the same firm are sometimes treated differently.

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