During the last few weeks of my internship, I worked in a new area of law called standards. Standards are standardization agreements that countries have agreed to abide by when importing food, animal feeds, plants, and other related products from other countries. This issue came up because a particular country recently banned U.S. imports of pet foods. To understand the legal remedies available, I researched the meaning of scientific evidence in Article 2.2 of the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measure (SPS Agreement).

To prevent an importing country from imposing measures that are too trade-restrictive, the World Trade Organization (WTO) requires its Members Countries to abide by the SPS Agreement. The SPS Agreement is a legal trade instrument that balances the economic benefits of international trade with scientific-based principles on public welfare. Specifically, the Agreement prevents an importing country from imposing measures that are too restrictive on imports by establishing a series of requirements.

I was surprised to find out just how complicated the SPS Agreement is. First, any measure a country imposes on imports needs to be based on international standards on food safety. While a country can have a higher standard than required in international standards, it must perform a risk assessment on products from importing countries before doing so. Having read through many WTO cases that adjudicated on Article 2.2, I was surprised that countries have litigated at the WTO on imports of apples, meats, and other products.

Although it wasn't easy to go through countless pages of WTO cases, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of disputes between countries on imports. These trade measures can have far-reaching consequences. If an importing country bans certain items for political reasons that have little to do with safety, not only would this impact importers, but it would also impact consumers who are dependent on those products.

The experience at OCC-IC helped me understand the myriad number of legal issues that U.S. businesses face when doing business abroad. Companies have to comply with U.S. laws and international agreements, and they also have to navigate through the laws of the countries they are doing business in. It is no wonder that many multinational companies are so big and worth billions.