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China’s Recent Restrictions on Trade and the SPS Agreement

Since June 2020, China turned its eye on trade measures to battle the spread of COVID-19 in its country. It introduced several measures, from extensive testing of containers and content of imported food and agricultural products to complete import bans of specific products (such as pork from Tönnies and poultry products from Tyson Foods Inc. and OK Foods). These measures have been met by harsh criticism from other WTO members which question their legality under the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement; if not indicated otherwise, all articles and annexes are such of this Agreement). The matter has been brought to the attention of the SPS Committee, most recently by a notification submitted on 18 November 2020 by the United States, and was discussed during its last meeting in November 2020, where China defended its measures. This contribution aims to shed light on the most invasive measure imposed by China, namely the suspension of imports, by discussing said measure on the example of Tyson…

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Secondary Sanctions: A Weapon out of Control? Part III: Looking beyond the WTO – possible avenues to raise a Judicial Challenge against Secondary Sanctions

Judicial remedies at the domestic and international level In our two previous posts we examined the legality of secondary sanctions in light of customary law on the exercise of State jurisdiction, on the one end (here), and conventional law, specifically the IMF Articles of Agreement, on the other hand (here). Having established that, depending…

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The second chapter on a national security exception in WTO law: the panel report in Saudi Arabia – Protection of IPR

Introduction For many decades, national security exceptions had been dealt with only in rare instances, under the GATT 1947 regime as well as under the law of the WTO. The scope and design of the national security exception of Art. XXI GATT 1947 which served as a model for Art. XIV bis GATS and Art. 73 TRIPS has…

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Justified Border Closures do not violate the International Health Regulations 2005

Rapidly developing pandemics require governments to use their best endeavours to protect their populations.  International law permits them to do this provided they observe certain conditions, but limits on the reach of the World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR) have previously been insufficiently appreciated. In mid-February 2020 The Lancet published a piece by…

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Are COVID-19 Related Trade Restrictions WTO-Consistent?

Countries dealing with the economic and public health-related impacts of COVID-19 have adopted a markedly nationalist approach to their response. More than 80 governments have placed restrictions of some sort (with many of those being notified to the WTO Secretariat) on the export of personal protective equipment and medication necessary to treat those affected by the…

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