NAFTA is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States that creates a trilateral trade bloc in North America. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) on the protection of human, animal or plant health was so vague that many countries used “health requirements” as trade barriers. These concerns were taken into account in the rules on multilateral trade relations of the 1994 Uruguay Round, which brought food and agricultural products into the set of international trade rules. It led to the adoption of the SPS Enforcement Agreement (Laws, Regulations and Procedures) and an updated Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (OTC), which ensured fair and effective international trade on the basis of equity and access to global food markets. These agreements should define the conditions for transparency, equivalence, regionalization, harmonisation and national sovereignty when countries establish regulatory measures to ensure food security, consumer protection and plant and animal health. Unjustified health measures as impediments to trade have been discouraged unless such measures have scientific evidence and risk assessment principles. Through the World Trade Organization (WTO), there is a scientifically sound approach to negotiating and resolving conflicts to prevent food security from being an intractable barrier to trade. Derogations under Article XX of the GATT are permitted as long as the resulting measures are not unjustified or arbitrary. This implies that the country has no other means of pursuing objectives that would avoid restrictive trade practices. In this context, the general principles of international law and other international conventions ratified by members may also be taken into account when interpreting the extension of a waiver (US – Shrimp, WTAB/R, 1998, para. 35). See also the Vienna Convention on Treaty Law Article 31.3.c).
The TRIPS Treaty quickly became controversial because it was considered that emerging countries would not be allowed to protect the health and well-being of their citizens for the sole purpose of preserving the patent rights (i.e. profits) of multinational pharmaceutical companies.