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Principles for International Harmonization

Principles for International Harmonization Adopted by the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue February 12, 2000

International harmonization can occur at the lowest or highest level of public health, worker safety, or environmental protection. However, the TACD strongly believes that in the instances when international harmonization of standards is appropriate, it must result in the adoption of best available technology and embody the highest levels of consumer protection. Unfortunately, the actual provisions of the WTO requiring harmonization or providing incentives for harmonization generally promote the lowering of the best existing domestic public health, food safety, economic justice, natural resource conservation and product safety standards. For instance, under the WTO, international standards do not serve as a floor that all countries must meet. Rather, they serve as a ceiling. The agreements provide for the challenge of any domestic standards that go beyond international standards in providing greater citizen safeguards, but contain no provisions for challenging lax standards. Thus, as outlined in its position paper in preparation for the Seattle Ministerial, the TACD is concerned that as currently written, the permanent WTO agreements and provisions will serve only as a one-way downward ratchet on domestic standards. In the wake of Seattle, TACD affirms that the review and repair of the WTO's Technical Barrier to Trade Agreement and the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement is an urgent priority that is more attainable than ever.

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