Legitimate objectives for national protection standards include national security requirements, prevention of deceptive practices, and the protection of human health or safety, animal, plant life or health, or the environment. A state may deviate from international standards where they would be ineffective or inappropriate for the fulfilment of the legitimate objective. States are permitted to maintain higher standards if they are scientifically justified or required by the member's own unilaterally determined higher level of protection.
The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) were both part of the WTO Agreements, and came into force on 1 January 1995. Both agreements seek to ensure that regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures do not act as barriers to trade. For the SPS Agreement, measures must be necessary for the protection of human, animal, plant life or health, and not more trade-restrictive than required to achieve the appropriate level of protection. The SPS Agreement permits interim measures that are based on the precautionary principle.
WTO members should maintain their authority to adopt technical stands or other measures to protect environmental quality and public health. However, any WTO member can challenge these measures, with the burden being on the respondent state to justify its action.