The Regulatory Framework for Nanomaterials at a Global Level: SAICM and WTO Insights


  • Georg Karlaganis,

  • Rachel Liechti


The regulation of nanomaterials is being discussed at various levels. This article offers a historical description of governmental activities concerning the safety of nanomaterials at the United Nations (UN) level since 2006, with a focus on the UN Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The outcomes of the SAICM process were a nanospecific resolution and the addition of new activities on nanotechnologies and manufactured nanomaterials to the SAICM's Global Plan of Action. The article discusses the implications of these decisions for multilateral environmental agreements. In addition, it studies the consequences of the regulation of nanotechnologies activities on trade governance, in particular the relationship between the SAICM to the legally binding World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements (notably the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade). The article concludes that the SAICM decisions on manufactured nanomaterials are compatible with WTO law.