Expansion in international trade in equids and equine semen has been especially notable over the past 10-15 years among those countries historically identified as having significant breeding and performance horse industries. The continuing trend towards globalization of the horse industry received additional impetus in January, 1995, following establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO), whose primary goal is to promote freer economic exchange between member countries through the reduction or elimination of protectionist barriers to trade. Continued growth in international trade, closely related to changing trends in the horse industry, has greatly increased the risk of spread of a wide range of equine infectious diseases between countries. In consequence, the global distribution of certain of these diseases is likely to change in the future. Within the past 30-40 years, there have been numerous confirmed instances of the spread of specific diseases through the international movement of equids or shipment of semen, some of which have resulted in epidemics of major economic importance. Under the Sanitary-Phytosanitary Agreement of the WTO, national agencies have had to rethink their traditional "zero-risk" approach in regulating the importation of equids or equine semen from other countries. Mindful of the risks of disease spread inherent in such transactions, authorities must now accept that primary emphasis in today's global economic climate must be on greater facilitation of trade, rather than attempting to provide absolute disease preventive safeguards.