LET’S TALK TRADE
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If you want to go deeper on this topic, here are a few additional explanations and reading suggestions.
TBT measures typically deal with
- labelling of food, drink and drugs
- grading and quality requirements for products (e.g., food, textiles, electronics
- sustainability certification schemes (e.g., timber, fish, etc)
- packaging and labelling for dangerous chemicals and toxic substances
- regulations for electrical appliances (e.g., energy efficiency)
- regulations for mobile phones, radio equipment, etc.
- testing vehicles and accessories
- regulations for ships and ship equipment
- safety regulations for toys
The TBT Agreement strongly encourages members to base their measures on international standards as a means to facilitate trade. While the Agreement does not make reference to any specific international standards, members agreed on a set of “Six Principles” which provide guidance for bodies that set international standards. They cover transparency, openness, impartiality and consensus, effectiveness and relevance, coherence, and the development dimension.
Transparency is a cornerstone of the TBT Agreement. The Agreement aims to promote information exchange, regulatory cooperation and predictability in trade relations. Advance notifications give the other WTO members a heads-up alert about regulations in the pipeline that may have a significant effect on their trade.
ePing is an email alert service that allows registered users to receive TBT notifications of particular interest to them. The system also includes discussion fora, allowing for dialogue among public and private stakeholders in addressing potential trade problems at an early stage.
The TBT Committee
The TBT Committee serves as a forum where WTO members send their experts to discuss issues related to standards and regulations. A significant proportion of the work of the TBT Committee is dedicated to the discussion of “Specific Trade Concerns” (STCs). These are concerns that a government raises with respect to specific trade-related measures that other governments are preparing or have already adopted. The discussion of trade concerns in the multilateral meetings of the TBT committee presents an opportunity to clarify ambiguities and flag potential problems, and sometimes even to solve them.
The TBT success story in a chart
The high level of engagement by the WTO members and the small number of genuine TBT-related trade disputes make the implementation of the TBT Agreement a success story.
The left half of this chart shows the achievements of the TBT committee’s work in preventing and resolving trade friction (the right half shows the achievements of the SPS Committee that deals with food safety and animal and plant health and also works with notifications).
TBT Gateway page:
The publication “Technical Barriers to Trade” provides an overview of the purpose and scope of the TBT Agreement. It also contains the text of the agreement itself.
Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement — 10 key results from 2020
The TBT Information Management System is a comprehensive database allowing users to search all TBT notifications submitted by members and all Specific Trade Concerns raised in the TBT Committee (STCs)
By registering on ePing, users can receive daily or weekly email alerts containing SPS/TBT notifications covering products/markets of interest to them.
WTO-International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standards Information Gateway
The Members' transparency toolkit contains information on the transparency obligations and procedures, and related work in the TBT Committee.
Special thanks to
- Erik Wijkström, Head of TBT Unit, WTO Trade and Environment Division
- Ùna Flanagan, Notifications Coordinator, WTO Trade and Environment Division
- Alan Délizée, mountain guide
- the commune of Saint-Cergue, Switzerland
- you, for sharing