The Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee addresses the issues of unfair or unreasonable non-tariff trade barriers (in the form of product standards, testing requirements, and other technical requirements) imposed on businesses seeking to export products and services.
The significance of technical barriers to trade has increased considerably over the past years, as tariffs steadily decline and governments worldwide introduce more and more regulatory requirements.
TBTs are usually introduced by government authorities with a legitimate public policy objective in mind – for example:
- protection of life/health (human, animal and plant),
- safety (human),
- protection of national security,
- protection of the environment,
- haromisation of certain sectors (e.g. telecommunications),
- reducing opportunities for counterfeit goods, and
- the prevention of deceptive marketing practices.
The five principles at the core of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) TBT Agreement are:
- Transparency – a WTO Member planning to introduce a measure that might have an important impact on trade should notify this to the WTO, and take into account comments submitted by other countries on the draft legislation,
- Non-discrimination and national treatment – a measure should not discriminate among different importing Members and should apply in the same way to both imports and similar domestic goods,
- Proportionality – a measure should not be more trade restrictive than necessary to achieve the legitimate goal pursued,
- Use of international standards – whenever possible, international standards should be used as a basis for technical regulations, and
- Equivalence – WTO Members should consider accepting technical regulations of other Members as equivalent to their own, provided that these measures are an effective way of addressing the objectives pursued.
The WTO TBT Agreement goes some way towards addressing such barriers by requiring countries to act in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner. The agreement aims to ensure that regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to international trade. It provides a notification procedure that requires all WTO members to notify their proposed technical regulations. This allows members to comment on proposed measures before they are adopted.However, technical barriers remain a major impediment to international trade.
You can find information on proposed new technical regulations from EU member states on the European Commission website.
You can find information on proposed new technical regulations from other countries on the US Standards Office website.