WTO: 2008 NEWS ITEMS

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SPECIFIC TRADE CONCERNS

Discussions on chemicals continue

Concerns were again raised on the EU’s draft regulation on dangerous chemical substances (notified in document G/TBT/N/EEC/151). A large number of members are concerned that the proposed re-classification by the European Communities of “borates” and nickel carbonates, will have negative trade impacts. Although the European Commission maintains that there is an established risk that borates and nickel are toxic to human health and to the environment, other Members question the scientific basis for this assertion.

The European Commission stressed that the purpose of the proposed legislation is to inform (through a label) about the hazards and assured delegations that it would review all comments received from WTO members before moving forward with implementation of the amended Directive, planned for 2009.


Other concerns related to chemicals included:

Members continue to raise concerns about the EU’s Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) which is about production and use of chemical substances (EC's website). The issue has been discussed in 16 meetings of the TBT Committee. The first time was in March 2003.

At this meeting, several members pointed out that SMEs lacked the capacity to comply with this regulation due to its complexity and that the European Commission's guidance documentation is not sufficient. Some members asked the EC to provide technical assistance to better understand the provisions contained in REACH.

The European Commission maintains that REACH is necessary to protect human health and the environment and that it is neither too trade restrictive nor discriminatory. It announced that it is organizing a workshop on REACH on 14 April 2008.

The listing, by the United States, of potassium nitrate (used inter alia in fertilizers, gunpowder and fireworks) on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security list of “Chemicals of Interest”. Israel and Chile claimed that this could have negative effects on exports of this chemical to the United States. The United States stated that also other countries regulate nitrate substances for security purposes; the US delegation would facilitate information to trading partners to help them comply with the new requirements.

China's legislation on toxic chemicals, which is currently being reviewed by the Chinese authorities. Japan and the European Communities asked for an update on the review.

Sweden’s ban (G/TBT/N/SWE/59) and Norway’s proposed ban G/TBT/N/NOR/6, Add.1 and Corr.1) on decabromodiphenyl ether (deca BDE), a brominated flame retardant used in fabric and plastics to make furniture, construction materials, vehicles, cables and other products.


Toys

Malaysia, Thailand and the EC have raised concerns about toxicological tests imposed by Brazil on imported toys (G/TBT/N/BRA/259). In particular, these countries are concerned about certification procedures and delays. Brazil said that these measures were legitimate and had the objective of guaranteeing children's safety and health.

On a separate matter, the delegation of China expressed concern about an EC proposed Directive on toy safety notified in February 2008 (G/TBT/N/EEC/184), arguing that the regulation, affecting chemical substances used in toys, would impose burdensome testing and information requirements. The Chinese delegation stressed that unsafe toys could also result from inappropriate design.

At the meeting, China introduced its Export Toy Quality and Safety Control System stressing that, in China, there exists a legal framework to ensure that toy products are safe and that relevant international standards have been adopted along with stringent export quality certification systems.


Other trade concerns

New concerns raised at this meeting included

  • China's proposed standard for restricting excessive packaging for commodities (G/TBT/N/CHN/321) — raised by the European Communities

  • China's proposed standard on wines (G/TBT/N/CHN/197) dealing, among other things, with terminology, definitions and labelling — raised by the European Communities

  • Germany's draft measure on seals (G/TBT/N/DEU/5). It is noted that, on a related matter, Canada requested in September 2007 consultations with the European Communities under the DSU concerning certain measures taken by Belgium and the Netherlands regarding the importation, transportation, manufacturing, marketing and sale of seal products (for more information see DS369).

  • EC's measure on production and labelling of organic products (G/TBT/N/EEC/101) — raised by Argentina (G/TBT/W/284) and Ecuador

  • Japan's beef labelling Guidelines — raised by the United States

  • South Africa's labelling of foodstuffs (G/TBT/N/ZAF/66)— raised by the United States

Concerns that have also been raised at previous meetings of the Committee included:
(See minutes of previous meetings, e.g. G/TBT/M/43)

  • Brazil's registration requirements for Medical Devices — raised by the United States, the European Communities, Canada and Switzerland

  • China's Administration on the control of pollution caused by electronic information products (G/TBT/N/CHN/140 and Add.1) — raised by Japan

  • China's regulation on gas cooking appliances (G/TBT/N/CHN/237) — raised by the European Communities

  • Norway's prohibition on certain hazardous substances in consumer products (G/TBT/N/NOR/17)

  • EC's Directive 2002/95/EC on the Restriction of the Use of certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) — raised by the United States and Korea

  • EC's regulation on novelty lighters (G/TBT/N/EEC/178) — raised by China

  • Argentina's measures on pharmaceutical products (G/TBT/W/280) — raised by Colombia and Chile

  • Canada's compositional requirements for cheese (G/TBT/N/CAN/203) — raised by New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, the European Communities and the United States

  • India's regulation on tyres (G/TBT/N/IND/20) — raised by the United States, the European Communities and Japan

  • India's regulation on cosmetics and drugs rules 2007 — raised by the European Communities and the United States

  • Israel's measure on infant formula — raised by the United States

  • Thailand's labelling requirements of snack foods (G/TBT/N/THA/215 and Add.1) — raised by the United States and the European Communities

  • US measure on flammability of textiles (G/TBT/N/USA/242) — raised by China

 

WORKSHOP ON GOOD REGULATORY PRACTICE

On 18 and 19 March 2008, the TBT Committee organised a workshop for WTO members to share experiences on good regulatory practice. Regulation is a major and increasingly important policy tool that governments use to attain various policy objectives, including the protection of human health, life and the environment. At the workshop it was noted that emphasis is shifting from de-regulation to “smart” or “better” regulation. Moreover the process of becoming better at regulating is an ongoing process for all Members.

The Chairman's (Mr. Raminder Sidhu, India), summary report can be found here.

 

NEXT MEETING

The next meeting of the TBT Committee will take place on 1 and 2 July 2008.

 ‘REACH’ IN TBT 

 

The EU’s Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals has been discussed in 16 meetings of the TBT Committee. The first time was in March 2003

Members raising concerns include: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Rep., Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Japan, Rep. of Korea, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Uruguay, US

Issues raised include: transparency, the need for clarification and information, complexity, uncertainty, use of international standards, unnecessary trade barriers, non-discrimination, need for clarification and information, technical assistance, special treatment for developing countries, availability of technical guidance documents.

The EU’s explanation: a detailed overview of REACH in the March 2007 meeting, in the minutes G/TBT/M/41, see pages 5–9

Notification documents: G/TBT/N/EEC/52 and adds

Other documents: G/TBT/W/208 (from EU)

On the web: European Chemicals Agency

 

 JARGON BUSTER 

 

enquiry point: an official or office in a member government designated to deal with enquiries from other WTO members and the public on a subject such as technical barriers to trade or sanitary/phytosanitary measures

notification: a transparency obligation requiring member governments to report proposed measures to the relevant WTO body if the measures might have an effect on other members' trade

technical barriers to trade (TBT): regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures, which could impact trade. The WTO’s TBT Agreement aims to ensure that these do not create unnecessary obstacles

> More jargon: glossary

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