WTO: 2009 NEWS ITEMS

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In his opening speech, Deputy Director-General Singh emphasized the economic benefits of standardization and stressed the increasing importance of addressing non-tariff barriers to trade in the WTO, including in the negotiating context.

The workshop was organized in four sessions: the first session focused on the economics of standardization, while in the second session several concrete case studies on the use of international standards were presented. The third session addressed the issue of building capacity to fully participate in, and benefit from, international standardizing activities, while the fourth session focused on the identification of key challenges.

One of the key messages of the workshop was that in times of crisis it is particularly important to ensure that standards are not used for protectionist purposes. Standards should be seen as an opportunity as they can increase confidence in markets and serve to boost trade. Standards are also an important link between research, innovation and markets and an efficient tool for the transfer of technology.

In her summary report, the Chairperson of the TBT Committee, Ms Xueyan GUO, highlighted some of the challenges in standardization: in particular, quantifying the benefits of standards remains an area where further work is needed, as well as involving all relevant stakeholders and ensuring an effective participation of developing countries in international standards-setting activities.

 

Regular meeting of the TBT Committee (18-19 March)

SPECIFIC TRADE CONCERNS

Forty-four specific trade concerns — the highest number in a single meeting — were raised in the regular meeting of the TBT Committee. Some members said that, given the current economic crisis, the growth in the number of specific trade concerns brought before the Committee is worrying.

Cotton

A new issue was brought to the attention of the Committee by the United States, Australia and the European Communities. This is about the establishment, in China, of a government-run scheme to grade the quality of imported cotton. The countries concerned stressed, among other things, that this type of scheme is best addressed under market-based commercial contracts, without the interference of state authorities.

China, as the largest importer of cotton in the world, expressed concerns about the quality of imported cotton. The representative of China also stressed that the measure is voluntary and registration free of charge and said that quality requirements on domestic cotton were stricter than those imposed on foreign sourced cotton and trade in cotton had not been affected.

Toys

In January 2009, India imposed a six-month ban on Chinese toys. This ban was replaced in March with a measure allowing imports of Chinese toys that conform to specific standards and conformity assessment procedures. China argues that the measure is discriminatory because the same requirements do not apply to domestic products or to products originating from other WTO members (for an overview of concerns expressed by China, see G/TBT/W/304). At the meeting, the Indian delegation noted that fruitful bilateral discussions were being held and expressed confidence that the discussion would soon have a successful outcome.

Other specific trade concerns relevant to toys were also discussed. China reverted to concerns about the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act affecting Chinese toy exports. As well, Malaysia, Thailand, the European Communities and the United States reiterated concerns about a Brazilian measure laying down requirements for toxicological test methods for toys marketed in Brazil (G/TBT/N/BRA/313).

Chemicals

Discussions continued on the EC's measure on dangerous chemical substances (G/TBT/N/EEC/212) and REACH (G/TBT/N/EEC/52, Adds. 1-5 and Add.3/Rev.1). Several members reiterated their concerns about the complexity of the measures and their trade impact, especially on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The European Communities informed the Committee that the Directive of dangerous chemical substances (31st ATP) had been adopted in January 2009, and provided an update of the implementation of REACH.

Other measures related to chemicals were also discussed, such as Norway's proposed regulation on hazardous substances (G/TBT/N/NOR/17) and Sweden's measure on the restriction on the use of deca-BDE, a flame retardant (G/TBT/N/SWE/59).

Wines and spirits

Once again, several measures relating to alcoholic beverages were discussed in the Committee. The European Communities raised concerns on new requirements in Colombia for distilled spirits (G/TBT/N/COL/121) while Mexico reiterated its concerns on a Brazilian regulation on quality standards of ethyl alcohol and other spirits (G/TBT/N/BRA/276 and Suppl.1), potentially affecting trade in tequila. As well, a Chinese measure on sweet wine (G/TBT/N/CHN/197) establishing strict maximum levels of sulphur dioxide continues to create concerns in the European Communities while the United States, Argentina, Canada and New Zealand continue to be concerned about the EC regulation on certain wine sector products and its provisions on traditional terms (G/TBT/N/EEC/15, Corr.1-2 and G/TBT/N/EEC/57).

Other trade concerns

Several other measures were brought to the attention of the Committee. Among these:

  • Mandatory certification for steel products in India (G/TBT/N/IND/32), Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia — raised by Japan, Republic of Korea and the European Communities;

  • Various measures to promote energy efficiency in the European Communities (G/TBT/N/EEC/208, 237, 234, 228 and 229) — raised by China;

  • Biofuels in Colombia (G/TBT/N/COL/96/Add.2) — raised by the EC;

  • Requirements to combat illegal logging in the United States (G/TBT/N/USA/424 and Corr. 1) — raised by Mexico and Japan.


PRIVATE STANDARDS

Both at the workshop and in the regular meeting of the Committee, participants expressed concern about the proliferation of private standards that could result in unnecessary barriers to trade which created confusion in the market place. Some members were of the view that the TBT Committee should discuss the subject, while others disagreed, saying that this was not an issue for the TBT Committee. It was pointed out that the issue of private standards was being addressed by the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Committee.


ANNUAL AND TRIENNIAL REVIEWS OF THE TBT AGREEMENT

The Committee adopted its Fourteenth Annual Review of the TBT Agreement (G/TBT/25) and continued work on the Fifth Triennial Review, which is due to be concluded in November 2009.


DATES OF NEXT MEETING

The next meeting of the Committee will take place on 25-26 June 2009.

DDG Singh's opening remarks

> Summary report of the workshop

Programme of the workshop
Presentations and abstracts from the workshop
  > Session 1
  > Session 2
  > Session 3

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