WTO: 2011 NEWS ITEMS

TECHNICAL BARRIERS TO TRADE: FORMAL MEETING

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NOTE:
THIS NEWS STORY is designed to help the public understand developments in the WTO. While every effort has been made to ensure the contents are accurate, it does not prejudice member governments’ positions.

The official record is in the meeting’s minutes.

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MINUTES:

The committee also reviewed for the last time how well China has implemented the TBT Agreement since it joined the WTO in 2001. China’s membership agreement included a “Transitional Review Mechanism” requiring eight annual reviews on a range of subjects including TBT with a final one after 10 years.

And it agreed to test a proposed way to speed up its discussion on specific trade concerns. Although these are core to the committee’s responsibility of monitoring how well members are implementing the TBT Agreement, some exchanges on unresolved issues — two were raised for the 27th time in this meeting — have become repetitive, leaving less time to discuss more general subjects.

One of the proposed solutions is to allow concerns to be recorded as unresolved and still on the table without members having to speak about them if they have nothing new to say.

 

Some details

 

Specific trade concerns: overall

(Full list at the end. See also the latest comprehensive report on specific trade concerns in document G/TBT/GEN/74/Rev.9 . Full details in the TBT Information Management System.

The 54 trade concerns raised in this meeting ranged from standards and certification to labelling of tobacco products (Australia’s measures), alcoholic drinks (Thailand, Brazil, EU, Colombia, South Africa, Kenya), drinks with added caffeine (Mexico), food additives (China) and genetically modified organisms in food (Peru, EU).

The goods concerned and their effects ranged from graphics products (Argentina’s measures), wifi and other secure information technology products (China), cosmetics and pharmaceuticals (India, Turkey, Rep of Korea, EU), chemicals (EU), and various foods, drinks (including alcohol) and tobacco products (many countries’ measures), to hazardous waste and polluting products (EU, US, China) and emissions (Colombia).

Raised for a record-breaking 27th time were the EU’s Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) and Directive 2002/95/EC on the Restriction of the Use of certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) and Directive 2002/96/EC on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).

Among the common themes were: requiring certification to be made by laboratories with limited capacity in the importing country rather than by internationally recognized labs elsewhere; whether measures are justified technically, scientifically or whether they are based on international standards; the costs that measures would impose for example on small and medium enterprises; requests for updated information or notifications, particularly for measures that are being modified.

A number of countries replied that they are evaluating their proposed measures, taking comments into account.

 

Tobacco: Australia’s plain packaging

This issue attracted the most attention in this meeting even though it had already been discussed at length in the June meeting. Because it affects trademarks it has also been discussed in the Council for Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Council). (See also this Australian government web page, which includes sample images of the proposed packaging.)

For

Responding to concerns raised by a number of members, Australia repeated its defence of its bill on plain packaging and health warnings for tobacco products, which it said is needed to deal with a serious health problem by making the products less attractive, removing the last possible way to advertise them, and reducing consumption. It cited evidence that these measures work, noted that the bill has been amended in response to comments and concluded that the bill conforms to WTO agreements, including TBT.

Australia pointed out that it is not a major importer of tobacco, accounting for 0.5% of trade in these products, and that many critics of the bill do not export to Australia. It insisted that it had consulted fully and answered members’ questions. Australia said no alternative measures with less of an impact on trade could have the same result.

The bill passed the Senate on 10 November and is expected to be approved finally by the lower house on 21 November, Australia said. Revisions in the Senate now allow branded packaging to be imported before repackaging in Australia to comply with the new law. Anti-counterfeiting features can be included in the packaging, and the law will now protect the right of trademark owners to prevent unauthorized use of the marks by others. All products will have to comply with the law by the end of 2012 (October 2012 if made in Australia), the delegation said.

Supporting Australia were Norway, Uruguay and New Zealand. They said that under WTO rules countries have the right to give priority to public health, and some of them cited the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Controamong the evidence that the measures in the bill are recognized as legitimate internationally. Some of them said they are also considering new measures.

Against

Objecting to the bill in this meeting were Ukraine, Dominican Rep, Mexico, Nigeria, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, Turkey, Indonesia, Zambia, El Salvador, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, Jordan, and Russia (an observer). Cuba was concerned about the impact on cigars; Australia said consultations continue on packaging for products that are not cigarettes.

These countries challenged Australia’s scientific evidence. They said Australia’s measures will therefore restrict trade unnecessarily (a key issue in TBT) because the public health objective — which they support —can be met by other means. The argued that plain packaging will cause confusion among consumers because trademarks will not be available for them to distinguish between products, and will encourage smuggling.

Non-committal

In this meeting, the EU, Japan and Hong Kong China were non-committal. The EU said it is also considering plain packaging and is therefore studying the situation. It urged Australia to reply to questions asked previously and to give manufacturers enough time to adjust.

Hong Kong China said it recognizes Australia’s right but given the weight of concerns expressed, Australia should consult other members to ensure its measure does not unnecessarily restrict trade. Japan said Australia should answer the many questions asked.

WHO

The World Health Organization said the health problems caused by smoking are on the scale of an epidemic and described in detail its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (www.who.int/fctc). Honduras, Mexico, Dominican Rep and Zimbabwe, said the WHO, which is an observer organization, should not comment on whether measures comply with WTO agreements.

 

Tobacco: Brazil’s additives ban

Brazil defended its proposed ban on additives and maximum levels of tar and carbon monoxide in tobacco products, arguing that this is necessary for public health concerns. The ban on additives is needed because attractive flavouring and other features encourage young smokers, while experience shows that banning flavours does not work, Brazil said.

Objecting to the measure as an unjustifiable restriction on trade were: the EU, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Indonesia, Turkey, Colombia, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Chile, Zambia and Russia (an observer).

 

Genetically modified organisms

Two new issues attracting wider comment were related to products containing genetically modified organisms.

Peru’s draft decree on labelling for genetically modified foods

Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile and Argentina said these would unjustifiably obstruct trade and discriminate against some suppliers because there is no basis for treating these products any differently from other foods. Peru said it is still evaluating the draft, taking comments into account.

GM pollen in honey

The European Court of justice recently ruled that pollen found in honey should be considered an “ingredient” rather than a natural constituent. This means that pollen from genetically modified (GM) plants would have to be approved as ingredients for honey sold in the EU.

In a repeat of the recent discussion in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Committee, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Canada and El Salvador objected to this because it has created uncertainty and caused EU imports to fall. They observed that the Codex Alimentarius’s international standard does not treat pollen as an ingredient and they urged the EU to act to remove the trade obstacle.

The EU said it is striving to cause the least disruption to trade. The ruling applies to EU honey as well as imports, it said. For the pollen concerned in the court case, from genetically modified variety (MON810), the EU Food Safety Authority recently ruled that the pollen is safe. Therefore it is now up to Monsanto, which developed MON810, to apply for approval for honey with this type of pollen.

For pollen not yet approved in the EU but allowed in exporting countries, the EU would have to approve it before the honey could be imported, it added.

 

China’s final review

This last review of how China has implemented the TBT Agreement since it joined the WTO heard comments and questions from Japan (document G/TBT/W/342), the EU (G/TBT/W/344), the US and Mexico. China submitted a document (G/TBT/W/343) describing its recent measures in TBT.

Responding orally to members’ comments, China described the many actions it has taken to conform to its WTO obligations under all the WTO Agreements, including over 850 TBT notifications, and a large number of improvements to its procedures. It said it would continue to live up to its obligations and work within the committee.

Members praised China for making its many of its regulations and policies more transparent and predictable. The EU was particularly encouraged by a gradual increase in China’s calls for comments on proposed measures.

But they were concerned that these improvements are not applied consistently across all agencies and not by many local authorities. They called for improvements in transparency, including the publication of rules, regulations and procedures, and in China’s notifications to the WTO.

They said that some standards, certification procedures and conformity assessments are too complex, sometimes too strict when compared to risks involved, can be made compulsory without warning or publication, can have inadequate opportunities for foreign companies or governments to comment or provide other input, and can involve too many agencies. They urged China to use international standards where available instead of its own, which give local companies an advantage, and to recognize foreign test laboratories and conformity assessment bodies.

Among the issues causing the greatest concern were information technology products, wireless (wifi) and security technology, cosmetics, medical devices and motor vehicles.

(Find all documents in the reviews here.)

 

NEXT

(could be changed):

  • 21–22 March 2012

Chairperson: Ms Denise Pereira (Singapore)

The specific trade concerns

As documented for the meeting

New concerns

  • Mexico — Draft Decree Amending Provisions for Drinks with Caffeine — concern of EU
  • Peru — Draft Supreme Decree Approving the Regulations Governing the Labelling of Genetically Modified Foods. — G/TBT/N/PER/37 — concern of Mexico
  • EU — Draft Commission Regulation implementing Directive 2009/125/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to eco-design requirements for air conditioners and comfort fans — G/TBT/N/EEC/362 — concern of China
  • EU — issue with respect of honey containing pollen from genetically modified maize MON 810, Ruling from ECJ — concern of Argentina
  • US — ENERGYSTAR 6.0 Draft 2 Program Requirements for Displays-Draft Partner Commitments — concern of Korea
  • US — Amendments to Sterility Test Requirements for Biological Products — G/TBT/N/USA/633 — concern of Korea
  • Argentina — Resolution 453/2010 establishing mechanisms in order to eliminate dangers arising from the use of inks with a high lead content in graphic products — concern of US
  • China — Specification for Import and Export of Food Additives Inspection, Quarantine and Supervision (2011 No. 52) — Disclosure of formulas for imported food additives — concern of US
  • China — GB/T xxxx-xxxx, Information Security Technology — Office Devices Security and YD/T xxxx-xxxx, High spectrum efficiency and high throughput wireless LAN technical requirements — concern of US
  • Indonesia — Technical Guidelines for the Implementation of the Adoption and Supervision of Indonesian National Standards for Obligatory Toy Safety — concern of US
  • Korea — National Tax Service Notice 2011-17 (Requirements for Radio-Frequency Identification Tags for Imported Whiskeys) — concern of US
  • Mexico — Refusal of the National Water Commission to re-certify HDPE pipe products meeting quality/safety standards for piping set out in NOM 001 and NMX 241 — concern of US
  • El Salvador — Law on milk and milk products — concern of Mexico

Previously raised

Numbers at the end of each item refer to numbers in the list of trade concerns in document G/TBT/GEN/74/Rev.9

  • EU (formerly EC) — Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) — G/TBT/N/EEC/52, Add.1, Add.2, Add.3, Add.4 and Add.5, Add.3/Rev.1, G/TBT/N/EEC/295 and Add.1, G/TBT/N/EEC/297, G/TBT/N/EEC/333, G/TBT/W/208concern of India, Argentina, US — 1
  • EU (formerly EC) — Directive 2002/95/EC on the Restriction of the Use of certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) and Directive 2002/96/EC on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) (ID 35) — G/TBT/N/EEC/247, Add.1-2 — concern of Korea — 2
  • EU — Proposed Measures on the Labelling of Wine — G/TBT/N/EEC/15, Corr.1-2, G/TBT/N/EEC/57, G/TBT/N/EEC/264 and Add.1 — concern of US — 3
  • India — Pneumatic tyres and tubes for automotive vehicles — G/TBT/N/IND/20 and Add.1, G/TBT/N/IND/40 and Rev.1 — concern of Japan, EU, Korea — 4
  • Canada — Compositional requirements for cheese — G/TBT/N/CAN/203 and Add.1 — concern of New Zealand — 6
  • India — Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 2007 — G/TBT/N/IND/33 — concern of EU, US — 7
  • Colombia — Draft Decree Establishing Provisions to Promote the Use of Biofuels — G/TBT/N/COL/96, Add.1, Add.2, Add.3, Add.4 and Add.5 and Add.4/Rev.1 — EU Mexico — 8
  • Thailand — Health warnings for alcoholic beverages — G/TBT/N/THA/332 and Add.1 — concern of US — 11
  • US — Hazardous Materials: Transportation of Lithium Batteries — G/TBT/N/USA/518 — concern of Japan, EU Korea, — 12
  • Brazil — Alcoholic Beverages — G/TBT/N/BRA/348 — concern of EU, US — 13
  • Turkey — New conformity assessment procedures for pharmaceuticals — concern of US — 14
  • EU — Directive 2004/24/EC on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products — concern of India — 15
  • Colombia — Shelf Life for Milk Powder — G/TBT/N/COL/67/Add.3 — concern of EU — 16
  • Korea — KS C IEC61646:2007 standard for thin-film solar panels — concern of US — 18
  • India — New Telecommunications related Rules — concern of US — 19
  • Brazil — Instructions for Registration for Labels of Imported Products of Animal Origin — G/TBT/N/BRA/385 — concern of US — 20
  • Indonesia — Labelling Regulations (Ministry of Trade Regulation 62/2009 and 22/2010) — G/TBT/N/IDN/47 — concern of EU, US — 21
  • Turkey — Communiqué SUT 2010 regarding documentation requirements for medical devices — concern of US — 23
  • Brazil — Draft Resolution No. 112, November 29th 2010, maximum levels of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide permitted on tobacco products and prohibition of additives — G/TBT/N/BRA/407 — concern of EU Mexico — 25
  • China — Requirements for Information Security Products (including, inter alia, the Office of State Commercial Cryptography Administration (OSCCA) 1999 Regulation on commercial encryption products and its on-going revision and the Multi-Level Protection Scheme (MLPS) — EU — 26
  • Brazil — Canned Sardines — Ministerial Act Nº 406, 10 August 2010 — G/TBT/N/BRA/386 — concern of Peru — 27
  • Indonesia — Draft Decree of Minister of Industry on Mandatory Implementation of Indonesia National Standard for electrolysis tin coated thin steel sheets — G/TBT/N/IDN/46 — concern of Korea — 28
  • China — Administration on the Control of Pollution Caused by Electrical and Electronic Products — G/TBT/N/CHN/140/Rev.1 — concern of EU, Korea — 29
  • India — Food Safety and Standards Regulation — Food Labelling Requirements — G/SPS/N/IND/69 — concern of EU, US — 30
  • Korea: PVC flooring material and Wallpaper and paper linoleum, and toys — G/TBT/N/KOR/303 and Add.1 and G/TBT/N/KOR/304 and Add.1 — concern of US — 31
  • Colombia — Alcoholic Beverages — G/TBT/N/COL/121, Add.1, Add.2 and Add.3 — concern of EU, US — 32
  • Korea — Good Manufacturing Practices Requirements for Cosmetics — G/TBT/N/KOR/301 — concern of EU, US — 33
  • China — Provisions for the Administration of Cosmetics Application Acceptance — G/TBT/N/CHN/730, G/TBT/N/CHN/821 — concern of EU — 35
  • Ecuador — Certification of Ceramic Tiles, CONCAL Resolutions 17 and 18 — concern of EU — 36
  • Australia — Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011G/TBT/N/AUS/67, Add.1 and Add.2 — concern of Ukraine, Dominican Republic, EU Mexico — 37
  • Korea — Regulation on Registration and Evaluation of Chemical Material — G/TBT/N/KOR/305 — concern of China, US — 38
  • Viet Nam — Conformity assessment procedures for alcohol, cosmetics, and mobile phones (Notice regarding the import of alcohol, cosmetics and mobile phones, No.: 197/TB-BCT (6 May 2011)— concern of US — 39
  • Malaysia — Draft Protocol for Halal Meat and Poultry Production — G/TBT/N/MYS/23 — concern of US — 40
  • Mexico — Energy Labelling Measures — G/TBT/N/MEX/214 — concern of Japan, EU Korea, US — 41
  • Kenya — Alcohol Labelling: The Alcoholic Drinks Control (Licensing) Regulations, 2010: Legal Notice No. 206: 2010 — G/TBT/N/KEN/282 — concern of Mexico, US — 42
  • India — Toys and Toy Products (Compulsory Registration) Order — concern of US — 43
  • France — Loi No. 2010-788: The National Commitment for the Environment (Grenelle 2 Law) — concern of Argentina — 44
  • Korea — KFDA draft “Guideline for Cosmetics Labelling and Advertising” — G/TBT/N/KOR/308 — concern of US — 47
  • Colombia — Commercial Truck Diesel Emissions Regulation (Resolution 2604, 24 December 2009) — concern of US — 48
  • Korea — Amendment to Radio Waves Act 1/2011 (RRA) — concern of Japan, US — 50
  • South Africa — Liquor Products Act of 1989 — concern of US — 51
  • India — Mandatory Certification for Steel Products — G/TBT/N/IND/32 — concern of EU — 64

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