Technical barriers to trade
The Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement aims to ensure that technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures are non-discriminatory and do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. At the same time, it recognises WTO members' right to implement measures to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as the protection of human health and safety, or protection of the environment. The TBT Agreement strongly encourages members to base their measures on international standards as a means to facilitate trade. Through its transparency provisions, it also aims to create a predictable trading environment.
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WTO Agreement Series — Technical Barriers to Trade
An overview of the TBT Agreement, FAQs, the full legal text of the Agreement, and the decisions and recommendations adopted by the TBT Committee since 1 January 1995.
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TBT Committee work involves two broad areas:
- review of specific measures
WTO members/observers use the TBT Committee to discuss specific trade concerns (STCs) — specific laws, regulations or procedures that affect their trade, usually in response to notifications. Essentially, members raise STCs to find out more about the scope and implementation of each other's regulations in light of the core TBT obligations. The discussion is mostly about measures in the pipeline, but can also be about the implementation of existing measures. To date, more than 400 “STCs” have been raised which can be accessed through the TBT Information Management System TBT IMS — the database of WTO information on TBT notifications, specific trade concerns, enquiry points, etc.
- strengthening implementation of the TBT Agreement
Members exchange experiences on the implementation of the Agreement with a view to making implementation more effective and efficient. This discussion revolves around generic, cross-cutting themes, including transparency, standards, conformity assessment and good regulatory practice.
Over the years, the Committee has developed a series of decisions and recommendations intended to facilitate implementation of the TBT Agreement. The latest decisions and recommendations adopted by the Committee can be found here.
Meetings of the TBT Committeeback to top
The Committee usually holds three formal meetings per year. Meetings are open to all WTO members and observer governments. International intergovernmental organizations — several of them standardizing bodies — also participate as observers in the Committee. See also rules of procedure for meetings of the Committee and guidelines for observer status.
The current chair of the TBT Committee is .
Search here for TBT official documents using various criteria
Annual reviews back to top
The Committee is mandated to conduct an annual review of activities relating to the implementation and operation of the TBT Agreement, including notifications, specific trade concerns, technical assistance activities, and TBT related disputes. The latest Annual Review report was circulated in March 2016.
Triennial reviews back to top
The TBT Committee is mandated to review the operation and implementation of the TBT Agreement on a triennial basis. The Seventh Triennial Review was completed in December 2015.
Transparency is a cornerstone of the TBT Agreement and consists of three core elements:
- establishment of enquiry points
- publication requirements.
This toolkit contains information on the transparency obligations and procedures, and related work in the Committee, as well as other resources.
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Find jurisprudence concerning the TBT Agreement:
- Analytical Index — Guide to WTO Law and Practice
- WTO Appellate Body Repertory of Reports and Awards (5th edition: 1995–2013)
- WTO Dispute Settlement: One-Page Case Summaries (1995–2012)
> 9 November2016 (Thematic Session)
Regulatory cooperation between Members: Food Labelling
> 8 November 2016: SPS & TBT Notification Alert System "ePing" launched
> 29 September 2016 (Public Forum session)
Standards and Regulations: Do SMEs have a stake?
> Agreement series — TBT
An overview of the TBT Agreement
WTO working papers:
> World Trade Report 2012
A closer look at non-tariff measures
> World Trade Report 2011
Deeper integration (PTAs), including on regulatory matters
> World Trade Report 2005
A closer look at standards