The booklet provides a brief overview of the background, purpose and scope of the TBT Agreement. It describes the types of measures covered, sets out key disciplines and principles (including in light of recent TBT jurisprudence) and describes the mandate, role and work of the TBT Committee. The booklet also contains the legal text of the Agreement as well as a compilation of all the Committee's decisions and recommendations agreed since 1995.

Governments use regulations and standards to achieve various public policy goals. They may use regulations to protect human health or to protect the environment, setting specific requirements for the importing of goods. For instance, they may set limits on lead content used in paint on children's toys, require compliance with certain quality standards for medical devices or insist on the use of health warning labels on alcoholic beverages. These regulations often affect trade — indeed, this may be the very reason for imposing them in the first place.

A fundamental question is how to distinguish between legitimate reasons for regulation on the one hand and measures that are used to shield domestic producers from competition on the other. Since these non-tariff measures are opaque by nature — as well as technically complex and more difficult to quantify than tariffs — it is all the more difficult to determine their purpose and fully understand their effects. The TBT Agreement, supported by an evolving body of decisions and recommendations from the TBT Committee, is designed to help WTO members meet this challenge.

The work of the TBT Committee, which oversees the implementation of the TBT Agreement, helps promote much-needed sharing of information — or transparency — and predictability in the development of regulations and standards. Trade officials, regulators and representatives of standards bodies regularly participate in meetings of the Committee to help improve coherence in government policies and to balance more open trade with the pursuit of legitimate public policy objectives. Read about the latest TBT Committee meeting here.

The TBT booklet is part of the WTO Agreement series, which aims to assist understanding of WTO agreements. This new edition of Technical Barriers to Trade has been fully revised and expanded.

The TBT booklet may be ordered from the WTO’s Online Bookshop. Further information about the booklet is available here.



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