WTO: 2014 NEWS ITEMS

TECHNICAL BARRIERS TO TRADE: FORMAL COMMITTEE MEETING


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 — which deals with ensuring technical standards and other requirements meet their objectives without unnecessarily disrupting trade — was also on the brink of agreeing good practices for regulations. Although the main substance is close to being agreed, differences emerged on proposed new wording designed to ensure that the text would not have a bearing in legal disputes.

Members also shared their experiences in notifying information to the WTO, an essential part of implementing the TBT Agreement, and agreed on ways to make notifications more consistent when they involve additions, corrections, revisions and other changes: document G/TBT/35 (pdf).

 

Some details

 

Specific trade concerns: health and labelling gaining focus

Health protection and labelling, particularly for food and drink, are emerging as a dominant theme in many of the “specific trade concerns” that members raise in the committee. They highlight the balance governments try to strike between trade and health —reducing obesity, discouraging unhealthy eating and alcohol abuse, protecting children, for example, by regulation or by helping consumers to be better informed so they can choose for themselves.

These specific concerns are bread-and-butter agenda items in TBT Committee meetings, reflecting how the TBT Agreement is being implemented. Members use them as a means of airing the problems their producers and traders face — or could face — as a result of importing countries’ standards, technical regulations and labelling requirements. A near-record 46 concerns were raised in this meeting, 14 of them new, others recurring from previous meetings.

In this meeting, concerns were raised about measures on food and drink proposed or introduced in Russia (3), Thailand, the EU (2), Ecuador (5), Indonesia (2), India, Chile, Peru, Egypt. The countries expressing concerns about these were: Ukraine, Canada, the EU, Mexico, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the US, Rep. Korea, Japan, Australia, Argentina, Switzerland, Brazil, Guatemala, Norway and Turkey.

Among other regulations related to health were those for medical equipment in China and Brazil (new regulations or certification or enforcement laws, raised by Canada, the EU India and the US), cosmetics in China and India, health warnings and other labelling requirements for alcoholic drinks in Thailand and Russia, and the long-running debate about health warnings and plain packaging for tobacco, this time about proposed new laws in Ireland and Moldova.

Questions in common about health regulations: Members questioning each other’s policies stressed that they agree with the need to protect health, and to help consumers make informed choices. However, they questioned whether the best means of achieving these objectives have been chosen and whether they would unnecessarily obstruct trade. For example:

  • Whether it is necessary labels that are specific for a country (including those in the local language) to be printed on the product when manufactured, or whether stickers can be attached at customs warehouses in the importing country, which is easier for suppliers
  • Whether some types of health warnings on food (for example on sugar, salt and unsaturated fat contents) are too alarmist, and whether they are based on scientific evidence or recognized international standards
  • Whether prohibiting the use images of music, movie and sport celebrities in labels of alcoholic drinks is excessive
  • Whether countries proposing new measures are giving their trading partners enough time to submit comments before the measures take effect

Other specific trade concerns:  Russia has recently blocked Ukrainian dairy products, which Ukraine said was “sudden and unreasonable” and should be lifted. Russia replied that the ban was necessary because of inconsistencies between labels and actual fat and liquid contents Russia said the ban applies to products from only five companies, while more than twenty companies continue to sell normally in Russia.

Also raised were standards, certification and other regulations on lithium ion batteries for portable electronic equipment, stainless steel, formaldehyde for wood products, toys, chemicals, telecommunications, security products for information, electronics and information technology goods, electrical equipment, ceramics, genetically modified crops and steel cutlery. The full list is here.

 

Good practices in regulation: still not quite there

Members are close to agreeing on a voluntary list of principles and steps to be taken in developing and applying regulations — known as “good regulatory practice”. However, differences emerged over a last-minute proposal designed to ensure that the text would not have a bearing on legal disputes.

The list is the result of a review of the TBT Agreement in 2012 and discussions on particular themes resulting from that review. It seeks to provide some examples of best practices for governments to consider when setting, adopting and applying product requirements, such as for labelling and certification, so that measures avoid disrupting trade unnecessarily.

The out-going chairperson, Mr Jingo Kikukawa of Japan, who held consultations immediately before the meeting reminded members that he had intended to complete the task in this session (document G/TBT/GEN/168). The failure to agree means “both developed and developing members have missed the opportunity to discuss other important issues [in the draft text]. These include how to put into practice the special treatment for developing countries envisaged in the draft,” he warned.

“This is a pity for the committee, and I personally regret this missed opportunity,” he said. A number of delegations also said they were disappointed.

The substance of the draft is close to being agreed. But a difference emerged this week about whether a detailed disclaimer is needed to ensure countries are shielded from legal challenge in the WTO’s dispute settlement system.

China, supported by a few members, argued that a tightly-written disclaimer is needed. Others, including the EU, US, Rep. Korea, Mexico and Canada, felt that this would be excessive because the terms used in the text are already sufficient, such as “voluntary” and “non-exhaustive” (“non-exhaustive” means the list does not need to be considered as complete). The draft’s title is “Non-Exhaustive List of Voluntary Mechanisms and Related Principles of Good Regulatory Practice”.

A number of members supported continued consultations, which the new chairperson, Filipe Ramalheira of Portugal, will undertake in the coming weeks.

 

Theme: ever-improving information for trading

Information is a vital part of dealing with technical barriers to trade, and the latest developments in providing and obtaining information were aired in an informal session on 17 June(document G/TBT/GEN/167), the day before the formal meeting.

This latest in a series of “thematic” discussions included a presentation by Kenya on its new “NotifyKenyaTBT” website for its companies, officials and other “stakeholders” to keep track of standards and regulations in place or in the pipeline around the world. The Kenyan website uses TBT notifications from the WTO’s website, with the added value of summaries and other information.

Innovations of this kind are possible through the increased use of the Internet and online databases. The WTO itself has improved its TBT Information Management System database with new hyperlinks allowing users to open official documents directly. It also has a new database on non-tariff barriers such as TBT and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, part of the Integrated Trade Intelligence Portal (I-TIP, i-tip.wto.org), the meeting was told. Several members said they find email alerts particularly useful: these are sent out automatically when notifications covering specific products or countries are published.

Other speakers described how they disseminate information on their own standards, how they work with the private sector and how they submit their notifications online, another recent development in the WTO, which so far only 18 members have used.

Two regional groups — the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Standardization Organization and the Andean Community’s Integration System — described how they work on common standards across their groups and how these are notified to the WTO.

The full programme is in document JOB/TBT/104/Rev.1.

“Thematic” discussions were introduced in the TBT Committee after the agreement’s implementation was reviewed in 2012 in order to focus on issues that commonly arise in the more fragmented specific trade concerns.

 

Chairperson: Filipe Ramalheira of Portugal, taking over from Jingo Kikukawa of Japan at the start of the meeting

Next meeting

(Could be changed)

  • 5–6 November 2014

Specific trade concerns: full list

New concerns

 

Specific Trade Concern

Notification number/brief description of measure

Member(s) raising

1

China — Safety Requirement for Lithium Ion Cells and Batteries used in Portable Electronic Equipment

G/TBT/N/CHN/1016

Japan, Rep. Korea

2

Russian Federation — Measure affecting import of Ukrainian dairy products.

Ukraine

3

Thailand — Draft Notification of the Alcoholic Beverages Control, Re: Rules, Procedure and condition for Labels of Alcoholic Beverages, issued under B.E

G/TBT/N/THA/437

Canada, EU, Mexico

4

China — Regulations for the Supervision and Administration of Medical Devices (Order No. 650 of the State Council)

G/TBT/N/CHN/1022, G/TBT/N/CHN/1023, G/TBT/N/CHN/1024, G/TBT/N/CHN/1025, G/TBT/N/CHN/1026, G/TBT/N/CHN/1029

Canada, EU, US

5

Brazil — Higher Risk Medical Devices Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Certification

India

6

US — Formaldehyde; Third-Party Certification Framework for the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products

G/TBT/N/USA/828, G/TBT/N/USA/828/Add.1, G/TBT/N/USA/828/Add.2

Indonesia

7

EU — Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers establishes the general principles, requirements and responsibilities governing food information, and in particular food labelling

G/TBT/N/EU/143

Indonesia

8

Colombia — Draft Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Decree "Restructuring the National Quality Subsystem and amending Decree No. 2269 of 1993"

G/TBT/N/COL/201

Mexico

9

Ecuador — Draft Technical Regulation of the Ecuadorian Standardization Institute (PRTE INEN) No. 189: “Labelling of alcoholic beverages”

G/TBT/N/ECU/243

US

10

EU — Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 96/53/EC of 25 July 1996 laying down for certain road vehicles circulating within the Community the maximum authorised dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorised weights in international traffic (COM(2013) 195 final)

G/TBT/N/EU/109

US

11

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — Certificate of Conformity (not notified) and GSO marking requirements for toys

US, EU

12

Indonesia — Regulation of Minister of Trade No. 10/M-DAG/PER/1/2014 concerning Amendment of Regulation of Minister of Trade No. 67/M-DAG/PER/11/2013 concerning Affixed Mandatory Label in Indonesian Language for Goods

G/TBT/N/IDN/85

US, EU, Rep. Korea, Japan

13

Republic of Moldova — Proposed Amendments to Law No. 278-XVI of 14 December 2007 on Tobacco and Tobacco Items (of 5 June 2014).

G/TBT/N/MDA/22

Ukraine

14

Draft Technical Regulation of the Ecuadorian Standardization Institute (PRTE INEN) No. 103: "Sugar confectionery”

G/TBT/N/ECU/123

Panama

 

Concerns previously raised

(IMS ID numbers are “specific trade concerns” numbers in the TBT Information Management System database. Notifications and other documents can also be found in WTO docs online)

 

Specific Trade Concern

Notification number/brief description of measure

Member(s) raising

IMS ID

1

EU — Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH)

G/TBT/N/EU/73

China, US, Australia

88

2

India — Pneumatic tyres and tubes for automotive vehicles

G/TBT/N/IND/20 G/TBT/N/IND/20/Add.1 G/TBT/N/IND/40, G/TBT/N/IND/40/Rev.1

Japan, Rep. Korea, EU,

133

3

India — New Telecommunications related Rules (Department of Telecommunications, No. 842-725/2005-VAS/Vol.III (3 December 2009); No. 10-15/2009-AS-III/193 (18 March 2010); and Nos. 10-15/2009-AS.III/Vol.II/(Pt.)/(25-29) (28 July 2010); Department of Telecommunications, No. 10-15/2009-AS.III/Vol.II/(Pt.)/(30) (28 July 2010) and accompanying template, “Security and Business Continuity Agreement”)

Canada, EU, US, Japan

274

4

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, Japan, US

294

5

China — Provisions for the Administration of Cosmetics Application Acceptance, Cosmetics Label Instructions Regulations and Guidance for the Cosmetics Label Instructions

G/TBT/N/CHN/821, G/TBT/N/CHN/937

Japan, Rep. Korea, Canada, EU

296

6

Russian Federation — Draft on Technical Regulation of Alcohol Drinks Safety (published on 24 October)

G/TBT/N/RUS/2

EU, Mexico, Australia

332

7

Korea — Regulation on Registration and Evaluation of Chemical Material

G/TBT/N/KOR/305

US, Japan

305

8

Indonesia — Technical Guidelines for the Implementation of the Adoption and Supervision of Indonesian National Standards for Obligatory Toy Safety

G/TBT/N/IDN/64

EU, US

328

9

EU — Draft Implementing Regulations amending Regulation (EC) No. 607/2009 laying down detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 479/2008 as regards protected designations of origin and geographical indications, traditional terms, labelling and presentation of certain wine sector products

G/TBT/N/EEC/264, G/TBT/N/EEC/264/Add.1

Argentina, US

345

10

India — Electronics and Information Technology Goods (Requirements for Compulsory Registration) Order, 2012

G/TBT/N/IND/44, G/TBT/N/IND/44/Add.1, G/TBT/N/IND/44/Add.2, G/TBT/N/IND/44/Add.3

Japan, Rep. Korea, EU, US

367

11

Ecuador — Resolution establishing the “General conformity assessment framework for Ecuador” and the “Handbook of procedures to be observed prior to all stages of the customs clearance, marketing and market surveillance of manufactured, imported and marketed goods subject to Ecuadorian technical regulations

G/TBT/N/ECU/44, G/TBT/N/ECU/44/Add.1, G/TBT/N/ECU/44/Add.2, G/TBT/N/ECU/44/Add.3

EU, US, Costa Rica, Switzerland

398

12

Thailand — Draft Thai Industrial Standard for Ceramic Tiles (TIS 2508-2555)

G/TBT/N/THA/407

EU

401

13

Russian Federation — Measure affecting the import of Ukrainian confectionary products

Ukraine

399

14

Ecuador — Resolution No. 116 of the Foreign Trade Committee of Ecuador of 19 November 2013 and Technical Regulation of the Ecuadorian Standardization Institute RTE INEN 022 on the labelling of processed and packaged food products

G/TBT/N/ECU/19/Add.3, G/TBT/N/ECU/19/Add.5, G/TBT/N/ECU/19/Add.6, G/TBT/N/ECU/19/Add.8

Costa Rica, EU, US, Switzerland, Brazil

411

15

India — Food Safety and Standards Regulation — Food labelling requirements

EU, Japan

298

16

Chile — Proposed amendment to the Food Health Regulations, Supreme Decree No. 977/96

G/TBT/N/CHL/219, G/TBT/N/CHL/219/Add.1, G/TBT/N/CHL/221

Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Australia

370

17

Peru — Act to Promote Healthy Eating Among Children and Adolescents

Canada, Mexico, Switzerland

383

18

Indonesia — Ministry of Health Regulation 30/2013 on the inclusion of sugar, salt and fat content information, as well as health messages on the label of processed foods

G/TBT/N/IDN/84

Canada, EU, Switzerland, US, Australia

389

19

EU — Revised Proposal for the Categorization of Compounds as Endocrine Disruptors of 19 February 2013 by DG Environment

US

393

20

China — China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) EMC Enforcement Notice for medical devices of 19 December 2012

EU, US

387

21

Peru — Implementing Regulations of 14 November 2012 for Moratorium on Planting Genetically Engineered Crops

US

392

22

Ecuador — Resolution No. SENAE-DGN-2013-0300-RE relating to post entry control of imported alcoholic beverages

Canada, US

394

23

China — China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) Notice 191 of 16 December 2013 — Free Sales Certificate for Imported Cosmetics

Canada, EU, US

415

24

Ecuador — Ministry of Public Health Executive Decree (Agreement) No. 00004522 amending the Sanitary Regulations for the Labelling of Processed Foods for Human Consumption

Canada

416

25

France — Recycling Triman Mark: “Draft Decree on a common set of symbols informing the consumer about recyclable products subject to a system of extended producer responsibility associated with waste sorting instructions”

G/TBT/N/FRA/153

Canada, US, Mexico

420

26

Russian Federation — Safety of products for children and adolescents

G/TBT/N/RUS/29

EU, Ukraine

418

27

India — Labelling Regulations for Canola Oil

Canada

413

28

Ecuador — Proposed Motor Vehicle Safety Regulatory Requirements (RTE INEN 034)

G/TBT/N/ECU/32 G/TBT/N/ECU/32/Add.6

Japan

409

29

Egypt — Bottled water

Turkey

421

30

Italy — Testing requirement on import of steel cutlery products

India

395

31

India — Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 2007

G/TBT/N/IND/33

EU

167

32

Ireland - Proposal to introduce standardised / plain packaging of tobacco products in Ireland

G/TBT/N/IRL/1

Concerned: Nicaragua,
Dominican Republic, Guatemala,  Cuba,  Honduras, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Indonesia

Supporting:
Australia, Norway, New Zealand, Uruguay,
Canada

380

 

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