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.
WTO members discussed their regulations for energy efficient products, which are imposed to save energy and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These standards — covering products such as household appliances, TVs and cars — set out minimum energy performance standards, provide ways of testing for energy efficiency performance, and regulate energy management systems.
Members heard presentations from the private sector, including Schneider Electric, Consumer Technology Association and the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, and from international and regional organizations (such as the International Energy Agency, the International Electrotechnical Commission, the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation/International Accreditation Forum and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe). Also, regulators shared their experiences concerning national schemes, including Japan’s “Top-Runner” Programme and the United States’ Energy Star Program.
One key point emphasized by WTO members was the need to harmonize national requirements with international standards whenever possible, as companies may find it difficult to export their products if required to comply with multiple standards to achieve an “energy efficient” label. They underlined that aligning standards and regulations helps lower the cost of energy efficient products, making them more attractive for consumers and saving energy. There is also scope, it was pointed out, to make energy labelling schemes less confusing.
This “thematic session” was the Committee’s first on a particular industrial sector. The aim of these sessions is to increase cooperation among regulators globally and to raise awareness about new or emerging regulatory issues.
Specific trade concerns
WTO members aired specific trade concerns (STCs) regarding ten new trade measures introduced by members. They also discussed 46 previously raised issues. Regulations on food and drinks topped the meeting’s agenda, accounting for one-third of the STCs. Other STCs concerned regulations on IT equipment, medical devices, cosmetics, toys, motor vehicles, tyres, endocrine disruptors, canola oil, detergents and soaps, steel and wood products, chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Some detail on five of the new STCs is provided below. The full list of STCs is here.
According to the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement, members can regulate their products to protect consumer safety, health and the environment, but they need to do it in a way that does not unnecessarily restrict trade in these products and without discriminating against other WTO members. Discussions in the Committee can help to avoid trade frictions escalating into disputes brought to the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body.
New trade concerns
Ukraine’s exports to Russia
Ukraine claimed that while Russia allows imports of certain products, including dairy, beer, juice, confectionary and wallpaper, from other WTO members, it bans these imports from Ukraine. According to Ukraine, Russia applies the ban in a non-transparent, unjustified and discriminatory manner, and is therefore not in compliance with WTO rules. Russia said the objective of this temporary suspension is to prevent “deceptive” trade practices and to protect consumer health and safety as imports of some Ukrainian producers fail to comply with Russia’s technical regulations.
Egypt’s factory registration system
Eleven WTO members (Australia, Canada, Chile, China, the European Union, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States) raised concerns about Egypt’s new requirements for compulsory registration of factories. Under this regulation, products can be imported into Egypt only if they are produced by manufacturing plants registered with Egypt’s General Organization for Export and Import (or imported from companies owning registered trademarks).
Members highlighted the absence of a period for comment before the regulation entered into force. They also drew attention to the lack of a sufficient transition period for compliance (normally six months), and the burdensome and unclear registration process. Members asked if the registration requirements also apply to domestic producers (in line with the national treatment principle) and whether Egypt had taken a risk-based approach in identifying the wide scope of products covered by the measure. Egypt said that the registration procedure was designed to safeguard consumer health and safety against imports of substandard and illegal products and that several steps had been taken to ensure registration did not impose excessive burdens on trade procedures.
East African Community alcoholic beverage standards
Chile, the EU, South Africa and the US supported the efforts of Kenya and the East African Community (EAC) to address health problems of certain alcoholic beverages but said that international standards would address this health objective in a less trade-restrictive manner than the EAC standards. They asked EAC members to notify regulations implementing these standards to the TBT Committee. Kenya reported ongoing work to harmonize standards at the EAC level, including those relating to alcoholic beverages.
Chemicals in furniture and soap
The EU questioned the consistency of China’s testing methods for safety of wood-based furniture with relevant International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards. China said that while its testing methods are largely based on ISO standards, differences were introduced to take account of use of these products.
Mexico said that Colombia’s requirement that testing of phosphorus and the biodegradability of surfactants in detergents and soaps be carried out only by Colombian laboratories is overly restrictive and costly. Colombia said it would accept a supplier’s declaration of conformity consistent with ISO/IEC 17050 and that mutual recognition could be possible under bilateral agreements or through the ILAC Mutual Recognition Agreement and the IAF Multilateral Recognition Agreement.
International developments in regulations and standards
The Committee granted ad hoc observer status to the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ). The Committee also heard recent developments from observer organizations working with the TBT Committee.The full list of observer organizations is here.
The African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) reported that several international standards addressing tariff barriers will soon be put for adoption before the Organization’s Council. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) reported progress in developing and harmonizing electrotechnical standards across Africa.
The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of countries presented its work on improving effective participation in the TBT Committee through enhanced coordination. The Bureau international des Poids et des Mesures (BIPM) announced Qatar’s recent membership and reported progress in redefining the numerical value of measurement units.
The International Organization of Legal Metrology described its cooperation with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on weighing of shipping containers in the context of the IMO Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, and announced Thailand’s recent membership of the OIML. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe reported on governments’ ongoing work on harmonization of technical regulations for vehicles and regulatory cooperation in general.
8-11 November: TBT Committee regular and informal meetings
Specific trade concerns: full list
Note: Only those members that signalled their intention to raise an STC in advance of the TBT Committee meeting are listed in the column “Member(s) raising”. Other members can join an STC by taking the floor during the meeting.
New concerns Show details
Concerns previously raised Show details
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