TECHNICAL BARRIERS TO TRADE
8th Triennial Review
Every three years, members use the "triennial review" process to evaluate how they are applying the TBT Agreement. The review is driven by members' proposals for new work, relating to specific topics addressed by the Committee. The aim of the review is to improve implementation of the TBT Agreement based on members’ experiences (for instance, by developing guidelines or best practices), and to set a plan for future work by the Committee during 2019-2021.
South Africa's first proposal aims at making discussion of specific trade concerns (STCs) more efficient. It also seeks to enhance developing countries' participation in Committee meetings, develop best practice for national coordination through domestic TBT committees and promote the use of ePing by Enquiry Points. The second proposal by South Africa focuses on "certificates of free sale", documents that stipulate whether products meet the domestic regulatory requirements of the exporting member and which are available for sale in the domestic market of the exporting member. The US proposal on transparency seeks to improve the accuracy and availability of Enquiry Point contact details.
The review process is scheduled to be completed in November 2018.
Specific trade concerns
WTO members discussed a total of 61 specific trade concerns, seven of which are new. Below is a summary of the new concerns:
1. Viet Nam – Cybersecurity
Japan, the United States and New Zealand expressed concerns about possible inconsistencies in Viet Nam's Draft Cybersecurity Law with the TBT Agreement, and asked Viet Nam to base its requirements on international standards and avoid placing excessive burdens on industry.
Viet Nam said that written comments and questions from members were sent to the competent agencies. Viet Nam welcomed further discussions with interested members.
2. China – Solid waste
As of the end of 2017, China will ban imports of a variety of solid waste to the country (including plastics, paper and textiles waste). China said that the new measure is part of a policy framework and an effort to better regulate solid waste. The measure is aimed at addressing risks of pollution from solid waste, and seeks to protect the environment and human health, China added. A six month transition period has been provided, and China said it had further clarified the scope of the measure based on comments from WTO members.
The European Union, Japan, the United States, Australia and Canada questioned the broad scope of the measure, and whether it applied to domestic operators in the same way as foreign operators. They asked China for a longer transition period of up to five years.
3. India – Toys
India has amended its laws on toys and is requiring that conformity assessment and laboratory tests be carried out by laboratories accredited by India. This urgent measure was taken to protect the safety of children in light of sub-standard toys on the market, India said.
The European Union, China, the United States, Mexico and Canada were concerned that this measure supplanted India's previous approach of accepting tests undertaken in the country of manufacture, according to international standards, with a more trade restrictive approach based on national standards of the Bureau of Indian Standards. As a result of the measure, toys had to wait up to ten months to be tested at approved Indian laboratories. Concerns were also raised about transparency, and members said the measure entered into force without notification to the WTO or a reasonable transition period.
4. China – Processed food
The European Union, the United States, Guatemala and Singapore expressed concern that the new certification requirements for processed foods notified by China will impose additional burdens for their industries. They recognised the need for China to ensure that food on its market was safe, but also believed that other less trade restrictive measures could be adopted, especially for certification of low-risk food and beverages. China indicated that it will postpone the enforcement of the new measure until October 2019.
5. Ecuador – Household refrigerating appliances
Colombia expressed concern that the recent technical regulation imposed by Ecuador for refrigerating appliances was more trade restrictive than necessary, and did not follow the transparency provisions of the TBT Agreement. Colombia asked Ecuador to indicate the deadline for submitting comments and requested a transition period of nine months. Ecuador responded that the new regulation was in line with the TBT Agreement, and expressed readiness to discuss the issue further.
6. Viet Nam – Automobiles
Japan, the United States and Thailand asked Viet Nam to postpone the implementation of its new regulations on automobiles, as there was uncertainty about the quality certification required from importers. Members asked Viet Nam to notify the measure, and provide an opportunity for comments.
Viet Nam said that concerns raised would be conveyed to its competent agencies, and welcomed further bilateral discussions.
7. European Union – Tobacco products
Cuba expressed concern with the European Union's plans to establish a traceability system for tobacco products. The EU said it would address Cuba's questions bilaterally.
An update on ePing, the notification alert system for TBT and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, was shared with the Committee. This alert system plays an important role in facilitating access to regulatory information. Since its launch one year ago, over 2,900 users from 155 countries have registered on ePing, with half of these subscribers coming from the private sector, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Updates from observers
The International Electrotechnical Commission, the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures, the International Organization of Legal Metrology, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the International Organization for Standardization, the African Organisation for Standardisation, and the World Health Organization (WHO) updated the Committee on recent activities.