TECHNICAL BARRIERS TO TRADE
The review process for the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement started in November 2017 and is scheduled to be concluded at the TBT committee's 14-15 November 2018 meeting. Every three years, WTO members 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 TBT Committee. The proposals submitted addressed the following themes:
- The proposal submitted by the United States (G/TBT/W/535) is for members to provide up-to-date website information identifying the location of adopted final texts for technical regulations, as well as applicable conformity assessment procedures, and to task the WTO secretariat to maintain this information as a publicly-available list.
- The proposal submitted by Switzerland (G/TBT/W/536) is to improve the transparency on the handling of comments on notified draft measures by recommending the publishing of comments and replies online, on a voluntary basis.
- The proposal submitted by Australia (G/TBT/W/537) is to improve the notification process by using keywords in notifications, adding new fields in the notification document to indicate final measures and date of entry-into-force, and improving the effective use of ePing, the notifications alert system.
- The proposal submitted by the European Union (G/TBT/W/534) is for the TBT committee to discuss how to facilitate compliance with mandatory marking and labelling requirements on imported products and to develop recommendations or guidance to support members in this respect.
Risk assessment, Quality Infrastructure and certification
- The proposal submitted by Chinese Taipei (G/TBT/W/530) is for members to take a holistic approach to risk assessment in committee discussions, including the use of risk assessment in respect of conformity assessment procedures, standards, and technical regulations.
- The proposal submitted by the United States (G/TBT/W/531) recommends various elements for thematic discussion among members as part of developing practical guidelines to support regulators' use of trade facilitative conformity assessment procedures, including national quality infrastructure (NQI), and use of international and regional systems.
- The proposal submitted by Brazil (G/TBT/W/533) encourages members to resume debate on the Indicative List of Approaches and suggested that thematic sessions be held to discuss practical examples of acceptance of conformity assessment results
How to use standards in regulation
- The proposal submitted by Canada (G/TBT/W/529) is for holding a workshop on the issue of incorporating standards by reference in regulation, and to discuss best practices and potential ideas for international guidelines on policy considerations when referencing standards.
- The proposal submitted by Canada (G/TBT/W/532) is for holding a session on the role of gender in the development of standards and technical regulations, to encourage an exchange of experiences by governments and standards development organizations, and to discuss ongoing work in this area.
How to improve technical assistance
- The joint proposal submitted by the Philippines, Mauritius and Uganda (G/TBT/W/538/Rev.1) is to check the feasibility of expanding the current Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) dealing with the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS agreement) to include TBT matters, or to set up a dedicated TBT development facility.
Making the technical barriers to trade committee more efficient
- The proposal submitted by Brazil (G/TBT/W/533, Section 2) is for members to consider the creation of a voluntary procedure for ad hoc consultations to promote resolution of trade concerns
- The proposal submitted by United States (G/TBT/W/539) is to discuss appropriate participation of, and best practices for, observers to the TBT committee
Specific trade concerns
WTO members discussed a total of 61 specific trade concerns, 8 of which are new. Below is a summary of the new concerns. A full list of the trade concerns is available here. For more information on previous trade concerns see the 20-22 March 2018 and 8-9 November 2017 meetings.
1. Brazil — labelling of beverages, wine, and grape derivatives
The EU questioned a recent directive in Brazil on the labelling of beverages, wine, and grape derivatives. The EU maintained that the new requirements, including how the product denomination and list of ingredient must be indicated on the label, could hinder international trade, and urged Brazil to follow the international standards of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV). Brazil said that the process of developing this directive was carried out in a transparent manner and in line with the WTO TBT Agreement. Public consultations on the draft resolution were notified to the WTO, and Brazil said answers to the concerns raised will be provided as soon as possible.
2. India — Testing and Certification of telegraph
The US expressed its concerns that the amendments introduced by the Indian government requiring local conformity assessment will lead to a duplication and overlap of testing and certification for a wide range of telecommunications and other equipment. The US said that other WTO members accept these products on the basis of a supplier's declaration of conformity or tests from relevant laboratories and schemes. India responded by saying that the aim of this additional requirement is to ensure the safety of the users and security of the network. It does not discriminate between foreign and local business, and recognizes testing results issued by partner countries.
3. US — Certification on security screening equipment
China voiced concerns about the unpredictability of the new certification requirements of the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for security screening equipment. China said the TSA had not provided its companies with information about the completeness or deficiencies of their applications to make necessary corrections if needed. The US replied that this TSA certification relates to procurement and is thus not a matter for discussion in the TBT committee.
4. United States — Energy Conservation Standards for Compressors
China expressed its concern that the US rules on energy conservation for compressors were inconsistent with relevant international standards. In particular, China questioned the classification methods for air compressors and equipment and asked for clarifications about its scientific basis. China noted that it submitted comments on the measure in 2016, but that no reply had been received. The US said that answers to all the comments received are published together with the final rule. The new concerns raised would be conveyed to the US Department of Energy.
5. Indonesia —Safety and Quality Standard of Alcoholic Beverages
Indonesia has introduced a draft regulation by which alcoholic beverages imported into its market have to meet specified safety and quality standards, in addition to new labelling and advertising requirements. Mexico expressed concern with the new standards, in particular with respect to advertising restrictions and the maximum established level of methanol in alcohol beverages, which is below the amount used in the production of tequila. Mexico asked Indonesia to clarify whether this specific requirement applied to tequila. Indonesia explained that this standard is used to support public morals and that the advertising restrictions apply to alcoholic beverages regardless of their origin.
6. Colombia — batteries imported into or manufactured in Colombia
Colombia has introduced a technical regulation applicable to zinc-carbon and alkaline cells and batteries imported into or manufactured in Colombia. The new regulation requires the removal of these kinds of batteries from any products that enter to the Colombian markets, to protect the environment and human health. Mexico, supported by the US, expressed concerns about the negative impact this regulation will have on the toy industry, which usually provide batteries inside toys. Mexico explained that this regulation would require their industries to have a separate line of production which would be more costly. Colombia said that this measure was already adopted and will go into effect as of January 2019, but it would nevertheless welcome comments from other Members.
7. Ecuador —Surface tension agents
Mexico raised concerns on Ecuador's draft technical regulation which only recognizes one testing method to prove that the requirements for biodegradability and phosphate content in surface tension agents has been met, and which therefore is not in line with international standards. The draft also requires that conformity assessment would need to be carried out through the accredited certification bodies in Ecuador. Ecuador explained that comments submitted by members on the draft regulation during the comment period had been taken into account, including the inclusion of various testing methods. Ecuador expressed its willingness to continue working bilaterally with Mexico to address concerns.
8. Indonesian — National Standard and certification requirements for the import of biscuits
Switzerland was concerned that these requirements will drive Swiss companies out of the Indonesian market, and asked Indonesia for update on the development of the measures and to confirm whether these measures will be implemented or withdrawn. Indonesia said that the implementation of this measure was postponed, as notified to the WTO.
The following side events were organised at the margins of the TBT committee meeting:
Information Session on SPS/TBT notification alert system ePing, 19 June:
Members heard an update from WTO Secretariat on the ePing notification alert system. The session featured presentations by Sam Munsie, Assistant Director Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from Australia and George Opiyo, TBT National Enquiry Point, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, who shared their countries' experiences in using ePing to engage domestic stakeholders regarding regulatory requirements affecting exports .
Good Governance in Developing Modern Quality Infrastructure Systems, 20 June 2018:
The event addressed good governance foundations for modern quality infrastructure necessary for integration into the global trading system. The event was organized by UNIDO in cooperation with the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). Panellists included representatives from quality infrastructure governance organizations for accreditation (ILAC) and standardization (ISO), as well as representatives from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), , CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), UNIDO and the WTO Secretariat.
Addressing Tensions and Avoiding Disputes: Specific Trade Concerns in the TBT Committee, 21 June 2018:
Dr Kateryna Holzer (PhD in Law & PhD in Economics, WTO Visiting Academic, formerly with the World Trade Institute of the University of Bern) presented her research on how raising specific trade concerns serves as a trade tension resolution and dispute prevention mechanism. The side event was organized by the WTO Secretariat, and included the participation of Kate Swan, Chairperson of the TBT Committee, Lauro Locks and Hoe Lim (WTO).