TECHNICAL BARRIERS TO TRADE
The 9th Triennial Review of the Technical Barriers to Trade (#WTOTBT) Agreement concluded today! The new Chair Ms. Elisa Olmeda @MX_WTO_Mission ???? summarizes the main highlights of this important review. pic.twitter.com/5Zk4ErFucm— WTO (@wto) November 12, 2021
Ms Elisa Olmeda (Mexico), the new Chair of the TBT Committee, said: “The Triennial Review is an opportunity to improve the work of the committee. It helps members keep up with new topics and improve their work in the areas of transparency and standards setting. The review keeps us dynamic, informed and ensures a better implementation of the TBT Agreement”.
Every three years, WTO members are mandated to review the work of the TBT Committee, taking into consideration changes and new challenges in the area of standards and regulations. The review process started in October 2020 with members submitting ideas on new work for the Committee. The second phase resulted in a set of recommendations for these new areas of work. Download the full report here. More information is available here.
The review process garnered 40 proposals submitted by Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the European Union, the Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei and the United States. These proposals were the basis for further comments and discussion by all members in the lead-up to the adoption of the workplan.
The proposals submitted by WTO members addressed various issues, with transparency featuring strongly. Other areas include conformity assessment, accreditation policies, the impact of standards on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), e-commerce and online shopping, cybersecurity and digital products (including artificial intelligence), the use of international standards for food regulation, lessons learned from COVID-19, and climate change.
COVID-19 related TBT notifications
The WTO Secretariat reported that since March 2020, WTO members have submitted a total of 179 COVID-19 related TBT notifications. These notifications comprise 41% of all COVID-related WTO notifications to date. A total of 26 COVID-19 related TBT notifications were submitted since the last Committee meeting, between 1 June and 10 November. These notifications cover a range of products, including medicines, medical supplies and personal protective equipment, and general products.
The Secretariat issued on 7 July an “Indicative list of trade-related bottlenecks and trade-facilitating measures on critical products to combat COVID-19”, which was revised on 8 October. More information on the TBT-related aspects are available here.
Specific trade concerns
Members discussed 89 specific trade concerns, of which 25 were discussed for the first time. The full list of trade concerns discussed can be found here.
Environmental measures dominated the trade concerns discussion. Areas such as the carbon footprint of batteries, circular economy, plastic waste management, the classification of hazardous chemicals, and vehicle emissions were brought to the fore.
Household goods and electrical appliances were the subject of many concerns, with questions raised on energy and water conservation measures related to washing machines and dryers, the long-term availability of lighting spare parts for refrigerators, labelling requirements for Ultra High Definition (UHD) televisions in standby mode and testing procedures for lamps in standby mode. Concerns on measures related to insect repellent testing, the safety of amusement rides, and seafood categories were also in the spotlight. Pandemic-related travel restrictions were raised in a number of trade concerns, in particular the challenges faced for on-site inspections and visits of testing facilities.
The Secretariat updated the Committee on the work underway to develop an integrated platform on transparency through merging several TBT online tools, such as the TBT Information Management System, the TBT Notification Submission System and ePing. This single-entry portal will help the TBT community find information related to product requirements. The Secretariat aims to launch this new platform in March 2022.
TBT Symposium in 2022
The Secretariat announced that it intends to organize a symposium next year. This half-day event will aim to discuss the value of the TBT Committee's work on alleviating regulatory bottlenecks in the global economy.