Triennial Review of the TBT Agreement

In line with the timeline adopted in October 2020, WTO members are submitting proposals under the Triennial Review of the TBT Agreement, with the aim of defining the next cycle of the Committee's work from 2021 to 2024. The review starts with members submitting ideas on new work for the Committee. The second phase is to develop a set of recommendations for the new areas of work. Members are expected to finalise this review by the last Committee meeting of the year in November 2021.  

At the Committee meeting in February, WTO members discussed several proposals submitted by the European Union on the issues of conformity assessment procedures, transparency and lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic. They also discussed proposals by Brazil on transparency and the operation of the committee.  More information can be found here.

At a meeting of the Committee on 4 February, WTO members had shared experiences and heard updates from the WTO Secretariat on the implementation of the transparency provisions of the TBT Agreement and on various online tools to support transparency such as ePing. The updates also covered recommendations of the TBT Committee stemming from the Eighth Triennial Review, the current cycle of the Committee's work.  More information can be found here.

Specific trade concerns

WTO members raised 20 new trade concerns, and 61 previous concerns. The full list is available here.

The products covered included cosmetics, medical devices, household electrical appliances, chemicals and cryptography products. Members discussed how confidential business information and intellectual property can be protected, how testing and certification might be considered to be excessive and  how environmental labelling requirements could be viewed as overly complicated. Questions were posed on why international standards were not used as the basis of testing and certification.

Members stressed the impact of COVID-19 on those economies enforcing measures and those complying with them. In response to the pandemic, some members had extended enforcement dates or relaxed measures so as to allow access to their markets. Other members said it was difficult to meet testing and certification requirements due to limitations imposed by the pandemic.

The lack of harmonization with international standards was raised by a number of  members. Japan, China, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, the European Union and Switzerland found that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's measure on restricting hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment had led to burdensome testing requirements that could be eased by applying a relevant international standard. Saudi Arabia explained that an urgent health problem related to non-conforming products had been identified and this measure was aligned with a similar EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive.

India was asked by the Republic of Korea to align its measure on refrigerating appliances with international standards. The Republic of Korea also asked Oman to align its measures related to water heaters, washing machines, refrigerators and freezers with international standards. Turkey's eco-design requirements and energy labelling for household goods were also raised as a cause for concern by the Republic of Korea. China requested clarification from the United States on its energy conservation programme for dishwashers.

Among other concerns, India asked the European Union to review why the Netherlands and Italy were not accepting test certificates for electrical equipment issued by the Central Power Research Institute, a widely recognized body. A number of members requested China to clarify procedures for the registration of cosmetics and Mexico was asked by the United States and other members to review its testing scheme for cheese.

The discussions were facilitated by eAgenda, an online collaborative platform for members to manage specific trade concerns, increasing transparency and giving members more time to prepare ahead of meetings.

Annual Review

The Committee adopted the twenty-sixth Annual Review of the Implementation and Operation of the TBT Agreement. The review covers 2020, providing a factual presentation of developments in the Committee relating to the implementation and operation of the Agreement. The Annual Review is available in G/TBT/45.

Highlights from the review:

  • 82 members submitted 3,354 notifications of new or changed TBT measures, compared to 93 members in 2019.
  • African members were among the most active in submitting TBT notifications, submitting just under a third of all new notifications in 2020. Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda were among the top ten notifying members.  
  • The majority of new notifications (61%) in 2020 were submitted by developing members. Seven LDCs were responsible for 23%.
  • More than 100 notifications of measures related to COVID-19 were submitted in 2020. In addition, COVID-19 was referenced in a number of trade concerns.
  • The use of the TBT Notification Submission System (TBT NSS) is increasing: 93% of all TBT notifications were submitted using the TBT NSS, up from 35% in 2014.
  • The number of subscribers to ePing, an alert system for tracking TBT notifications, grew to 12,360 at the end of 2020, up from 8,821, with more than half of new subscribers from the private sector.
  • Members reviewed 214 specific trade concerns, including 57 new concerns. The number of new concerns raised is the highest in any single year since 1995 and 22 more than in 2019. In 2020, developing country members raised the largest number of new concerns in any year since 1995.
  • The TBT Committee piloted and launched eAgenda in 2020. The use of this tool enabled the Committee to continue work during the COVID-19 lockdown.



Transparency tools for improving implementation of TBT Agreement

  • TBT notification submission system, used to submit TBT notifications on technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures. 
  • TBT Information Management System, a publicly available searchable database containing all TBT notifications as well as specific trade concerns (STCs), enquiry point contact details and notifications from standardizing bodies.
  • ePing: an online platform which includes all SPS and TBT notifications on technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures. The system allows users to register and receive email alerts on notifications of interest. In addition, the platform facilitates dialogue and information sharing at the national and international level.
  • ISO WTO standards information gateway: allows users to consult a list of standardizing bodies who have accepted the code of good practice and their biannual workplans.
  • eAgenda: an online platform that facilitates the submitting of information related to specific trade concerns.

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