In his opening remarks, Deputy Director General Jean-Marie Paugam noted that the Symposium — entitled “Easing Regulatory Bottlenecks” — is being held at a time where the world needs more than ever well-functioning supply chains to support trade and the global economy. He noted that the work of the TBT Committee supports WTO members in promoting coherent approaches to issues such as digitalisation and decarbonisation and serves as an incubator for WTO reform. His full speech is available here.

Speaking at the opening session, Ambassador José Luis Cancela of Uruguay stressed how the TBT Committee contributes to the transparency of governments' trade measures and acts as a forum for the discussion of members' specific trade concerns (STCs). He noted that the 9th Triennial Review of the TBT Agreement underlined the need to work with small businesses to ensure they have access to the information needed to comply with standards and regulations for traded goods. This will enhance their participation in international trade in line with work undertaken by the Informal Working Group on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs), he said.

Ambassador María L. Pagán of the United States said her delegation was a very active participant in TBT work. She characterized the TBT Committee as “one of the best, if not the best, functioning committee of the WTO”. In particular, she highlighted the value of ePing, a platform for tracking requirements for traded goods, and the benefit of thematic discussions in the TBT Committee on issues ranging from medical devices and automotive products to plastic regulation and climate change. She called for strengthening cooperation between regulators on emerging technologies through the development of international standards.

Ambassador Tan Hung Seng of Singapore stressed that members should rely on international standards to facilitate trade instead of specific national standards and regulations. He also stressed that stakeholder engagement during the development of standards and regulations should be part and parcel of the design process. Members should continuously review their TBT measures even after adoption, he said, to ensure they are fit for purpose. The discussion of specific trade concerns in the TBT Committee was a good example of this, he added.

Deputy Director-General Maive Rute of the European Union underscored that the TBT Committee is a key forum for promoting better regulation and minimizing burdens, including for MSMEs. She said that transparency tools, such as ePing, and the development of multilateral recommendations were important outputs from the TBT Committee. 

A second panel examined the nature and magnitude of the regulatory bottlenecks addressed by the TBT Committee. It introduced new analysis estimating the commercial and economic importance of specific trade concerns discussed in the TBT Committee. It was highlighted that between 2002 and 2020 specific trade concerns covered on average USD 2,419 billion of imports per year, representing on average 16.7% of global imports.  

A third panel looked at the importance of regulatory cooperation in the area of public health with a focus on lessons learned from COVID-19. The session also discussed the role of regulation in dealing with emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence. In addition, the session heard from the automotive industry on key regulatory challenges that need to be addressed to accelerate the decarbonisation of road transport.

From 10 to14 October 2022, the WTO hosted the Transparency Champions Programme aimed at deepening the skill-set of government officials who implement TBT transparency disciplines on a daily basis. The first cohort of transparency champions from Africa were invited to attend the symposium as part of the WTO's capacity-building activities.

The recording of the symposium and all details can be found here.




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