Summary Report of the Fourth Special Meeting on Procedures for Information Exchange

(2-3 November 2004)

The “Fourth Special Meeting on Procedures for Information Exchange”, held in Geneva on 23 November 2004, aimed at discussing at a technical level the activities and concerns of the TBT Agreement, in particular with regard to the functioning of notification procedures and enquiry points(1). It provided a forum for Members to exchange experiences regarding the implementation of transparency provisions of the TBT Agreement(2). Panel sessions addressed seven topics: (i) prior to notifications; (ii) preparation and submission of notifications; (iii) processing and circulation of notifications; (iv) handling of comments; (v) transparency obligations under the Code of Good Practice; (vi) the functioning of enquiry points; and (vii) benefiting from transparency provisions through dissemination of information. The following is a summary of the various experiences presented, including any additional information provided during the discussions(3).

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A. Prior to notifications   back to top

1. The Chilean National Commission on TBT(4)

The representative of Chile indicated that coordination among regulatory bodies was considered a determining factor to ensure that relevant protection levels were achieved by the standards set and that regulatory interventions did not distort market performance. For that purpose, Chile created in 1997 a National Commission on TBT. The Commission was comprised of representatives of the different ministries that developed, adopted and applied technical regulations, their respective agencies and officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the National Standardization Institute. The task of the Commission was to coordinate and thus provide consistency to the work of the various institutions involved with the drafting of technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures.

Responsibilities of the National TBT Commission included: Reviewing and analyzing standardization, regulation and conformity assessment systems; providing periodic updates on WTO/TBT activities; analysing WTO-related issues that required a national position; taking measures to strengthen market surveillance; reviewing the public availability of national technical regulations; and identifying capacity building requirements. Examples of topics discussed by the Commission in order to come to a national position were: eco-labelling, the Cartagena Protocol and the REACH system.

The National TBT Commission worked on a Decree implementing Law 19.912. The scope of the Law, and therefore the Decree, related to the principles of the TBT Agreement and good regulatory practices. This included the use of international standards, non-discrimination, the avoidance of unnecessary barriers to trade and transparency. The Decree put in place a system of public consultations with a period of no less than 60 days for comment and required regulatory agencies to make relevant information available to the public. The Decree contributed to enhancing the various agencies' awareness of the benefits of having clear and uniform rules on how technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures should be developed, adopted and applied.

In order to improve public availability of technical regulations, a new website containing all Chilean technical regulations would be established under the coordination of the Ministry of Economy and with the participation of all agencies involved in the National TBT Commission (this website would be financed in the context of an EU cooperation programme). To improve the general understanding of the TBT Agreement, the Chilean National Commission planned to organize training of regulatory agencies and the business sector. The Commission also intended to increase the knowledge of consumers on technical regulations.

2. The “Notice and Comment” Procedure in the United States(5)

The representative of United States noted that for the development of new technical regulations, US federal regulatory agencies worked together with interested parties. The Administrative Procedures Act was the key law governing the US regulatory process under which federal agencies created the regulations needed to implement governmental legislation. It ensured transparency in the establishment of new regulations, providing for the participation of interested parties in the process and ensuring that agencies met the same obligations for all regulations. As defined by the Administrative Procedures Act, the US process for developing regulations involved three steps, known as the “Notice and Comment” procedure.

First, a notice of the proposed regulation was published in the US Federal Register as a “notice of proposed rulemaking”. This notice signalled to the public a new regulation, described the regulation in detail (including information on a cost-benefit analysis of alternative solutions, risk assessments and impact statements) and solicited public comments. Second, within a period of 60 days (maximum 90 days), all interested domestic and foreign parties could submit comments, which were all equally considered. Public comments enhanced the agency's knowledge of general and specific technical information on the proposed regulation and allowed it to take corrective action, if necessary. Decision-makers needed to take into consideration all the substantive views expressed before the issuance of a final regulation. In case of significant differences of opinion, the agency would allow a second opportunity for public comments. Third, after the consideration of all comments, the final rule was issued, including information on how comments had been addressed.

The “notice and comment” procedure for all new technical regulations could be tracked at the federal level in a daily publication, the US Federal Register. To be able to notify final rules to the WTO, the US enquiry point depended on regulatory agencies to alert it. To track regulations at the sub-federal level, the US enquiry point used an electronic tool, RegAlert, which allowed it to monitor all fifty States for changes in technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures. A new website further contributed to the transparency and accountability of the US regulatory system. It was used as a portal where comments on regulations were submitted online.


B. Preparation and submission of notifications   back to top

1. The Experience of Canada: the Standards Council and Export Alert!(7)

The representative of Canada said that International Trade Canada (ITCan) retained overall responsibility for the coordination and implementation of all the WTO Agreements. Since January 1980, ITCan contracted the operation of the national notification authority and the national enquiry point to the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). Canada's experience showed that combining the two entities into one office allowed for a better and more rapid coordination. SCC was responsible for fulfilling the transparency obligations of the TBT, SPS and NAFTA Agreements, distributing WTO notifications, answering enquiries and providing information to foreign enquiry points on Canadian standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures. While notification activities fell under the jurisdiction of the enquiry point, the response to technical enquiries was handled by the Information and Research Service.

At the federal level, proposed measures were published in the Canada Gazette. To ensure proper consultation among the Canadian public, regulators were required to provide, along with the proposed regulation, a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS), which included a description of the regulation as well as an analysis of alternatives, costs, and benefits. Regulators were also required to provide a comment period of at least 75 days for regulations that affected trade. The SCC reviewed the proposed regulations to determine whether they should be notified. Sub-national regulations were published on different schedules in their respective provincial gazettes, which were also reviewed regularly to identify the regulations that had to be notified. Sub-national notifications continued to be a challenge for Canada, because many provinces only published their regulations once adopted.

Canada notified technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures at the draft stage. Once completed, the notification format was sent to the WTO CRN (Central Registry of Notification), with copies to the Canadian authorities and NAFTA counterparts. Since Canada started to include, in July 2000, the URL to the regulation in the notification format, the number of requests for regulatory texts from foreign enquiry points had decreased. Canada believed that this type of instant coordination and cooperation ensured that all stakeholders had the same information and opportunity to provide comments. Every three years, Canada organized a workshop for regulators on the TBT Agreement during which an emphasis was put on the need to share comments with the enquiry point because often comments were sent directly to regulators without going through the enquiry point.

In order to filter the information contained in notifications received, the Standards Council of Canada developed a system known as Export Alert!(9). Export Alert! was a web-based application free of charge to Canadians used to disseminate WTO notifications to a variety of stakeholders ranging from industry, regulatory agencies and standards development organizations to academia. The service helped companies keep abreast of regulatory changes in global markets before they became law and provided input on measures that might affect their trading activities. Canada had launched a second version of Export Alert!, which currently enabled users to: Track regulatory developments in selected countries, in addition to subject areas; request regulatory texts more easily; and receive HTML e mail notifications. The SCC developed a Spanish version of Export Alert! to help Latin American countries disseminate WTO notifications to national stakeholders. Bolivia would be the first country to use the service.

2. The Notification Procedure of the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards(10)

The representative of Trinidad and Tobago noted that the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS), the national enquiry point since 1996, complied with its notification obligations under the TBT Agreement by sending notifications on standards proposed for compulsory status to the WTO. Voluntary standards were adopted by the TTBS board and compulsory standards (equivalent to technical regulations) by the Ministry responsible for Trade and Industry after recommendation by the committee responsible for the development of the standard. The notification process at TTBS began when its Standardization Division sent a notice of a draft standard for public comment. Draft standards were advertised for public comment in local daily newspapers. The enquiry point checked whether the standard was compulsory and if so extracted the information necessary to complete the WTO notification format. The completed form was then forwarded by e mail to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (notification authority).

At the enquiry point, the notification procedure took between one and two days after the advertisement for public comment had been made. TTBS was developing a new website where draft standards would be available online with an open forum for comments. Due to the number of steps that were necessary before the notification reached the WTO, the enquiry point used a variety of available technological tools to speed up the process. Notifications were checked at the Ministry of Trade and Industry and then forwarded to the Trinidad and Tobago Mission in Geneva via e-mail, which sent it to the WTO CRN. The Ministry also sent to the mission the original documents for information.

Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Regulations were handled by the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division. While there was a well established relationship between this Division and TTBS, different procedures existed in the two agencies with regard to how regulations were handled. After internal consultations, it had been agreed that regulations, before being sent to the Ministry of Legal Affairs, would be notified through the enquiry point for comment. Also, measures were being implemented to ensure that existing technical regulations would be made available on the new TTBS website.

3. The Notification Procedure of the Thai Industrial Standards Institute(11)

The representative of Thailand said that in 1995, the Thai Industrial Standards Institute (TISI) had been appointed as the single national enquiry point for both the TBT and SPS Agreements. Following reforms in 2002, two separate national enquiry points were established: TISI, for all industrial products; and the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodities and Food Standards, for food and agricultural products. To ensure the fulfilment of the notification obligations, coordination with relevant regulatory bodies was ensured through the establishment of national committees. These committees included representatives from relevant government organizations and the private sector. To ensure effective coordination, representatives from the two national enquiry points were represented in each other's TBT and SPS national committees.

TISI remained informed about new technical regulations by monitoring the cabinet website, receiving advice from regulatory bodies and checking information through the media. Regulatory bodies were reminded of their obligation to notify every three months. In case TISI had doubts on whether or not to notify, it would always notify. Once filled-in, the notification was sent to the WTO Permanent Mission which in turn submitted it to the WTO CRN.

Thailand's notification procedure had six steps: (i) check for new or proposed measures; (ii) assess if a notification was required; (iii) decide whether it had to be notified under the TBT Agreement and/or the SPS Agreement; (iv) decide whom to notify; (v) complete the notification form; and, (vi) submit it to the WTO. Thailand encountered certain specific difficulties: insufficient awareness of the notification obligations at the operational level; problems in distinguishing between TBT or SPS notifications; incomplete notification forms; delay in translating technical regulations into English, due to budgetary constraints; and occasionally late notification of regulations.


C. Processing and circulation of notifications   back to top

1. The Processing of Notifications by the WTO Secretariat(12)

The representative of the Secretariat indicated that three instances were involved in the internal processing of a TBT notification once it had reached the WTO: (i) the Central Registry of Notifications (CRN); (ii) the Trade and Environment Division; and (iii) the Document Management System (DMS). The lifecycle of a TBT notification began when a Member sent a notification to the CRN, by post, fax or e-mail. Then, the notification was put on a file, given a record number and forwarded to the Trade and Environment Division. It was important that notifications be sent via e mail as otherwise they had to be retyped by the Secretariat.

Once the notification had reached the Trade and Environment Division, it was checked, and when necessary, clarification was requested. If a notification contained SPS elements, the Trade and Environment Division asked the Agriculture and Commodities Division to check whether it had received the same notification. If this was not the case, the Trade and Environment Division contacted the notifying Member to draw its attention to the fact that the notification contained SPS elements. It was then up to the Member to decide whether to notify the measure under TBT, SPS or both Agreements.

Once checked, the notification was transmitted to the DMS, which automatically sent it for translation. Once the notification was attributed a number, it was circulated to the permanent missions in Geneva (in paper copy) and posted on the WTO website. An automated weekly e-mail distribution had been set up to facilitate Members' access to notifications. Normally, the internal processing of notifications by the Secretariat took two working days.

2. How to Use the WTO Website and the CRN Database?(14)

The representative of the Secretariat said that there were two ways to access notifications on the WTO website: the traditional way through “Documents Online”; and through the CRN search interface. To begin a search in "Documents Online", one could go to the “Advanced Search” interface of “Documents Online” and fill in some basic fields (e.g. “G/TBT/...” for TBT documents). The search could be restricted by type (e.g. "notification"), by date or by Member. If one searched by Member, both documents submitted by that Member or which included that Member's name would appear. The search could be also restricted by entering text in the “full text” field and only those notifications containing those words would be retrieved.

The CRN search interface permitted the retrieval of notifications using specific data fields of the CRN database. The search mechanism operated in the same way as the standard search interface of “Documents Online” on the public WTO website. The difference was that it included a search by trade coverage of notifications and a search by the requirement under which they were submitted.

In both systems, retrieved documents were presented in the standard display format of “Documents Online” and could be consulted directly on-screen or downloaded to a local computer. Documents could be downloaded and saved by clicking on the right mouse button. To download a series of documents, one could use the “download” feature which appeared at the top of the page.


D. Handling of comments   back to top

1. The Experience of the TBT Enquiry Point of the European Communities and its TBT Website(16)

The representative of the European Communities noted that the role of the TBT enquiry point, managed by the European Commission, was, inter alia, to: (i) analyse, with the help of companies, the regulations notified; (ii) coordinate the issuing of comments; (iii) transmit EC notifications to the WTO Secretariat; (iv) ensure the follow-up of comments received by the European Communities; and (v) answer requests for information about notified projects. Once or twice a year, the European Commission held meetings of notification authorities of EC members States in order to discuss the implementation of the TBT Agreement.

To enhance the participation of economic operators and to ensure the highest level of transparency vis-à-vis WTO Members, the European Communities launched in June 2004 a TBT website. Available in the three WTO languages, it provided: (i) information on the TBT Agreement and on the objective and scope of TBT notification procedures; (ii) a list of all national enquiry points and notification authorities (WTO Members were encouraged to send their respective websites); (iii) a compilation of notifications of WTO Members which had led to comments by the European Communities and EC notifications which had led to comments by WTO Members along with a complete list of notifications throughout the month submitted by all WTO Members; and (iv) a search facility of the EC database for notifications. The EC/TBT website also offered a mailing list service for subscribers to be informed via e-mail of new notifications made.

Notifications coming from one of the 25 member States were available in all the 20 official languages. The European Communities hoped that the practice of making draft texts available and indicating in the notification a link to the PDF version would be followed by other Members. If the European Commission, a member State or an economic actor showed an interest in a particular notification by a WTO Member, the EC/TBT enquiry point verified the time delay for the submission of comments and, if necessary, requested an extension. If a service of the European Commission wished to comment, an internal procedure of consultation of the relevant services of the Commission and possibly the national member State authorities was put in place. Once finalized, the comments were sent to the WTO Member concerned and published on the EC/TBT website.

In case of comments on a notified EC text, the European Communities took the comments into account and made every effort not to adopt the text before having replied to the comments. The response, drafted by the relevant services of the Commission, was sent to the TBT enquiry point of the WTO Member concerned. With regard to notifications by one of the 25 member States, the Commission wrote the final answer together with the member State concerned and sent it in the name of the European Communities. As the European Communities had an exclusive competence in the area of common commercial policy, a member State notifying a draft regulation directly to the WTO Secretariat had to inform the European Commission of the comments received on its national draft.


E. Transparency obligations under the Code of Good Practice   back to top

1. The Malaysian Standards Infrastructure(18)

The representative of Malaysia said that the Malaysian standards system was made up of two institutions: (i) the SIRIM Berhad, and (ii) the Department of Standards Malaysia (DSM). DSM appointed SIRIM Berhad as the sole standards development agency. DSM was responsible for all policy matters with regard to standardization and also operated the national accreditation program for operating laboratories and certification bodies. SIRIM Berhad had operational responsibility, organized Malaysian representation in regional and international standards bodies, published, printed, sold and distributed Malaysian Standards.

In 1996, DSM notified its acceptance of the TBT Code of Good Practice to the ISO/IEC Information Centre. As the officially recognized national standardizing body in Malaysia, DSM's role was to ensure that the national standards system was in compliance with the Code. The Standards Malaysia Act required the publication of all approvals and withdrawals of standards in the government gazette and included mandatory provisions for providing opportunities to comment before the adoption of standards. To ensure that the development of standards was in compliance with the Code of Good Practice, a “Quality Manual by Operating Procedures and Work Instructions” had been established describing the various processes, e.g.: Process for obtaining public comments; process for the publication of standards; and process of harmonization with international standards.

Public comment was one of the most important and critical stages in the development of Malaysian standards. All draft standards were issued for public comment by announcement in national newspapers and published on SIRIM Berhad’s website for a comment period of sixty days, where they could be downloaded free of charge. Draft Malaysian Standards which followed the exact content of international standards were, however, not placed on the website due to copyright restrictions, but available at a charge upon request.

All interested parties had the possibility of participating in the standards development process, through sectoral or technical committees, working groups, or through the public comment process. Procedures were in place to provide for balanced representation of all stakeholders in the various committees. The obligations contained in Paragraph J of the Code of Good Practice were fulfilled by publishing the work programme twice a year in the Standards and Quality News. Additionally, the approval of new projects and the withdrawal of standards was announced in national newspapers and on websites on a regular basis. Pursuant to Paragraph K of the Code of Good Practice, DSM was a national member of ISONET and SIRIM Berhad an Associate Member of ISONET.

With regard to the harmonization provisions contained in the Code of Good Practice, Malaysia had implemented a policy of adopting the most relevant parts of international standards as a basis for the development of Malaysian standards. Both at the national and regional level (e.g. APEC), there were initiatives to align standards with international standards. Malaysia had undertaken numerous actions to increase its participation in international standardization: Promotional and educational events on the benefits of participating in international standardization had been held, and international standards meetings hosted.

2. The Activities of the ISO/IEC Information Centre(20)

The representative of ISO noted that the objective of the Information Centre, jointly operated by the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) and the International Electro-technical Commission (IEC), was to provide stakeholders with information on standards, standardization, and related matters. Linked to the ISO/IEC Information Centre, there were websites and activities related to the World Standards Services Network (WSSN) and to international standards organizations. ISO also operated the information network ISONET, which was monitored by the ISO Central Secretariat. The ISO/IEC Information Centre also served as an information office on draft standards.

The ISO/IEC Information Centre provided four types of services: an ISO/IEC information website (opened in November 2004); answers to enquiries; information to the WTO Secretariat; and maintenance of a library of ISO and IEC publications. The ISO/IEC website contained information on standardisation and conformity assessment, the TBT Agreement, the TBT Standards Code Directory, which was updated annually, other standards publications, general vocabulary on standardization and general classification of standards widely used. The website also contained an enquiry service where questions could be posted, which were, depending on the scope of the enquiry, directed to IEC, ISO or other standardizing bodies. The enquiry service was provided by the IEC customer information centre and ISO information services, in accordance with their respective areas of competence.

The information services provided to the WTO included the registration of notifications received from standardizing bodies, e.g. on the acceptance of the Code of Good Practice and the existence of work programs. ISO/IEC also published, once a year, the WTO TBT Standards Code Directory with updated information on the acceptance of the Code of Good Practice; it was normally circulated to all Members every year at the first meeting of the TBT Committee. The Information Centre's library, which was mainly used by students and experts from Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), was a useful resource containing the wide range of ISO and IEC publications.


F. The functioning of Enquiry Points   back to top

1. The Functioning of the Brazilian Enquiry Point and the Services Developed to Assist Exporters(23)

The representative of Brazil said that to promote the implementation of the TBT Agreement, Brazil remodelled the activities of the enquiry point and notification authority under the responsibility of the National Institute of Metrology, Standardization and Industrial Quality (INMETRO). In order to help Brazilian exporters overcome technical barriers to trade, INMETRO launched in March 2002 a new online service. Brazilian exporters used this to contact the enquiry point directly and access all information on technical regulations, as provided by WTO Members, before they entered into force. This service was free of charge and could be accessed through the INMETRO website.

INMETRO also carried out a series of workshops to promote exporters' awareness of the importance of participating in the notification process. In order to provide Brazilian exporters with a fast access to technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures in force, it was decided to launch one more service: a list of technical regulations in force by country and product available on INMETRO's website.

AlertaExportador, implemented with the assistance of the Canadian enquiry point SCC, set up an automatic early notice of proposed technical requirements to provide companies with the opportunity to adapt their products before the relevant requirements were in force and to thus prevent delays in the delivery of goods. Once registered online, exporters received an automated e-mail every time the database was updated with a new proposal by a WTO Member. A summary of the notification was available in Portuguese to provide exporters with the most relevant information on the possible impact on the market. After having received an early warning notice and deciding upon its relevance for access to a particular market, exporters could request the full text of any technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures notified. They were then able to present comments through the internet facility. Exporters could also send a complaint concerning a technical barrier to trade, which was then analyzed by the staff of INMETRO to launch the necessary procedures and possible consultations with other agencies of the Brazilian government. In August 2004, an agreement had been reached under the auspices of the standardization organizations of Brazil and of other MERCOSUR countries to provide these countries with an access to AlertaExportador(25).

2. The Chinese Experience in Enhancing the Role of the Enquiry Point(26)

The representative of the People's Republic of China noted that in 1997, in preparation for its WTO membership, a TBT enquiry point had been established, which was further strengthened after the country's accession in December 2001. Located at the State General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), the "WTO/TBT National Notification and Enquiry Center of the People’s Republic of China" had 15 staff members which serviced three departments, the Department of TBT Notifications and Enquiry, the Department of TBT Research, and the Department of Networks. The enquiry point recruited highly qualified personnel, and equipped its offices with an advanced IT infrastructure.

The TBT enquiry point was responsible for the technical check of Chinese TBT notifications filled out by various ministries. A system of three-level examination had been adopted to ensure the quality of notifications. To facilitate the strict adherence to the rules and procedures recommended by the TBT Committee, 85 resolutions and recommendations had been translated into Chinese, compiled into a brochure and published. Although, in China, some technical regulations were adopted by the local government bodies (i.e. provincial, municipal, autonomous and regional), so far, only national technical regulations had been notified.

Concerning notifications by other WTO Members, China translated all TBT notifications into Chinese within two to three working days, and distributed both the Chinese and English versions to government departments, industrial sectors and other related organizations. At the same time, notifications were submitted to the Chinese TBT/SPS website(27) and were made available to the public free of charge. The enquiry point compiled and published a number of reports on technical barriers to trade, such as a the "WTO/TBT Express", "Reports of the TBT-SPS Enquiry Points", "Understanding of the TBT Agreement" and a nationwide periodical containing information on technical trade barriers. Additionally, TBT information was disseminated via traditional media channels, weekly on China's central TV station. The TBT enquiry point carried out research on key issues in international trade and published reports which were used as reference material for selected industries.

The Chinese enquiry point replied to reasonable enquiries from governmental, import and export enterprises as well as domestic and foreign trade associations by providing interested parties with the full text of notifications from the WTO database and/or referring them to the relevant regulatory agencies and ensuring coordination among different agencies, when necessary.

When China received TBT notifications from other Members, the TBT enquiry point distributed them to government agencies, the industrial sector and related organizations for comment. To increase companies' knowledge of the TBT Agreement, the enquiry point carried out selected publishing and training activities. It also organized workshops on formulating effective comments on notifications. Comments received from other WTO Members concerning China’s notifications were conveyed to competent departments and translated into Chinese, if necessary.

China's experience demonstrated that the following elements were of crucial importance for a successful operation of a national TBT enquiry point: the full attention of the central government, clear working procedures, highly qualified staff and advanced office equipment along with an active participation in meetings of the TBT Committee and other related activities.

3. The Kenyan Experience in Establishing and Running a National Enquiry Point(28)

The representative of Kenya recalled that in 1995, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS)(29) was officially designated as the TBT national enquiry point. However, its implementation and functioning was only realized in 1999, aided by technical assistance from WTO/UNCTAD/ITC under Phase I of a JITAP(30) project, which provided technical facilities, helped setting up a technical regulation database, and organized a study tour to European enquiry points. In the process of establishing the national enquiry point, it was realized that its functions and operations were closely related to those of the KEBS Standards Information Resource Centre (SIRC), which stored all standards and technical regulations for Kenya. To avoid a duplication of activities, the national enquiry point was integrated into the existing SIRC.

To speed up the process of receiving TBT notifications, one of the two staff of the national enquiry point downloaded TBT and SPS notifications directly from the WTO website and stored them on the local server. Then, the national enquiry point summarized each notification and compiled this information in a monthly publication, the “WTO/TBT Notification Update Bulletin” which was distributed electronically to over 400 organizations and individuals. As this bulletin was only compiled and circulated monthly, a selective dissemination of information had recently been introduced. Notifications on specific products were selected on a daily basis and then sent to specific clients. This service would gradually be offered (free of charge) to the industry in 2005.

The response time to enquiries received by the national enquiry point depended on the nature of the information required; an average of two days for information available in Kenya and up to one week for information from other countries. The national enquiry point had experienced some problems and challenges, which could be addressed through technical assistance: The limited awareness of industry on the trade benefits of the notification procedure; the lack of office technology to make Kenya's enquiry point a one-stop-information-service-point; the difficulties of translation and reception of full texts when requested from other national enquiry points; the lack of internet access for many SMEs; the limited server capacity of the enquiry point; and the need to create an interactive website, which could allow full text searches.


G. Benefiting from transparency provisions: Dissemination of information   back to top

1. The Experience of the Mexican TBT/SPS Enquiry Point(31)

The representative of Mexico said that the Mexican TBT/SPS enquiry point, located at the Under-Secretariat of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, had been operating since 1995. One problem was the difficulty to evaluate and assess the enquiry points' role, as the benefits provided to the business community were often indirect and not visible. Insufficient budgets resulting in the lack of material and human resources were issues of common concern which made it difficult to respect deadlines. The lack of continuity and follow-up, especially after a change of government, was an aspect which burdened the work of some Members' enquiry points. It was thus necessary to establish clear processes and procedures.

Several tools could help to satisfy users of the enquiry point and provide the relevant information in a timely manner: Internet portals were a means to ensure appropriate accessibility to the information and establish more effective communication amongst the stakeholders involved; knowledge exchange between Members could help to generate ideas; technical assistance could play an important role. Moreover, it was necessary to be in contact with stakeholders nationally, such as chambers of commerce, associations and businesses. As information providers, enquiry points needed to function as a link between private and public bodies nationally and internationally. In providing their services, enquiry points should construct the management of information strategically and stand ready to advertise the benefits of the services provided.

After a paper bulletin had been in place between 1995 and 1997, and later replaced by an online bulletin, the Mexican enquiry point developed, between 2001-2004, Notificarnom-Alert, a service accessible online. Notificarnom-Alert functioned in the same way as the web Canadian and Brazilian facilities.

2. The Experience of Chinese Taipei and the Product-Classified Notification Dissemination System(33)

The representative of Chinese Taipei noted that the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection (BSMI) was responsible for the implementation of notification procedures under the TBT Agreement. Electronic tools were used for checking and downloading notifications from the WTO website, translating and categorizing them and subsequently uploading and distributing them via e-mail to the public and the private sector concerned. A product-classified notification dissemination system introduced in early 2004 aided in distributing the right notifications to the relevant public and private sector entities, grouped notifications into 14 different categories and classified them by HS code. Translated notifications could be accessed at the BSMI website and also in a monthly publication.

To handle feedback appropriately, BSMI assisted the public and the private sector in making requests for additional information from other WTO Members. The enquiry point accumulated and filed comments on Members' regulations, discussed those with authorities and associations before finalizing them and sending them to WTO Members. A survey undertaken among 20 companies and associations had indicated that most of them were satisfied with the dissemination of notifications and that their business operations benefited from these notifications. Chinese Taipei was dedicated to the transparency of notifications and had undertaken different activities in this regard. While the notification dissemination system was greeted positively by the private and public sectors, the awareness of the private sector, mainly SMEs, on TBT issues needed to be further increased.

3. The Uganda TBT/SPS Coordination Committee(35)

The representative of Uganda indicated that the infrastructure for implementing the TBT Agreement was threefold. First, the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry was the WTO focal point and the national notification authority for TBT and SPS. It was responsible for the notification procedures and for bilateral and plurilateral trade negotiations. Second, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) was the national enquiry point for TBT and SPS as well as the national contact point for the Codex Alimentarius Commission. It was responsible for answering enquiries about technical regulations, standards, conformity assessment procedures and sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

Third, the TBT/SPS Coordination Committee (chaired by the UNBS) was an institutional and multi-sector committee consisting of regulatory and private sector organizations responsible for the implementation of the TBT and SPS Agreements at the national level. This Committee provided the backbone for the distribution of TBT notifications. Notifications that required comments were identified by the members of the Committee and then brought to the attention of the national notification authority, which requested their texts. When the notified draft regulations had been obtained, the national notification authority distributed them to members of the Committee for comments. Each member of the Committee submitted written comments to the national notification authority which then compiled, merged and circulated them for discussion during the Committee's coordination meeting. When the Committee met, the comments that were agreed upon were forwarded to the national notification authority of the notifying WTO Member. Subsequently, the Ugandan notification authority circulated feedback received from the notifying Member to the TBT/SPS Coordination Committee including information on how the comments were handled.

There were some gaps in the implementation of the transparency provisions of the TBT Agreement in Uganda: As the TBT/SPS Coordination Committee was only one year old, an efficient IT infrastructure still needed to be set up to facilitate the dissemination of information; the Committee had yet to obtain legal status; the lack of personnel at the national enquiry point (only one staff member, the presenter himself); budgetary constraints which resulted in the inability of capital-based officials to attend meetings of the TBT Committee; awareness among the private sector and regulatory bodies on the benefits of the SPS and TBT Agreements needed to be raised; and notifications were distributed through electronic means, but internet access, especially by the private sector, was still inadequate.

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1. The programme of the meeting is contained in document G/TBT/GEN/13. back to text
2.  See “Transparency Requirements and Procedures”, Note by the Secretariat, to be issued. back to text
3.  Programme with links to presentations. back to text
4.  Presentation made by Mrs. Ana María Vallina, Head of the Foreign Trade Department, Ministry of the Economy, Chile. back to text
5.  Presentation made by Ms. Anne Meininger, U.S. Enquiry Point, National Institute for Standards and Technology. back to text
7.  Presentation made by Ms. Andrea Spencer, Coordinator of the Canadian WTO/NAFTA Enquiry Point. back to text
9.  To register at Export Alert!, a profile indicating areas and countries of interest must be filled in on back to text
10.  Presentation made by Mrs. Devitra Maharaj-Dash, Head of the Standards Information Centre of the Trinidad & Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS). back to text
11.  Presentation made by Mrs. Rampaipan Nakasatis, Director of the Standards Bureau of the Thai Industrial Standards Institute (TISI). back to text
12.  Presentation made by Mrs. Stefania Bernabè, WTO Secretariat, Trade and Environment Division. back to text
14.  Presentation made by Mr. John Dickson, WTO Secretariat, Documents System Section. back to text
16.  Presentation made by Mr. Cyril Hanquez, European Commission, Directorate General Enterprise. back to text
18.  Presentation made by Ms. Salmah Mohd Nordin, Senior Standards Executive of the Standards Management Department of Malaysia. back to text
20.  Presentation made by Mr. Evgueni Patrikeev, Director of ISO information services. back to text
23.  Presentation made by Ms. Annalina Camboim, Head of the Brazilian Enquiry Point. back to text
25.  During the discussion, Mozambique expressed its interest in taking part in the Brazil-MERCOSUR agreement to also benefit from access to AlertaExportador. In this context, it pointed to the problems of translation it encountered as a Portuguese speaking country and the necessity of sharing translations and information from different workshops and seminars among WTO Members. back to text
26.  Presentation made by Mrs. Guo LiSheng, Deputy Director of the Chinese enquiry point. back to text
27.  The TBT/SPS website included information on technical barriers to trade in China and abroad. back to text
28.  Presentation made by Mr. Evanson Ndung'u of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). back to text
29.  The Kenya Bureau of Standards was established in 1974. back to text
30.  Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme. back to text
31.  Presentation made by Mrs. Danielle Schont Avenel, representative of the Mexican enquiry point. back to text
33.  Presentation made by Mr. M. S. Chen, Section Chief of the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection. back to text
35.  Presentation made by Mr. George Opiyo, Manager of the TBT and SPS notification point of Uganda. back to text