A new WTO publication, launched on 22 February, provides an overview of the purpose and scope of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement), the types of measures it covers and its key principles. Prepared by the WTO Secretariat, this new edition in the “WTO Agreements” series aims at enhancing understanding of the TBT Agreement.
The TBT Agreement entered into force with the establishment of the WTO on 1 January 1995. It aims to ensure that product requirements in regulations and standards — on safety, quality, health, etc. — as well as procedures for assessing product compliance with such requirements (testing, inspection, accreditation, etc.) are not unjustifiably discriminatory and do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. The Agreement also emphasizes the importance of transparency and strongly encourages the use of international standards as a basis for harmonizing regulations across WTO members.
The handbook sets out the key principles of the TBT Agreement and discusses how these have been addressed in recent disputes brought under this Agreement. The publication looks into requirements on transparency, a cornerstone of the TBT Agreement, and describes the mandate, role and work of the TBT Committee. It also considers how TBT‑related matters have been tackled in negotiations at the WTO.
The handbook also contains the full text of the TBT Agreement, as well as a compilation of all decisions and recommendations adopted by the TBT Committee since its creation in 1995.
“Standards and regulations are among the most important types of trade-related measures used around the world. Crafting them carefully, in line with the disciplines of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, can help governments achieve important policy objectives, including safeguarding human health and safety, as well as protecting the environment — and this without unnecessarily disrupting trade. This Handbook is a must-read for anyone interested in these issues,” says Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff in a foreword to the handbook.
The publication contains many substantive updates, changes and additions as compared to previous editions (this is the 3rd edition). It can be downloaded here. Printed copies can be purchased from the WTO’s Online Bookshop.
Other publications in this series cover the Agreement on Agriculture and the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.