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New WTO publication sheds light on the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) launched on 22 February the 3rd edition of a publication dedicated to the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement), the WTO Agreement that establishes rules and procedures regarding the development, adoption, and application of voluntary product standards, mandatory technical regulations (on safety, quality, health, etc.), and procedures (such as testing, inspection, or certification) used to determine whether a particular product is eligible to access a certain market.

The basic principles enshrined in the TBT Agreement are that all the above standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures have to be developed and applied by WTO members on a non-discriminatory basis, in a transparent way and in a manner that they do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. Moreover, the Agreement encourages the use of international standards as a basis for harmonizing regulations across WTO members, by establishing that when appropriate, the above standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures should be based on relevant international standards and guidelines. Conversely, Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures are outside the scope of the TBT Agreement as they are covered by a separate agreement (Agreement on the Application of SPS Measures). The aim of the TBT Agreement is to prevent the use of technical requirements as unnecessary barriers to trade. Its rules are fundamental for distinguishing legitimate standards and technical regulations from protectionist measures.

The WTO 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 also describes the mandate, role and work of the TBT Committee established by art. 13 of the Agreement and considers how TBTrelated matters have been tackled in negotiations at the WTO. Lastly, the handbook 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.




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