A new WTO booklet highlighting key results on standards and regulations shows that Trade concerns raised by WTO members have grown by 26% per year, on average. According to the booklet, members raised 57 new trade concerns in 2020. Meanwhile, about one-third of WTO members took part in discussions on trade concerns in 2020.
Moreover, the new booklet highlights ten key results from the latest annual review of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement. The booklet outlines how WTO members are implementing the Agreement.
The TBT Agreement aims to ensure that technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures are non-discriminatory. Also, it ensures that they do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. At the same time, it recognizes WTO members’ right to implement measures to achieve legitimate policy objectives. This includes the protection of human health and safety or protection of the environment.
Over 3,000 notifications submitted annually
Also, the booklet focuses on members’ compliance with notification requirements under the TBT Agreement. It touches on the concerns raised in the TBT Committee, often in response to these notifications. Meanwhile, governments of member states are required to “notify” other members, of proposed measures that may have a significant effect on other members’ trade. This also includes measures that are not under relevant international standards. They are expected to serve this notification through the WTO Secretariat.
Moreover, the new booklet highlights that member states submit over 3,000 notifications annually in the past three years. According to the WTO, this illustrates WTO members’ commitment to increasing transparency about trade measures affecting industrial and agricultural products.
However, the number of notifications has increased by more than 11% each year since 1995. According to the WTO, this is because developing and least developed countries have become more active participants, especially in the last five years.
Region with highest notifications
Strikingly, the booklet shows that East Africa submitted 26% of notifications in 2020. Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda submitted the highest levels of notifications in the region. The WTO pointed out that these four countries’ notifications mainly concerned food and beverages.
Besides, the booklet reveals that Half of the WTO membership regularly submits notifications about new regulations or changes to old ones. An even higher level would help to shed more light on members’ upcoming changes in product requirements. This would also increase the predictability of the trading environment and help avoid unexpected costs and delays.
In 2020, WTO members submitted more than 3,000 notifications about product requirements for traded goods to the TBT Committee. Notifications are a form of advance notice. They provide an opportunity for the WTO membership to comment on the draft measures before they enter into force. Typically, they are about health or safety requirements or measures taken to protect the environment.
Furthermore, it points out that the WTO allowed 56 days, on average, for members to comment on most notifications. This period is an important opportunity for members to exchange views on regulations in the pipeline. Thus, giving them the chance for consultations to clarify issues that may result from the proposed regulation.
Additionally, almost half (45%) of all notified regulations in 2020 relate to the protection of health. Meanwhile, over 100 TBT notifications dealt with measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also indicates that the WTO’s main tool to disseminate TBT notifications, ePing, has more than 12,000 users.