On 24 September 2020, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced that its Members would intensify their work over the coming months on ensuring that standards and regulations do not act as unnecessary obstacles to trade. In their discussions in the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee, they will also work on developing guidance on how governments should test and certify products, with the aim of reducing trade barriers.
“Conformity assessment procedures can become a major barrier to trade,” said the WTO Deputy Director-General. “Guidelines agreed by the TBT Committee would help to reduce some of these barriers. There are several proposals on the table, and I look forward to seeing members making progress towards a common text.”
In October, members will begin outlining a new workplan for the TBT Committee for 2022-2024. Under this ‘triennial review process’, members will discuss the implementation of the TBT Agreement and exchange views on new areas of work for the Committee. “This transparent and dynamic process brings our members' heads together to set the agenda for future work on regulations and standards,” the DDG said.
In October, members will also start a discussion on labelling requirements for exported goods and on technical assistance provided to developing countries. In addition, they will hold a workshop on the importance of the gender perspective in the development of standards and technical regulations. In December, members will review in the TBT Committee the measures taken by governments to facilitate trade in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specific trade concerns (STCs) will be discussed at a meeting of the TBT Committee on October 28-29, 2020, providing members with the opportunity to raise concerns about any standards-related trade barriers encountered by their export companies.
The TBT Committee's discussion of STCs has continued without interruption this year, despite COVID-19 limitations on physical meetings. Members used a “written procedure” to raise concerns at the Committee's meeting on May 13-14, 2020, where a record number of STCs (72) was discussed. “The Committee found an innovative solution to allow members to continue the exchange of views on specific trade concerns during the pandemic,” said the DDG. “The eAgenda platform they have used will help strengthen and improve the efficiency of the Committee’s work as we gradually move back to normality.”
The following TBT meetings will be held before the end of the year:
- 24 September - Informal preparatory meetings.
- 27 October - Informal meetings on labelling, technical assistance, and the role of gender in developing standards.
- 28 to 29 October - Formal meetings, mainly on STCs.
- 08 December - Informal meetings on conformity assessment procedures and responses to COVID-19.
Story by: Riaan de Lange