Eliminating technical barriers to trade

Electrotechnical products part of the WTO TBT meeting discussions

By Claire Marchand

The WTO (World Trade Organization) TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) meeting took place on 20-21 March 2012. The IEC was represented by Françoise Rauser, in charge of the IEC Affiliate Country Programme and international liaisons.

The WTO TBT Agreement... The WTO TBT Agreement...

Growing importance of electrotechnology

During this first session of the year – the other two will be in June and November – WTO members discussed 66 draft regulations that affect trade. These ranged from requirements on motor vehicles to alcoholic drinks, tobacco, food and cosmetics and included an ever increasing number of electrical and electronic products. The electrotechnical field is gaining in importance in all parts of the world, and so is the use of IEC International Standards and Conformity Assessments Systems. Nine of the trade concerns on electrotechnical products raised by WTO members were on notifications of national regulations made by the USA, the European Union, Korea, China and Mexico. 

The meeting also addressed the exchange of experiences between WTO members, and the 17th Annual Review of the Implementation and Operation of the TBT Agreement.

Report on IEC activities

During the meeting, the IEC clarified the participation rights of its members in electrotechnical standardization activities and stressed the importance of its stakeholders. The IEC representative also gave an overview of IEC activities in developing countries, as contained in the IEC’s March report to the TBT Committee.

Two other organizations that have observer status presented their work: FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)/Codex Alimentarius and UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe).

IEC and ISO present joint document

IEC and ISO (International Organization for Standardization) had the opportunity to present a common document regarding India’s submission on International Standard setting, made during the November 2011 session of the TBT Committee. The comments made by the two organizations were on issues raised by India on independent verification, development of international standards by regulators, openness, impartiality and consensus, effectiveness and relevance, stakeholder consultations and guidelines for transposition to national standards.

IEC and ISO believe that the six TBT principles – transparency, openness, impartiality and consensus, effectiveness and relevance, coherence, and development dimension – are fundamental pillars on which international standardization should be built, and that the ideas for additional principles, outlined in the Indian paper, are very pertinent. The six principles are embodied in IEC and ISO work and are part of best standardization practices for both systems and their members.

Both organizations support the consideration of these issues in the next triennial review.

Triennial Review

Every three years, delegations discuss how to improve the implementation of the TBT Agreement. Essentially, this is a review of various “horizontal” matters that the TBT Committee deals with: it includes in-depth discussion on transparency, conformity assessment, technical assistance, and so on. The process normally concludes with a set of recommendations and decisions that guide the Committee’s future work.

At the 6th Triennial Review Meeting in November 2012, members will be expected to discuss “Good Regulatory Practice” (the development of guidance on how to regulate efficiently when actually applying the TBT Agreement) and the use of “relevant international standards”. Members have agreed to set the deadline for proposals as 1 June 2012.

The WTO TBT Agreement... The WTO TBT Agreement...
...helps remove technical barriers... ...helps remove technical barriers...
...to facilitate international trade ...to facilitate international trade