Technical barriers to trade

There are normally specific rules concerning, for example, product design or quality which must be complied with in order to import, market or use goods in a market. These rules are known as product rules. There are certain conformity assessment procedures that are used to assess whether goods comply with these product requirements. These procedures are carried out through testing, certification and inspection.

Mandatory regulations (laws, ordinances and regulations), voluntary standards and conformity assessment procedures are often defined as technical rules. If these vary between different markets, the goods must be adapted to the varying product rules or submitted for different or repeated conformity assessment procedures. This leads to the emergence of technical barriers to trade (TBT).

The World Trade Organization's (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) stipulates that technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures may not be prepared, adopted or applied with a view to, or with the effect of, creating unnecessary obstacles to international trade.

In order to prevent the emergence of technical barriers to trade and to eliminate existing technical barriers to trade, there is widespread international cooperation both between governments and private stakeholders. This cooperation may take the form of specific methods that eliminate unjustified technical barriers to trade or various trade promoting measures that facilitate market access in different countries.

Various procedures are used to prevent the emergence of technical barriers to trade, including good regulatory practice and providing advance notification of and consulting on any technical regulations prior to their implementation. Deregulation, international regulatory harmonization and standardization, and dispute settlement mechanisms are common methods used to eliminate existing technical barriers to trade.

Trade promotion measures such as technical assistance and mutual recognition agreements (MRAs), for example, of conformity assessment procedures (testing, certification and inspection) or of equivalent technical regulations or standards, are other ways to facilitate market access, even in cases when there are no unjustified technical barriers to trade.

The European Union (EU) has signed several MRAs, covering a number of sectors, with, amongst others, the U.S., Canada, New Zeeland, Australia, Switzerland and Japan. These agreements allow for goods etc. to be tested and certified within the EU for their compliance with the requirements applicable in the importing country and vice versa. For European exporters, this simplifies the process, saves time and reduces the cost of accessing the markets of the countries concerned.

Technical barriers to trade are also dealt with in the context of free trade agreements (FTAs). One example is the FTA signed between the EU and South Korea. South Korea has agreed to harmonize their automotive regulations in accordance with international regulations drawn up under the United Nation Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The Swedish National Board of Trade's Role

The National Board of Trade is responsible for monitoring and taking an active role in issues that relates to foreign trade and trade cooperation. As the expert authority in trade and trade policy, the Board provides the Swedish Government with analyses and background material in advance of and during international trade negotiations (e.g. FTA negotiations) as well as more structural or long-term analyses of trade related issues. This involves close liaison with Swedish public authorities, trade associations and companies about their views and interests in these negotiations. The Board also has a role in providing developing countries with technical assistance in the various countries and regions.

National Board of Trade, P.O. Box 6803, SE-113 86 Stockholm. 
Visiting Address: Drottninggatan 89. 
Phone: +46 8 690 48 00     Fax: +46 8 30 67 59

E-mail: kommersk...@kommers.se

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