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WTO members adopt roadmap for reducing technical barriers to trade


World Trade Organization, Director General, Roberto Azevedo

In response to concerns that its members might have introduced more trade-restrictive measures rather than easing such red tapes, the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), have agreed on a list of recommendations that aim at reducing obstacles to trade and improving implementation of the body’s agreement.

While the committee welcomed a new “best practices” guide for national TBT Enquiry Points, the WTO members also discussed 62 specific trade concerns at the committee meeting, including eight new concerns.

Specifically, some of the recommendations approved by members border on issues of transparency; testing, inspection and certification; standards; marking and labelling; technical assistance; and organising debates in the committee.

The guide compiles practical information on how Enquiry Points are performing their tasks and overcoming everyday challenges, drawing from the practices of members. It is structured according to the tasks that an enquiry point or other governmental entity might normally undertake when implementing the TBT Agreement’s transparency provisions.

According to the WTO’s mid-year report, while members continued to implement more trade-facilitating than trade-restrictive measures, the value of trade covered by the restrictive measures rose and the value covered by facilitating measures fell.

The report draws attention to this shift, and to the fact that it is taking place at a time of heightened trade tensions and associated rhetoric, which should be of concern to the international community.

WTO Director-General, Roberto Azevêdo, said: “The message of the Report before us today is serious. We are heading in the wrong direction, and we seem to be speeding up. Growth, jobs and recovery are at stake. I call on members to recognise the gravity of this report and its findings. We need to see immediate steps which de-escalate the situation. I will continue working with all members to this end.”

The report showed that during the review period, WTO members applied 75 new trade-restrictive measures, including tariff increases, quantitative restrictions, imposition of import taxes and stricter customs regulations, amounting to a monthly average of almost 11 new measures per month. This is higher compared to the average of nine measures recorded in the previous report.

WTO members also implemented 89 measures aimed at facilitating trade during the review period, including eliminated or reduced tariffs, simplified customs procedures, reduction of import taxes and elimination of import bans. At almost 13 trade-facilitating measures per month, this is an increase compared to the average of 11 measures recorded for the previous review period.

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Roberto AzevêdoWTO
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