Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade

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The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, commonly referred to as the TBT Agreement, is an international treaty administered by the World Trade Organization. It was last renegotiated during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, with its present form entering into force with the establishment of the WTO at the beginning of 1995.

In a nutshell, the TBT exists to ensure that technical regulations, standards, testing, and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. The agreement prohibits technical requirements created in order to limit trade, as opposed to technical requirements created for legitimate purposes such as consumer or environmental protection.[1]

The TBT agreement is closely linked to the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, which was signed in the same year and has similar goals.

The following list is an overview of the guidelines and mechanisms that promote the TBT’s mission:

A. The WTO’s most-favored-nation rule binds countries’ technical requirements.

B. The TBT agreement strongly encourages countries to recognize the results of other countries' conformity assessment tests – the tests that determine whether a product conforms to a given standard.

C. The TBT promotes the development of international standards and provides governments and inter-governmental bodies with guidance on how to best develop such standards. TBT members are strongly encouraged to adopt international standards as their technical requirements whenever possible.

D. All TBT members are required to establish “enquiry points” – offices that provide information about the country's technical regulations, test procedures, and adherence to various international standards.

E. A technical assistance program helps developing countries meet international standards and helps them get involved in the establishment of such standards.[2]

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