Technical barriers to trade

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Technical barriers to trade (TBTs), a category of nontariff barriers to trade, are the widely divergent measures that countries use to regulate markets, protect their consumers, or preserve their natural resources (among other objectives), but they also can be used (or perceived by foreign countries) to discriminate against imports in order to protect domestic industries.

TBTs with the greatest impact on agriculture are the various sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures designed to protect humans, animals, and plants, from diseases, pests, and other contaminants. Examples of TBTs, other than SPS measures, are rules for product weight, size, or packaging; ingredient or identity standards; mandatory labeling; shelf-life restrictions; and import testing and certification procedures. The broad phrase technical barriers to trade is frequently applied to all of these types of measures, even where they might be legitimate and consistent with bilateral or multilateral trading rules.

The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade gives rules for the use of such barriers. However, trade experts widely view TBTs as having great potential for being misused by importing countries as nontransparent (disguised or unclear) obstacles to trade. (See Transparency.).

The OECD has been working to make common standardization easier with the ISTR Template[1] allowing common standards to aid in the implementation of the WTO Agreement.


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