Stay Connected

Follow ERS on Twitter
Subscribe to RSS feeds
Subscribe to ERS e-Newsletters.aspx
Listen to ERS podcasts
Read ERS blogs at USDA
Image: International Markets & Trade

Technical Barriers to Trade

The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) took effect with establishment of the World Trade Organization on January 1, 1995. TBTs include regulations (packaging, marking, and labeling requirements), testing, and certification procedures. The TBT Agreement tries to ensure that regulations, standards, testing, and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles.

The agreement sets out a code of good practice for the preparation, adoption, and application of standards by central government bodies. The agreement states that procedures used to decide whether an imported product conforms to national standards must be fair and equitable. It discourages any methods that would give an unfair advantage to domestically produced goods. It also includes provisions describing how local government and nongovernmental bodies should apply their own regulations-normally they should use the same principles as apply to central governments.

In order to encourage uniformity, the agreement urges countries to use international standards where appropriate, but it does not require them to change their levels of protection as a result. The agreement also encourages countries to recognize each other's testing procedures. That way, a product can be assessed to see if it meets the importing country's standards through testing in the country where it is produced.

Exporters need to know the latest standards in prospective markets. To help ensure convenient access to this information, all WTO member governments are required to establish national enquiry points.

The additional market access provided by the tariff-cutting provisions in the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture and by the creation of tariff-rate quotas has shone a spotlight on other trade barriers, including TBT measures.

While the TBT Agreement is not subject to negotiation in the Doha Development Agenda, implementation issues are being discussed. In the Doha Ministerial Declaration, members agreed to take concrete action to address issues and concerns raised by many developing-country members regarding the implementation of the TBT Agreement. The Declaration urges members to provide, to the extent possible, the financial and technical assistance necessary to enable least-developed countries to respond adequately to the introduction of any new TBT measures that may have significant negative effects on their trade. Members are also urged to ensure that technical assistance is provided to least-developed countries to help them implement the TBT Agreement.

Other Relevant Multilateral Agreements:

Last updated: Monday, June 04, 2012

For more information contact: John Wainio