WTO to work on removing obstacles to trade

Legislation | | MIC Customs Solutions |

The WTO is to take a look at conformity assessment and Technical Barriers to Trade in the coming months.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has said it will hold a series of discussions in the coming months aimed at streamlining trade and ensuring nations have the power to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee, members will also work on developing guidance on testing and certifying products for export, something that could help governments to reduce obstacles to trade.

Next month, the committee is to outline a new plan for 2022-24, as well as carry out a review in December to examine the measures that different nations have taken to boost imports and exports since the pandemic began.

This will give members the chance to raise concerns about reports they have received from their own businesses on any standards-related trade barriers they might have encountered recently.

Brought into force in 1996, the TBT Agreement aims to ensure that technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures are non-discriminatory and do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade.

However, it also recognizes the right of WTO members to implement measures themselves if they are to achieve legitimate policy objectives.

The legislation covers mandatory product regulations, voluntary product standards and conformity assessment procedures in a way designed to facilitate international relations.

It is also another way of guarding against protectionism, as technical regulations and standards can sometimes be used for protectionist purposes and therefore become hurdles to seamless business relationships.

Commenting on the committee's intentions, WTO deputy director-general Alan Wolff said: "Conformity assessment procedures can become a major barrier to trade. Guidelines agreed by the TBT Committee would help to reduce some of these barriers. There are several proposals on the table, and I look forward to seeing members making progress towards a common text."

Earlier this year, the UK committed to continuing to work with the TBT Committee despite its exit from the EU, with ambassador to the WTO Julian Braithwaite calling the TBT Agreement "an essential part of the rules-based multilateral trading system".

"The United Kingdom looks forward to engaging with all World Trade Organization members to take forward the important work of the TBT Committee, in our collective effort towards a more integrated, viable and durable multilateral trading system," he added.

Among the committee's other intentions was to address labeling requirements for exported goods, which may impact businesses of all sizes going forward.

Whatever the changes brought about by this WTO review, it is vital that your exporting business adheres to technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures applicable to products before they reach their final destination.

This is likely to include packaging and label requirements, as well as any relevant risk analysis, particularly for potentially hazardous materials.

If you want to ensure you're compliant both now and in the future, you might consider taking a look at MIC's Export Control Management (MIC ECM) software solution, which allows for the central management of all company transactions under export control law.

It also carries out automatic checks on regulations with a big focus on export compliance, no matter what alterations to the law are made in the coming months and years.