Research Handbook on the WTO and Technical Barriers to Trade

Research Handbook on the WTO and Technical Barriers to Trade

Research Handbooks on the WTO series

Edited by Tracey Epps and Michael J. Trebilcock

A relatively new frontier for legal and policy analysis, technical barriers to trade (TBT’s) have become more common as traditional border barriers have been reduced. This comprehensive Handbook comprises original essays by eminent trade scholars exploring the implications of the WTO’s TBT Agreement.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Robert Howse

Subjects: law - academic, international economic law, trade law


Although originally seen as one of the main achievements of the Uruguay Round, the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement made little contribution to the jurisprudence of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the first decade or so of the WTO’s existence. But this is changing. Recently, in a range of important and sensitive disputes, the rights and obligations of the TBT Agreement have been a central focus, and in 2012 the Appellate Body decided a trilogy of cases where it gave strong indications of its overall jurisprudential approach to the TBT Agreement. At the same time, the committee responsible for TBT issues in the WTO has begun to succeed in significant ‘rule-making’ activity, on issues such as the use of international standards. This watershed period for the TBT Agreement is the context for the present volume, where a distinguished and diverse group of scholars address many of the central doctrinal, conceptual, and policy challenges presented by the TBT Agreement. In thinking about the TBT Agreement, a logical point of departure is to consider whether and how it represents a different approach to the GATT in managing the interface between liberalized trade and domestic regulation. As Michael Trebilcock and I have observed, the GATT is premised upon the acceptance of regulatory diversity, limited only by requirements of non-discrimination (MFN and national treatment) and transparency.