Research Handbook on the WTO and Technical Barriers to Trade
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Research Handbook on the WTO and Technical Barriers to Trade

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.
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Chapter 8: Mutual Recognition Agreements and Equivalence Agreements

Helen Churchman


As outlined in the previous chapter, the main mechanism that the WTO promotes to overcome technical barriers to trade is the establishment and use of international standards. However, there are a number of alternative policy tools provided for in the TBT Agreement that can achieve similar success in overcoming such trade barriers. Among these alternative tools are Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) and Equivalence Agreements. This chapter explains what MRAs and Equivalence Agreements are, the different types of these agreements in use, and how these policy tools are dealt with in the TBT Agreement. It also outlines how MRAs and Equivalence Agreements address the tension between trade facilitation and domestic regulation and sets out when these agreements should be used. This is followed by a description of various agreements already in existence. The final section explores alternative policy tools to reduce technical barriers to trade and what can be done to enhance MRAs and Equivalence Agreements in the future. A brief explanation of each of the key terms is set out below: Mutual Recognition Agreement In the context of overcoming technical barriers to trade, an MRA is an agreement entered into between two or more governmental bodies. These agreements are legally binding. The function of an MRA is to facilitate the acceptance by one party of the results of conformity assessment procedures (CAPs) undertaken by the other party or parties’ conformity assessment bodies (CABs).

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