Handbook on International Trade Policy
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Handbook on International Trade Policy

Edited by William A. Kerr and James D. Gaisford

The Handbook on International Trade Policy is an insightful and comprehensive reference tool focusing on trade policy issues in the era of globalization. Each specially commissioned chapter deals with important international trade issues, discusses the current literature on the subject, and explores major controversies. The Handbook also directs the interested reader to further sources of information.
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Chapter 37: Technical Barriers to Trade

Jill E. Hobbs


Jill E. Hobbs Introduction Technical barriers to trade (TBT) have become an important non-tariff barrier to trade. Technical barriers to trade emerge when domestic policies imposing regulations, technical standards, testing and certification procedures, or labelling requirements impinge on the abilities of exporters to access a market. This chapter explains how technical barriers to trade arise, examining key economic issues related to why these barriers emerge, and their trade-restricting economic impacts. Institutional responses to TBT are discussed, including the role of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the role of international bodies, such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission, in building consensus on standards. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the WTO TBT Agreement distinguishes between a technical regulation and a standard on the basis of compliance. Regulations are mandatory requirements: imports failing to conform to a technical regulation may be prohibited from a market, whereas standards are voluntary. Imports failing to meet voluntary standards may be allowed into a market, but may garner little market share if consumers prefer products that meet local standards (WTO, 1998). Technical regulations and standards, including labelling regulations, are an integral part of domestic policy initiatives to protect and inform consumers, employees and other firms. Technical barriers to trade can include requirements for labelling the presence of a product attribute, certification requirements, packaging requirements, technical specifications, and so on. These regulations become a barrier to trade if exporters are forced to meet different standards to access markets in...

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