Non-tariff measures

Looking Beyond Tariffs: The Role of Non-Tariff Barriers in World Trade



Publication Date: 22/11/2005

Despite all the talk of globalisation, the world economy is still far from the textbook model of unfettered trade, of a global market place without barriers. As far as trade in goods is concerned, non-tariff barriers at and behind the border have been lowered significantly in the course of successive trade negotiations, but more can be done.

The studies in this volume review concerns that exporters and governments have raised about market access. This publication analyses where and why certain non-tariff measures are being applied to traded goods that are covered by multilateral rules and disciplines, and how they continue to represent challenges for exporters and policymakers.

The specific measures examined are prohibitions and quotas, non-automatic import licensing schemes, customs fees and charges and export restrictions. By drawing together available recent data and other information, this volume expands the knowledge base of policymakers, negotiators and anyone interested in learning about the use of these measures across countries, applicable international trade rules and remaining market access issues.

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Chapter 1. Overview of Non-Tariff Barriers: Findings from Existing Business Surveys

Our knowledge of NTBs, of how to assess their effects and the extent to which they may restrict trade is inadequate. Simply identifying the main non-tariff measures is a difficult task and data collected by business surveys can make a contribution. This chapter compiles and analyses findings from survey-based research that help identify barriers perceived by exporters from various countries and regions in foreign markets. It also explores the extent to which different surveys report the same types of barriers. Common areas of concern in many surveys are technical measures, customs rules and procedures and, to a lesser extent, internal taxes or charges and competition-related restrictions on market access.


Chapter 2. Import Prohibitions and Quotas

This chapter investigates two specific types of quantitative restrictions, namely import prohibitions and quotas. It reviews information on these measures contained in the WTO Trade Policy Reviews, WTO notifications and in various other trade reports. The aim is to contribute to discussions, particularly on market access for non-agricultural goods, at the WTO or elsewhere.


The research reveals that the use of quotas and prohibitions for economic reasons has declined, but most countries use prohibitions as part of their regulatory framework to protect human safety and health or the environment, and the tendency appears to be increasing. Traders would benefit if these measures were more transparent. Also, import bans hamper international trade in used goods; their circumstances and appropriateness in terms of regulatory efficiency merit scrutiny.


Chapter 3. Non-automatic Import Licensing

This chapter looks at the nature and scope of non-tariff measures, specifically nonautomatic import licensing, which is a means of controlling imports linked to compliance with specific criteria. These schemes can be applied for a variety of purposes relating to both economic and non-economic regulatory goals. The use of these measures has been evolving, and significant reforms that have been undertaken over the years have changed the pattern of perceived problems associated with them.


This chapter reviews and summarises on a country basis the information contained in the WTO trade policy reviews, which generally permit identification of licensing measures used in different countries and the broad product groups covered. It also looks at ongoing discussions at the WTO on trade facilitation, highlighting the important link with import licensing.


Chapter 4. Customs Fees and Charges in Imports

This chapter examines the nature and the extent of the use of customs fees and charges that affect imports at borders. It draws on data collected from WTO Trade Policy Reviews, non-tariff barrier notifications to the Negotiating Group on Market Access (NAMA), and the UNCTAD TRAINS database and country notes. It reveals that most types of customs fees and charges on imports are applied ad valorem rather than on the basis of the underlying costs of the services rendered.


The use of customs fees and charges has evolved over time. The use of both customs surcharges and consular invoice fees has declined markedly over the last two decades. More countries nowadays charge importers fees for the use of various customs-related services.


Chapter 5. Export Duties

This chapter takes stock of the present situation for export duties (tariffs) under the GATT/WTO. It clarifies the definition of export duties and examines existing disciplines at both multilateral and regional levels. It analyses factual information on products subject to such duties drawn from WTO Trade Policy Reviews (TPRs) and describes key findings. Export duties are mainly imposed for fiscal reasons or as a means to restrict exports of particular products in order to reserve the domestic supply for local industries and are applied mainly by developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs). Aspects of possible rule-making on export duties are also addressed.


Chapter 6. Export Restrictions

This chapter provides an overview of current disciplines on export restrictions under the GATT/WTO, including the scope of exceptions. Disciplines at the regional level are also reviewed, and information provided by WTO Trade Policy Reviews (TPRs) on the use of different types of export restrictions and the products affected is analysed. The chapter describes some of the rationales for export restrictions and the nature of justifications invoked for exceptions, in particular for economic reasons. It also considers whether current transparency disciplines are sufficient in terms of predictability and whether there is room for strengthening disciplines in this area, on either a horizontal or a sectoral basis.


Chapter 7. Non-Tariff Barriers of Concern to Developing Countries

This chapter identifies non-tariff barriers (NTBs) faced by developing countries in their trade with developed countries and in South-South trade. The goal is to raise awareness of barriers that interfere with the ability of developing countries to build up trade. Data collected and analysed consist of the academic literature, notifications by developing countries to the Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural. Products (NAMA) of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), business surveys, and records relating to trade disputes brought before the World Trade Organization (WTO) and regional dispute settlement mechanisms.


The chapter identifies the categories and types of measures that are most reported and the products affected by the reported measures. Attention is also drawn to developing countries’ forward-looking export strategies and related potential barriers. Overall, the chapter highlights similarities and differences in NTBs reported in the data reviewed and compares NTBs reported for trade with developed countries and for trade among developing countries.


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