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Regulatory policy

Facilitating Trade through Regulatory Cooperation

The Case of the WTO's TBT/SPS Agreements and Committees

Published on July 03, 2019

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The WTO plays an important role in supporting efforts to achieve international regulatory cooperation (IRC) and to facilitate trade. First, the WTO provides a multilateral framework for trade among its 164 members, with a view to ensuring that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible. Second, the WTO’s Agreements provide important legal disciplines, helping to promote good regulatory practice and IRC at the domestic level as a means of reducing unnecessary barriers to trade.This publication highlights how the WTO’s Agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and the work of their related Committees promote opportunities for regulatory cooperation among governments and ease trade frictions. It demonstrates how members’ notification of draft measures, harmonisation of measures with international standards, discussion of specific trade concerns and other practices help to facilitate global trade in goods. The study also makes recommendations on how to benefit further from the transparency and cooperation opportunities provided by the TBT and SPS Agreements.

KEY MESSAGES

This publication explores how the WTO promotes opportunities for international regulatory cooperation (IRC) between WTO members, focusing on the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Agreements and their related Committees.  

The WTO plays an important role in supporting efforts to facilitate trade through regulatory cooperation: 

  1. It provides a multilateral framework for the conduct of trade relations among its 164 members, with a view to ensuring that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible;
  2. the WTO Agreements set important legal disciplines promoting good regulatory practice (GRP) and IRC at the domestic level in view of reducing unnecessary barriers to trade.

In particular, the SPS and TBT Agreements:

  • provide a multilateral transparency framework through notification requirements for proposed regulatory measures;
  • encourage WTO members to use relevant international standards as the basis for their measures;
  • and promote equivalence and recognition of foreign conformity assessment results to reduce duplicative enforcement requirements and procedures. 

Facilitating trade through regulatory cooperation

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To support implementation and operation of these disciplines, the SPS and TBT Committees provide a forum for countries to learn about each other’s regulatory systems, discuss draft and implemented regulations affecting international trade, raise “specific trade concerns” on draft measures that may create unnecessary obstacles to trade, and adopt guidance tools to better and more efficiently implement specific provisions of the SPS and TBT Agreements. 

This publication was jointly prepared by the OECD and the WTO Secretariats in the framework of OECD work on international regulatory cooperation and is part of a series of studies started in 2014 within the Partnership of International Organisations in support of Effective International Rulemaking (IO Partnership).

 

FURTHER READING

 

CONTACT

For further information, please contact Céline Kauffmann or  Marianna Karttunen, OECD Regulatory Policy Division.