Asian Launch of WTO Report 2012

“Trade and public policies: A closer look at non-tariff measures in the 21st century”

Bangkok (ESCAP Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section) – Non-tariff measures, such as regulatory standards for m anufactured and agricultural goods, can have a significant impact on trade — possibly even more than tariffs — according to the latest edition of the WTO’s flagship publication.

Regulatory measures for trade in goods and services raise new and pressing challenges for international cooperation in the 21st century. More than many other measures, they reflect public policy goals (such as ensuring the health, safety and well-being of consumers) but they may also be designed and applied in a manner that unnecessarily frustrates trade. The focus of this report is on technical barriers to trade (TBT), sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures (concerning food safety and animal/plant health) and domestic regulation in services.

The Report examines why governments use non-tariff measures (NTMs) and services measures and the extent to which these measures may distort international trade. It looks at the availability of information on NTMs and the latest trends concerning usage. The Report also discusses the impact that NTMs and services measures have on trade and examines how regulatory harmonization and/or mutual recognition of standards may help to reduce any trade-hindering effects.

Finally, the Report looks at the level of international cooperation on NTMs and services measures. It reviews the economic rationale for such cooperation and discusses the efficient design of rules on NTMs in a trade agreement. It examines how cooperation has occurred on TBT/SPS measures and services regulation in the multilateral trading system, and within other international forums and institutions. A legal analysis is provided regarding the treatment of NTMs in WTO dispute system and interpretations of the rules that have emerged in recent international trade disputes. The Report concludes with a discussion of outstanding challenges and key policy implications.

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