WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT)
The WTO Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement entered into force on 01 January 1995 as
one of the WTO Agreements under Annex 1A of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization. It is one of the agreements that addresses non-tariff measures (which include Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary Measures (SPS), Import Licensing Procedures (ILPs) among others)
The TBT Agreement was crafted to ensure that non-tariff measures particularly technical regulations and standards including packaging, marking and labelling requirements and conformity assessment procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to international trade.
At the same time, the Agreement does not prevent any country from taking measures necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, of the environment, or for the prevention of deceptive practices, and protection of its security interest as long these requirements are not applied arbitrarily.
Coverage of the TBT Agreement
All products, including industrial and agricultural products, shall be subject to the provisions of the Agreement(Article 1.3).
Not covered by the Agreement are:
1. Government Procurement (Article 1.4)
2. Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary measures (SPS) (Article 1.5)
The Scope of the TBT Agreement
The TBT Agreement covers technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures and these are defined as follows in Annex 1:
Document which lays down product characteristics or their related processes and production methods, including the applicable administrative provisions, with which compliance is mandatory.
To cite an example, the Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS) implements product certification schemes which cover electrical, building and construction and consumer products. These schemes are detailed in Department Administrative Order (DAO) 4:2008 entitled “The New Rules and Regulations concerning the Philippine Standard (PS) Quality and/or Safety Certification Mark Scheme of the Bureau of Product Standards (BPS)” and DAO 5:2008 entitled “The New Rules and Regulations Concerning the Issuance of Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) under the Product Certification Mark Scheme of the Bureau of Product Standard (BPS).
Document approved by a recognized body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for products or related processes and production methods, with which compliance is not mandatory.
Management System Standards such as ISO 9000 – Quality Management Systems (QMS), ISO 14000 –Environmental Management Systems (EnMS), ISO 22000 –Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) are standards adopted by organizations voluntarily to improve their system and/or service delivery.
Conformity Assessment Procedure
Any procedure used, directly or indirectly, to determine that relevant requirements in technical regulations or standards are fulfilled.
Among the conformity assessment procedures are testing and calibration, inspection and certification.
The BPS mandatory product certification schemes are categorized as follows:
• The Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) Scheme is based on System 1b as per ISO 17067 where the BPS as the Certification Body requires batch approval of products based on the requirements of relevant Philippine National Standards (PNS) prior to the issuance of ICC Certificate and conformity marks.
• The Product Standard (PS) Scheme is based on System 5 wherein the BPS issues a licence allowing a company to affix the PS Quality and/or Safety Mark to its products, after inspections to determine that the products meet the relevant PNS.
To learn more about conformity assessment, please access ISO.
Its Basic Principles
Among the basic principles of the agreement are non-discrimination, avoidance of unnecessary obstacles to international trade, harmonization, transparency, technical assistance and special and differential treatment for developing country members.
WTO and the Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS)
In line with the transparency provisions of the TBT Agreement, signatories are obligated to establish enquiry point(s) to respond to enquiries from other Members and interested parties as well as to designate a single notification authority at the national level.
To ensure that this obligation will be fulfilled, the Bureau of Product Standards (now the Bureau of Philippine Standards) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been designated as the Philippines’ Enquiry Point and Notification Authority through G/TBT/2/Add.11 stating the implementation and administration of the TBT Agreement (Article 15.2).
This designation has enabled the country to provide appropriate notifications on proposed regulations.
Aside from being the Philippines Enquiry Point and Notification Authority, BPS as a central government standardizing body has also notified its acceptance of Code of Good Practice for the Preparation, Adoption and Application of Standards.
Notifications under WTO TBT Agreement
Consistent with the TBT obligation of notification of draft technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures, the Philippines, since 1996, has notified 259 draft standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures for comments of other WTO members and relevant stakeholders.
To fulfil the Philippines obligations under the WTO TBT Agreements, the following services are being offered by the BPS to its stakeholders:
• Providing information on other WTO members’ notifications thru email alerts and news bulletin. If interested to receive email alerts on latest news on TBT notifications, please contact us.
• Notification of proposed regulations of government regulatory agencies
• Forwarding comments as well as queries received on both domestic and foreign regulations to relevant agencies for appropriate actions
• Facilitating requests for full text or summary of other WTO members’ proposed regulations
• Responding to general queries relevant to standards and conformance as well as BPS regulations
What can you do to take advantage of the transparency provisions of the TBT Agreement?
• Stay connected to be informed
o The Bureau of Philippine Standards established the standards and conformance portal to make information available on the TBT notifications to domestic stakeholders. The S & C portal has the following information: a weekly bulletin of foreign TBT Notifications and Listing of Philippine Notifications since 1996.
o For more information, visit us at www.bps.dti.gov.ph
o The WTO also provides access to the TBT Information Management System, a database of notifications, specific trade concerns and other relevant information.
• Be Involved
o If your view that a draft regulation notified by a WTO member will have a negative impact on your export, let us know of your positions, for forwarding to the country concerned. The TBT Enquiry Point can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
o Our Foreign Trade Service Corps personnel are also on the ground to monitor their base countries. They could also assist Philippine exporters by conducting consultations with relevant agencies on issues of concerned.
Department of Trade and Industry - Bureau of Philippine Standards 3/F Trade and Industry Building
361 Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City Philippines 1200, Telephone: (632) 751-4700 Fax: (632) 751-4706