Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)

The WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) aims to ensure that regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures do not lead to the discriminatory treatment of Members or create unnecessary obstacles to trade. To this end, the TBT Agreement strongly encourages WTO Members to use relevant international standards, guides or recommendations as a basis for their regulations and standards. The TBT Agreement covers trade in all goods, both agricultural and industrial, and includes terminology, symbols, packaging, marking and labelling requirements. It does not cover trade in services or government procurement.

The TBT Agreement distinguishes between:

  1. Technical Regulations: which lay down product characteristics or their related processes and production methods, including the applicable administrative provisions, with which compliance is mandatory.
  2. Standards: are 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 voluntary. Standards may become technical regulations if mandated by law.
  3. Conformity Assessment Procedures: any procedure used, directly or indirectly, to determine that relevant requirements in technical regulations or standards are fulfilled.

The TBT Agreement does not cover standards or procedures regarding quarantine and biosecurity measures, as these come under the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures. Please refer to our agriculture page for further information on the SPS Agreement.

How do I keep informed of technical barriers to trade in other countries?

You can remain up to date on TBT notifications from WTO Members by subscribing to the ePing email alert system. ePing also includes information on SPS measures.

ePing is a free online web service that provides businesses and governments with up to date information on regulations in other export markets, including product requirements and standards.  You can sign up to receive notifications via email on a daily or weekly basis for your specific export markets and/or products.  Register online at www.epingalert.org.

ePing has been developed by the United Nations (UN) Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Please note, ePing uses information that WTO Members have notified to the WTO and therefore may not contain all SPS and TBT measures.

Questions and contacts

If you have questions or concerns about a trading partner’s TBT or SPS measures you should contact the relevant Australian Government agency:

For TBT: tbt.enquiry@dfat.gov.au
For SPS: sps.contact@agriculture.gov.au

The Australian Government can work directly with governments of our trading partners or raise issues in the relevant WTO Committees to help address questions or concerns.

The TBT Committee

The WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (the TBT Committee) is composed of representatives from each member of the WTO and usually meets three times a year at the WTO headquarters in Geneva. DFAT represents Australia at these meetings. The TBT Committee fulfils two main functions:

  1. to serve as a forum where delegations may discuss specific trade concerns about particular laws, regulations or procedures that affect their trade, and
  2. to provide an opportunity for members to discuss how to strengthen the implementation of the TBT Agreement, primarily by exchanging experiences on generic, cross-cutting themes, including technical assistance, transparency, standards, conformity assessment and good regulatory practices.

Further information

The WTO TBT gateway provides direct links to relevant information provided by the WTO on the TBT Agreement.
The WTO document “Technical Barriers to Trade: Reducing trade friction from standards and regulations” provides useful background on the TBT Agreement. https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/20y_e/tbt_brochure2015_e.pdf

Last Updated: 6 May 2016