International market - The notification procedure of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)
The Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement requires all Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to notify technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures - when they are not in accordance with the technical content of relevant international standards or if such standards do not exist - through the WTO Secretariat to the other WTO Members.
The TBT notification procedure and its objectives
This allows other WTO Members, as well as economic operators to become acquainted with new product requirements and to comment on them in case they are not in compliance with the TBT Agreement.
Such notifications shall take place at a draft stage, when the technical regulation or conformity assessment procedure is not yet adopted and amendments can still be introduced and comments from other WTO Members can still be taken into account. The notifying Member has to provide for a reasonable time for other Members to make comments in writing.
This procedure is a unique instrument of transparency and created the possibility for a dialogue at international level as regards new product requirements.
It allows the European Union and its economic operators to be informed about proposals of third countries which may have an impact on exports of Community enterprises.
It also allows for comments to be made on a planned measure if there are concerns that it would not be in compliance with the TBT Agreement, notably when the measure is discriminatory, not justified or more trade-restrictive than necessary. This allows an exchange of views to be initiated with the authorities of third countries before the adoption of the measure, which can lead to a modification or even a withdrawal of the proposal.
Participation of the economic operators
The notifications and in most cases, the texts of the proposals that are planned to be adopted are available to the public on the TBT database, where also more detailed information on the TBT Agreement can be found.
All economic operators can subscribe to the TBT mailing list and receive automatically in their mailboxes all new notifications in the area(s) of their choice or from the WTO Member(s) of their choice.
Economic operators are encouraged to communicate to the Commission their concerns on a given notified draft. If appropriate, the Commission can send written comments to the third country and discuss the issue in the TBT Committee meetings that take place three times a year in Geneva.
All comments issued as well as the replies given by third countries are also available on the database.
Industry position papers should be sent well ahead of the end of the comments period given by the third country in order to be taken into account during the analysis of the notified draft.
Results of the procedure
In many cases comments and interventions made by the European Union with regard to third country notifications have lead to modification or even withdrawal of planned measures.
In other cases, third countries have, following comments of the European Union, postponed entry into force of the measure thus giving economic operators more time to adapt to new requirements.
NEW! More information on the functioning of the TBT notification procedure can be found in the report from the Commission adopted on 29 June 2012 (COM(2012) 354 final - Annex to the report ). This report notably presents the latest trends of this instrument by compiling an overview of the development of the procedure in recent years.
DG Enterprise and Industry, Unit C/3, has been designated as the EU TBT Notification and Enquiry Point under the TBT Agreement and co-ordinates the European Union's position with regard to third county notifications. It coordinates closely with other Commission services and in particular with DG Trade, responsible for the Market Access Strategy as well as with the EU's delegations in third countries.