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The World Trade Organisation (WTO) and priorities for the chemical industry in relation to tariffs and non-tariff barriers

The Chemicals Unit contributes to bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations. Chemicals, plastics and rubber represent more than ¼ of all tariff headings for industrial products in the Combined Nomenclature (Chapters 28 to 40).

The cornerstone as regards tariffs for the chemicals industry is the Chemical Tariff Harmonisation Agreement (CTHA), which provides for the reduction of chemicals tariffs to 0%, 5.5% or 6.5% of the Harmonised System Chapters 28 to 39 and includes inorganic and organic chemicals, fertilizers and plant protection chemicals, soaps and cosmetics, other chemicals and plastics. The agreement came into force in 1995 and is now being applied by 50 WTO members.

In accordance with the principles of the WTO a further reduction or elimination of chemical tariffs for all major chemical-producing nations or regions is sought. Lowering customs duties is one of the most obvious means of encouraging trade. The reduction of tariff peaks is a priority. Taking into account the low EU tariffs due to the CTHA, peaks maintained by some of our major trading partners that have not yet signed up with the CTHA, remain an obstacle to trade for the EU chemicals industry.

The reduction or elimination of tariffs should go hand in hand with the reduction or elimination of non-tariff barriers. Reduced tariffs must not be countered with new non-tariff barriers. Therefore, the Chemicals Unit is engaged in sector-specific industrial policy and regulatory dialogues and initiatives with some of our main trade partners (US, China, Russia, etc.). The aim of these dialogues and initiatives is twofold. Firstly, to increase the understanding and awareness of current and forthcoming policies and chemicals legislation of both authorities and industry in the EU as well as those of the trade partner countries (US, China, Russia).

Secondly, to promote trade in chemicals by resolving possible market access problems thereby ensuring a level playing field for the chemicals industry and to ensure a high level of health and environmental protection.

WTO members in which CTHA is applied

Armenia, Australia (de facto), Bulgaria, Canada, Chile (de facto), Ecuador, the European Union (25 members), Hong Kong China, Iceland, Japan, Jordan, Kirgizstan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand (de facto), Norway, Oman, Panama, People's Republic of China, Qatar, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey (de facto), the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America

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