WTO Debates TBT
· India on the Mat for Compulsory Testing of Imported Cosmetics and Toys
· India says Cosmetics Still at Draft Stage, Toys Draft only at Stakeholder Consultation Stage
In line with the 2019-2021 work plan to improve the operation and implementation of the WTOs Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), WTO members held a thematic session on transparency on 18 19 June at WTO headquarters. On 20-21 June they participated in a regular meeting of the TBT committee, where they discussed 65 TBT-related trade concerns, 12 of which were addressed for the first time.
As part of the implementation of the committee's 2019-2021 workplan, WTO members held a thematic session on transparency. The aim of the thematic session was to further deepen the Committee's exchange of experiences in this area. The session covered, among other issues, the general functioning of enquiry points, tracking and reacting to members' measures and notifications, and handling comments. The programme, presentations and webcasting of the session are available here.
Over the two-day TBT committee meeting, WTO members discussed 65 specific trade concerns, including 12 new concerns. The new concerns ranged from drones to cosmetics, food and beverages, toys, recycling, waste and the environment. A full list of the trade concerns is available here. For more information on previous trade concerns see the 6-7 March 2019 , 14-15 November 2018, 19-21 June 2018 meeting summaries.
A summary of the new specific trade concerns is provided below:
Japan and Korea, supported by the United States, said the proposed measure by China could be discriminatory with respect to the need to conduct animal testing, inspection requirements for imported and domestic cosmetics, and submission of samples. They said China should adopt a flexible framework through which test results from an in-house or foreign laboratory can be accepted. Members added that the new regulation can have an impact on the shelf life of certain inspected products. China was requested to provide an adequate transition period to allow industry to adapt.
China said that the regulation on cosmetic inspection was notified to the committee in February 2019 and is still in the drafting phase. China welcomed members' comments on this draft and said it will provide a response at a later stage.
China said that a new proposed regulation by the European Union concerning unmanned aircrafts and drones is not aligned with relevant international standards and contains impractical requirements for testing and limitations on range which China said could impede innovation and overall performance. China asked for an opportunity for comment on the new version of the regulation.
The EU said that the draft regulation took into account comments and suggestions provided by China. The EU said the range limitations were introduced for safety and privacy reasons and that there will be a three-year transition period for the operation of the unmanned aircrafts.
The United States, supported by the European Union, expressed concern with India's draft requirements that imported cosmetics be tested in India in line with local standards developed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and submit a product certification and testing protocol. They were also concerned that India does not accept tests conducted outside India, nor does India refer to international standards in the cosmetics sector. The US asked India to notify the draft rules and provide a suitable period for comments by interested parties.
India said that it had notified the proposed rules in June 2019 and gave 60 days for interested members to submit comments.
The United States, supported by the European Union and Canada, asked whether India had a timeline for the implementation of the proposed measure for quality control of toys. The US was concerned that India had changed its approach by requiring in-country testing of imported toys, while previously toy manufacturers could test to either the ASTM, ISO or EN toy safety standards in the country of manufacture by a laboratory accredited under the ILAC system.
The US and Canada believe that the new measure is burdensome, and that India did not provide enough information regarding the evaluation of specific toy hazards to explain the regulatory change. The EU, the US and Canada encouraged India to notify the TBT committee of the proposed change.
India said that the matter is still undergoing stakeholder consultations at the domestic level and once the draft is ready, it will be notified to the WTO.
The United States, supported by Canada, urged Korea to notify the regulation on package recycle labelling and allow a suitable comment period for stakeholders. The US is concerned that the classification regulation does not consider current efforts to promote recycling in other countries, and that the Korea-specific packaging requirement could disrupt trade. The US said that the measure does not refer to relevant ASTM international standards and could affect a large range of products
Korea said that this measure is under preparation and that it will notify it to the WTO with enough time for stakeholders to comment and for industries to adapt.
The United States, supported by Switzerland, the European Union and Russia, expressed concern with a proposed measure by Saudi Food and Drug Associations (SFDA) which introduces an upper limit of sugar on imports of food and beverages. The US noted that there are numerous products where the use of sugar is necessary as a preservative and stabiliser and that there is no viable alternative.
Members said that while they appreciate the objective of the new regulation to address obesity and diabetes, they believe that there is a lack of scientific evidence to justify the limits prescribed. Members encouraged Saudi Arabia to conduct consultations with private sector stakeholders in a transparent manner. The US added that if the measure is implemented, it will disrupt the export of a wide range of products such as jams, ice-creams, carbonated drinks and confectionaries.
Saudi Arabia said that the implementation of this measure will be suspended until further notice. It added that the regulation will be reviewed and that it will continue bilateral consultations with interested members.
The United States and Chile, supported by Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, expressed concerns with Uruguay's prohibition of imports of wine containing exogenous water. They are also concerned that the new measure requires importers of wine to present a certificate that the wine does not contain exogenous water.
While members acknowledged that Uruguay's objective is the prevention of deceptive practices and consumer protection, they are concerned that the measure is more trade restrictive than necessary and not in line with international standards such as OIV. They further asked Uruguay to define the term exogenous water and the scope of the application of the measure.
Uruguay said that the scope of this regulation is limited to wine, and that Uruguay will continue consultations with other WTO members on this matter.
Indonesia raised concerns with the European Union's measure related to the introduction of a product environmental footprint for intermediate paper products entering the EU market. Indonesia said the measure discriminates against pulp and paper products from tropical countries through accounting rules that favour plantations in Europe.
The EU said that the rules for calculating the footprint profile are voluntary and do not fall under the WTO TBT Agreement. The new rules were developed in a pilot process and in response to mistrust and confusion among consumers arising from a proliferation of environmental information.
China expressed concern with newly issued eco-design regulations on servers and data storage products, washing machines and washer dryers. China said that there is uncertainty about the scope of products covered, and that certain test methods are inconsistent with international standards established by IEC. Moreover, China said that specific requirements on spare parts delivery cannot be met by overseas manufacturers, and that the requirements can cause unnecessary trade obstacles and cost.
The European Union said that the notification gave a suitable period of time for comments from different stakeholders and that it included new circular economy requirements to improve the durability, operability and efficiency of the recycling process.
Guyana voiced concerns regarding a new regulation under which the European Union has introduced a revised spirits definition and is restricting the use of the term "agriculture" (in all languages) for spirits drinks. Guyana is concerned that this new regulation may constitute an unnecessary obstacle for the country's exports of rum to the EU market. It also invited the EU to consider a less restrictive measure that would allow it to achieve the objective of protecting the geographic indication of other exporters of spirits drinks.
The EU said that the reservation of the use of the term "agriculture" on rum has existed in the EU since 1989. The EU noted that it had not received any comments during the extended comment period provided on this proposed regulation.
The United States, supported by Canada, raised concerns regarding the implementation of the medical device regulations introduced by the European Union. The US, for instance, said that it is concerned about the insufficient number of bodies designated to test and certify products ("notified bodies") under the new regulation, and the lack of availability of implementing regulations, and therefore urged the EU to delay the implementation for three years to allow industries to adapt.
The EU said that the regulations will enter into force in May 2020 and May 2022. The EU is aware of the time limitations imposed on various stakeholders involved in the process, and the challenge of ensuring sufficient notified bodies. It also added that there will be transitional periods allowing manufacturers to place products in the EU market under the old directives until May 2024.
Indonesia expressed concern with India's implementation of the regulation on moisture content for Cassia Vera. Indonesia noted that its exports no longer have access to India's market despite being compliant with the maximum content of moisture set in the regulation, which it said is being applied inconsistently by India. Indonesia further asked India to provide scientific evidence for setting a more stringent limit on moisture content than the existing ISO international standard.
India said that the quality parameters for Cassia Vera in the regulation were notified to the WTO in 2010, and adopted in 2011, and were set to avoid the formation of certain aflatoxins, considering the geographic location of India. India also noted that this issue should be addressed in the trade facilitation context and not the TBT committee.
In line with the Eighth Triennial Review adopted on 15 November 2018, the TBT committee started work on developing non-prescriptive practical guidelines to support regulators in the choice and design of appropriate and proportionate conformity assessment procedures. WTO members began discussions on this matter during an informal meeting on 18 June, with a submission from the European Union. A number of members stated their intention to provide further written contributions.
In conjunction with the transparency thematic session, the WTO Trade and Environment Division organized a transparency workshop with an emphasis on ePingfrom 17-21 June. The course was attended by 38 government officials who are involved at a technical or policy level with the implementation of the TBT Agreement. ISO, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Swedish Board of Trade supported the participation of nine capital-based officials.
The interactive workshop provided an opportunity for participants to clarify technical points, practise online tools (ePing, TBT IMS and the online notification submission system - TBT NSS), learn from each other's experiences and come up with action plans for follow-up. Four participants and two experts also presented their national experiences during the thematic session on transparency.
On 20 June, the Swedish National Board of Trade, in cooperation with the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the European Commission, organized a side event entitled "Improving TBT Technical Assistance Coordination". This event highlighted how the coordination of technical assistance among WTO members and observers to the TBT committee has proved useful and helped improve effectiveness of interventions. It included panellists from Australia, Liberia, the Philippines, the US and Zambia.
Mr Sung-Hwa Jang (Republic of Korea) took up his duties as the new Chair of the TBT Committee during that meeting. He further announced that the next meeting of the committee will be held on 13-14 November 2019. It will be preceded by thematic sessions on quality infrastructure and standards on 12 November. A special event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the 1979 Tokyo Round's TBT Agreement - the "Standards Code" will be held on 15 November.