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Enquirer Details
Description Of The Technical Issue You Are Facing

Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs)

What are Non-Tariff Measures?

Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) are measures applied by countries, other than tariffs, which can restrict imports. They can include measures applied at the border including customs documentation and licence requirements, and measures applied behind the border such as technical regulations, standards and testing requirements.
Two major types of NTMs that impact upon Australian exporters are:
  • Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, which include import, inspection, certification, audit and testing requirements relating to food safety.
  • Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) measures, which include requirements such as labelling, registration, product composition, testing and quality assurance (beyond SPS).
Globally these measures are governed by World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements on TBT (TBT Agreement) and the Application of SPS measures (SPS Agreement). Australia’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) also cover TBT and SPS measures, and draw on WTO rules.
While technical regulations and standards are important for reasons such as environmental protection, health, food safety and consumer protection, they can create barriers for exporters. The TBT and SPS Agreements seek to ensure that technical regulations, standards, and testing and certification procedures serve legitimate public policy objectives, are based on available scientific information and/or international standards, are non-discriminatory and do not create unnecessary obstacles to international trade.

What can I do if I’m encountering a SPS or TBT issue?

If you have a concern with a proposed TBT or SPS measure, we are interested in hearing from you. Please fill out the below form as soon as possible and we will review it to see whether this issue can be raised with the other WTO Member. If you have used ePing to find the measure, please take note of the end date for consultation in the notification and ensure you fill out the form as soon as possible before that date.
Fill in the form below, clearly and succinctly outlining the problem, the action you have taken thus far to resolve it and any outcomes. If we assess that the issue can be dealt with under the SPS or TBT Agreements, or under one of Australia’s FTAs we will pass the form on to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for TBT issues and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) for SPS issues to follow up.
The relevant department will only contact you, if it is an issue they believe they can address through the WTO or other government-to-government mechanisms.

How are SPS and TBT issues identified and monitored?

Transparency is a cornerstone of both the TBT and SPS Agreements. WTO Members, including Australia, are required to notify other Members of proposed measures that may significantly affect trade and which are not based on relevant international standards. Notification should take place as early as possible (typically at least 60 days prior to implementation). This gives other Members the opportunity to make comments and provides time for the notifying Member to take those comments into account, before the measure comes into effect.

How do I keep up-to-date with SPS and TBT notifications from other countries?

You can remain up to date on SPS and TBT notifications from other Members by subscribing to the ePing email alert system. ePing is a free online web service that provides businesses and governments with up to date information on regulations in export markets, including product requirements and standards. The system brings together notifications of changes to TBT and SPS measures, which have been notified to the WTO. You can sign up to receive notifications via email on a daily or weekly basis for your specific export markets and/or products. Click on this user guide for an overview of how to use ePing.

What does the SPS Agreement cover?

The SPS Agreement covers sanitary and phytosanitary measures which are applied:
  • to protect human or animal life from risks arising from additives, contaminants, toxins or disease-causing organisms in their food;
  • to protect human life from plant- or animal-carried diseases;
  • to protect animal or plant life from pests, diseases, or disease-causing organisms; and
  • to prevent or limit other damage from the entry, establishment or spread of pests.
These include SPS measures used to protect the health of fish and wild fauna, as well as of forests and wild flora. Measures for environmental protection (other than as defined above), to protect consumer interests or for animal welfare are not covered by the SPS Agreement.
Examples of measures that have been raised in the WTO SPS Committee include:
  • amended standards for food additives in food products;
  • import restrictions on poultry products due to highly pathogenic avian influenza; and
  • import restrictions on horticultural produce due to fruit flies.

What does the TBT Agreement cover?
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.
Examples of measures that have been raised in the WTO TBT Committee include:
  • requiring testing of coal quality to a standard other than recognised by industry;
  • testing of imported toys only permitted in an importing country;
  • regulations that require the disclosure of source code for ICT equipment to be made to government regulators; and
  • labelling regulations requiring the use of non-standard terms.


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Dee-Ann Prather, Down Under Enterprises International
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Fragomen MAY 2017

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