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Summary of ITC Seminar - Non-Tariff Measures: New Challenges and the Road Ahead

7 Febrero 2012
ITC News

On Friday 3 February, ITC hosted a seminar entitled “Non-Tariff Measures: New Challenges and the Road Ahead”. The seminar brought together key experts on Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs), with the wider Geneva trade and development community to take stock of NTM issues and challenges as well as to discuss the first results of ITC’s three-year programme to survey enterprises in developing countries. 

The discussion converged on a number of key points:  

  • We observe an increase in the number and complexity of NTMs, both in trade of goods and services. This provides a challenge to international trade, as enterprises often struggle to comply with a large and ever increasing set of policies and standards. Even legitimate NTMs, of non- protectionist intent, can have negative consequences on trade. Enterprises in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are particularly affected by NTMs, given the greater obstacles they face in complying with these at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner. 
  • To meet these challenges, ensuring transparency in NTMs is an underlying requirement for any further action – whether at national or international level. The identification of NTMs, understanding of the motivation behind them as well as their continuous surveillance were mentioned as important steps towards addressing the challenges posed by their proliferation. Transparency on NTMs also means understanding the private sector perspective to help identify which NTMs are perceived as particularly burdensome. While ensuring transparency is the first step, moving from the identification of NTMs to impact assessment and concrete action is vital. 
  • Concerted efforts are needed both at the national and international level to address the challenges posed by NTMs. While there is no one method in dealing with all NTMs, international action such as through the harmonization or mutual recognition of standards and related standard setting bodies is important. At the national level, surveys such as those carried out by the ITC, have shown that non-tariff regulation often have a domestic dimension, where compliance can pose a difficulty due to a lack of local infrastructure or institutional capacity. One way this is being addressed is by strengthening the private sector voice in policy making. Another important action for the international community is to support the capacity building of Trade Support Institutions to enable enterprises to comply with NTMs.
  • The proliferation of private standards as well as NTMs related to services are two subject areas needing more attention and action from the international community in the near future. The lack of transparency in these issues is seen as particularly challenging for developing country exporters. 
  • Given the breadth of the challenges posed by NTMs, such joint initiatives as the collection and classification of national regulations related to NTMs by UNCTAD, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and ITC, amongst others, are commendable. As a next step the need to strengthen such partnerships and to reach out to more institutions, such as standard setting bodies, academia and NGOs was emphasized. 

The NTM experts leading the seminar discussion were: 

Alan V. Deardorff, John W. Sweetland Professor of International Economics and Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan;  

Debapriya Bhattacharya, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dhaka, and Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the WTO, the UN Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva;  

H. E. Shree Baboo Chekitan Servansing, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mauritius to the WTO;  

Guillermo Valles, Director, Division on International Trade in Goods and Services and Commodities (DITC), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD);  

Mondher Mimouni, Chief ad-interim, Market Analysis and Research section, Division of Market Development, ITC; 

Lionel Fontagné, Professor of Economics at the Paris School of Economics, University of Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne.