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WTO / Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement encourages participation in Codex


The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), meeting from 26-27 February 2020, in Geneva Switzerland at WTO headquarters, seeks to ensure that technical regulations and standards, including packaging, marking and labelling requirements do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade.

Just as with the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement, the TBT Agreement encourages members at all levels of development to participate in relevant standard-setting bodies. This is important to ensure that these bodies produce standards on products of interest to all members, and that these standards take into account the realities and constraints facing different members.

In contrast to the SPS Agreement which explicitly mentions Codex together with the International Plant Protection Convention and the World Organization for Animal Health, the TBT Agreement – which covers a much broader range of products (including food products) and policy objectives (including human health) – does not recognize any particular international standard-setting body.

Codex takes part as an observer and is given an opportunity to provide information during the session. “Many of the trade concerns are of interest to us because they relate for example to labelling of various food commodities, such as alcohol labelling which is currently on the agenda of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling”, said Verna Carolissen, Food Standards Officer. “Attendance allows us to understand what the issues are and to provide information as necessary on what we are doing in Codex”, she said.

Recent topics that came up at the last meeting of 2019 of particular interest where Codex standards were cited included shelf-life restrictions and the use of milk powders in cheese, food labelling claims and use of chlorothalonil in some pesticides.

Did you know?

The TBT Agreement recognises in certain cases that not all international standards are appropriate. This could be for climatic, geographical or technological reasons. Under the TBT Agreement developing countries are not expected to use international standards that are not appropriate to their development, financial or trade needs.


Read more

Visit the WTO, TBT web site

FAO/WTO Publication: Trade and Food Standards

Photo credit © WTO