Domestic Regulation, international standards, and technical barriers to trade
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There is growing concern over the use of domestic product regulations as technical barriers to trade on the one hand, and the WTO's incursion into domestic regulatory autonomy on the other. The TBTA seeks to balance competing interests - acknowledging but disciplining Members' regulatory control over traded goods. The effectiveness of these disciplines is limited by the exclusion of many modern domestic regulations from the scope of the TBTA; the surest way to prevent abuse of process-based product specifications is to subject them to the TBTA's disciplines. The WTO dispute settlement tribunals have affirmed the importance of the use or adoption of international standards. While Members are still entitled to introduce their own measures in some circumstances, the emphasis on international standards raises the status of standard-setting bodies. Despite their important new role, the composition, accountability, and decision-making procedures have so far escaped the kind of civil society scrutiny to which WTO deliberations are now subject. To achieve the TBTA's harmonization objectives, the development, and use of international standards and their legal recognition within the WTO regime should be revised to safeguard legitimate non-trade regulatory objectives.
World Trade Review
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