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Sanitary, Phytosanitary and Technical Barriers to Trade in EPAs

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Monday, 27 September 2010

Sanitary, Phytosanitary and Technical Barriers to Trade in EPAs

Regional trade agreements (RTAs) have become a distinctive feature of the international trading landscape. Their number has increased significantly in recent years, as WTO Member countries continue to negotiate new agreements. Some 200-odd agreements have been notified to the WTO, but the real number may be higher, as some are never notified to the multilateral bodies, and many more are under negotiation. As a result, an increasing amount of trade is covered by preferential arrangements, prompting many analysts to suggest that RTAs are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Many regional pacts contain obligations that go beyond existing multilateral commitments, and others deal with areas not yet covered by the WTO, such as investment and competition policies, as well as with labor and environment issues. Regional and bilateral agreements between countries at different stages of development have become common, as have attempts to form region-wide economic areas by dismantling existing trade and investment barriers, an objective that figures prominently in East Asian countries’ trade strategies.
Yet, the effects of RTAs on the multilateral trading system are still unclear. This is also true with respect to their impact on trade and sustainable development. RTAs represent a departure from the basic non-discrimination principle of the WTO and decrease the transparency of global trade rules, as traders are subject to multiple, sometime conflicting, requirements. This is particularly the case in relation to rules of origin, which can be extremely complex and often vary in different agreements concluded by the same country. Also, the case that WTO-plus commitments enhance sustainable development has yet to be proven. Indeed, it is not even clear whether RTAs enhance or hinder trade.
This paper from ICTSD on "Sanitary, Phytosanitary and Technical Barriers to Trade in the Economic Partnership Agreements between the European Union and the ACP Countries" sets out a common vision on issues that could constitute sanitary, phytosanitary and technical barriers in EPAs and investigates how abusive use of these provisions could be an obstacle to market access. The study also promotes experience-sharing among different ACP regions in terms of drawing up negotiating positions. The issues covered include:
• the EPAs’ disciplines on traditional barriers to market access, including tariffs and quotas;
• provisions addressing non-traditional barriers to trade in the WTO agreements and the various EPAs;
• technical regulations standards and conformity assessments procedures;
• sanitary and phytosanitary measures;
• the relationship between the EPAs’ rules on non-traditional barriers to trade and those in the WTO agreements period.

Source: International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development