Technical barriers to trade (TBTs) are technical regulations and standards. They cover all traded goods and include standards for food packaging and labelling, animal welfare, agriculture and veterinary chemicals, fisheries and forestry. TBTs can create interruptions and stifle trade opportunities.
TBTs are governed by the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (the TBT agreement) and its Committee on Technical Barriers to trade (the TBT committee).
The TBT agreement
The TBT agreement deals with procedures for testing and certifying conformity to technical regulations (compulsory) and standards (voluntary) governing international trade.
All WTO members are required to meet and uphold the principles and obligations of the TBT Agreement.
The TBT Agreement does not cover quarantine and biosecurity measures that come under the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS agreement). For information on the SPS agreement, please see the department's page on SPS measures.
The TBT committee
The WTO’s Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (the TBT committee) oversees the implementation of the TBT agreement and provides a forum for discussion on technical regulations and standards. The TBT committee meets three times a year at the WTO headquarters in Geneva. It provides a forum for all WTO members to discuss the implementation of the TBT agreement, including sharing their experiences, raising concerns about other members’ activities and developing further guidance on implementing the TBT Agreement.
The role of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture
The department works with Australia’s trading partners and other government agencies to hold open discussions on TBT measures impacting on both imports and exports of agricultural, fisheries and forestry goods.
The department provides input to specific trade concerns for discussion at the TBT committee which meets three times a year. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) represents Australia at these meetings.
The department works with other Australian Government agencies to develop domestic policies, such as food labelling laws and illegal logging which are covered by the TBT agreement.
The department works closely with its overseas counsellors and DFAT’s diplomatic network, and relies on its relationships with counterpart agencies overseas to resolve TBT issues with other countries.
The department periodically distributes a list of TBT notifications relating to food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry. You can receive this email by subscribing through the department’s subscription page.
The WTO TBT gateway provides direct links to all information provided by the WTO that is relevant to the TBT Agreement.