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FACT SHEET: USTR Successes: Reducing Technical Barriers to Trade

Standards-related measures such as technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures often promote important government objectives.  However, in some instances, aspects of these measures may be overly burdensome, discriminatory, or otherwise unwarranted with respect to their intended objective and thus become technical barriers to trade.  In 2015, the USTR continued to help unlock opportunities for U.S. workers, businesses, and farmers by successfully tackling various technical barriers to trade imposed by U.S. trading partners. 

The following are a sample of USTR’s successes:

  • Simplifying India Labeling Requirements:  We secured two important changes to India’s labeling requirements that will benefit U.S. exporters. 
    • First, as announced at the U.S. – India Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meetings in October 2015, India has changed its policy concerning mandatory labeling of retail prices on goods.  Specifically, rather than require the maximum retail price of goods to be preprinted on the goods’ packaging, India is adopting a more flexible approach that allows importers to instead affix a sticker with the retail price information to the package at the port.   This change will benefit U.S. exporters by allowing them to avoid producing unique packaging for the Indian market. 
       
    • Second, consistent with the commitment India made at the 2014 TPF, the Division of Legal Metrology at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs in May 2015 eliminated conflicting labeling requirements regarding wholesale and retail goods, whereby labeling requirements were determined by weight rather than end use.  India explicitly clarified in the 2015 TPF joint statement that the “determination of wholesale and retail labeling requirements are not dependent on the weight of imported food consignments” thus eliminating uncertainty for U.S. exporters.
       
  • China Proposed Cosmetics Over-Labeling Ban:  The United States successfully helped the U.S. cosmetics industry by engaging with China regarding a proposed labeling requirement that would have prohibited producers and exporters from using a sticker to provide required information in Mandarin and to cover any English-language labels or branding on the cosmetics product.  The proposed measure would have required U.S. cosmetics companies to design cosmetic packaging specifically for the Chinese market and would have impacted their production efficiencies, price competitiveness, and potentially brand recognition.  Industry estimates that the measure could have potentially affected over $322 million in U.S. annual exports.  The U.S. Government engaged with China in a variety of fora to request the proposed measure be reconsidered, with the result of successfully convincing China to suspend the proposed labeling requirement and continue to allow the use of stickers to display required information on cosmetic products sold in China.
     
  • U.S.-Switzerland Organics Equivalency Arrangement:  In July 2015, the United States and Switzerland concluded an organics equivalency arrangement that will benefit U.S. producers and consumers of organic products.  Under the arrangement, Switzerland will recognize the U.S. National Organic Program as equivalent to the Swiss Organic Ordinances (under applicable Swiss regulations).  This recognition will allow U.S. products that are certified under the U.S. program to be also be labeled as organic in Switzerland.  The arrangement is built on two years of technical engagement on all aspects of these programs to ensure that the both are built on comparable, high levels of integrity and competence.  For the United States, this is the fifth organic equivalency arrangement, and follows similar arrangements concluded with Canada, Japan, the European Union, and South Korea.
     
  • Supplying a key industrial raw material to the European Union (EU): The United States is the world’s largest producer of beryllium, a metal that is used in defense and commercial applications because of its particular properties such as strength, low weight, and resistance to chemical deterioration.  The EU market for beryllium is forty percent of U.S. sales of the metal.  Since 2013, Germany has been advancing efforts to place beryllium on the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) candidate list of substances of very high concern for authorization.  In practical terms, the regulatory requirements for materials on the REACH candidate list often preclude their use in a variety of applications, which is problematic because there are very limited substitutes for beryllium.  The United States agrees that there can be important health risks from exposure to beryllium, but believes the appropriate way to manage that risk is by controlling human exposure rather than effectively banning the substance.  The United States worked diligently in 2015 to provide a science-based risk assessment for public consultations in Germany and the EU that explains methods to address the risks from beryllium without losing the benefits of this crucial raw material.
     
  • Preserving use of international safety standards for construction equipment:  In 2013, Israel considered basing a proposed national safety standard for certain construction equipment on a European regional standard rather than the relevant international standard.  U.S. companies were concerned that, if Israel took this action, it would significantly raise the costs of exporting the construction equipment to Israel market or preventing them from accessing the market altogether since the equipment produced by U.S. companies is certified to the relevant international standard and would need to be re-certified to the European regional standard to access the Israel market.  The U.S. Government advocated on behalf of the U.S. construction equipment industry during Israel’s decision-making process.  In September 2015, Israel announced that it would accept both standards, making it possible for U.S. companies to continue supplying the growing Israeli market.  In 2015, U.S. exports of relevant products amounted to approximately $5 million.  Relevant U.S. exports in the first two months of 2016 have already increased by 477 percent over the same time period in 2015. 
     
  • Promoting Transparency of TBT Measures:  In 2015, the WTO published 2,000+ notifications by WTO Members of proposed technical regulations.  Of those, U.S. stakeholders commented on approximately 200 notifications through the WTO TBT Inquiry Point to other WTO Members.  Such notifications provide a critical opportunity for early engagement on proposed technical regulations.  Through such transparency, U.S. stakeholders can convey concerns and technical information about how government can enact measures that satisfy their objectives but do not unnecessarily restrict trade. 
     
  • Continued TBT Capacity-Building Through the Standards Alliance:  The United States provides technical assistance to developing countries to implement the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.  In 2015, the Standards Alliance completed a number of programs, including: training on effective participation in the International Standards Organization for Lesotho, Malawi, and Zambia; a conference on safety evaluation and use of food additives in Central America; information exchange with Colombia on the WTO Code of Good Practice; completion of national TBT Enquiry Point action plans by five East African countries; and TBT Enquiry Point training conducted in Zambia and Lesotho.