Standards-related measures (standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures) can serve an important function in facilitating international trade to obtain greater access to foreign markets. Standards-related measures also enable governments to pursue legitimate objectives such as protecting human health and the environment and preventing deceptive practices. But standards-related measures that are nontransparent, discriminatory, or otherwise unwarranted can act as significant barriers to U.S. exports.
USTR’s efforts to spotlight and address these technical barriers to Made-in-America exports provide crucial reinforcement of USTR’s goal to help businesses of all sizes export more so that they can support more well-paying American jobs.
Because of the accomplishments explained below in addressing those obstacles, USTR has unlocked important export opportunities for American workers and businesses. These opportunities will increase our economic growth; promote job creation in the United States; promote reciprocity with our trading partners; strengthen our manufacturing base; and expand our manufacturing, agricultural, and services industry exports.
European Union – Substance in Textiles and Clothing: In 2015, the European Commission initiated public consultations regarding possible restrictions of carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic reproduction substances (CMRs) in textiles and clothing. The initial scope of the proposed restriction covered nearly 300 substances and included a wide range of products across multiple industries. Stakeholders indicated that the initial breadth of the proposal severely limited their ability to provide detailed, science-based information on substances of greatest concern. The United States worked with the EU to include stakeholder participation in European technical meetings on the proposed regulation. In 2018, the European Commission published a regulation that restricts only 33 CMR substances in textile products used by consumers.
Korea – Regulation on Computers to Read ID Cards: Korean authorities implemented a regulation that permitted only one type of computer to read national ID cards. The regulation was unfair to American computer manufacturers who produced devices that did not meet the Korean requirements. USTR intervened with Korean authorities, who modified the regulation to permit alternate devices.
Ecuador – Toy Standards: In 2018, Ecuador revised a draft technical regulation on toy safety that did not reference commonly-used international standards for toy safety testing. U.S. exporters thus faced the prospect of increased costs due to duplicative product testing requirements. The United States intervened, and Ecuador revised the regulation to incorporate the relevant international standard and recognized equivalent standards for testing. As a result, U.S. toy exporters will not face the burdensome and costly process of testing their products to a separate standard for the Ecuadorian market.
The Philippines – Auto Standards: In October 2018, the Philippines committed to continue to accept vehicles that meet multiple high-standard automotive standards, including, among others, the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). This acceptance will facilitate the exportation of vehicles produced in the United States to the Philippines.
Standards Alliance Implementation with USAID: Other examples of cooperative efforts to decrease standards-related barriers in 2018 include USTR’s work with USAID to implement the Standards Alliance, a public-private partnership that provides technical assistance to developing countries and regions. This assistance helps ensure those countries’ standards-related measures do not impose unnecessary obstacles to trade and comply with other important obligations under the WTO TBT Agreement. In 2018, the Standards Alliance continued its work in five countries in Africa: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal, and Zambia. The programs included workshops to increase the application of good regulatory practices, the use of international standards in regulations, and regulatory impact assessment. These procedures help to reduce unnecessary obstacles to U.S. trade by ensuring, for example, that proposed regulations are made available for public comment and that potential impacts of proposed measures are analyzed and taken into account.