Technical Barriers to Trade

The WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (the “TBT Agreement”) establishes rules and procedures regarding the development, adoption, and application of voluntary product standards, mandatory technical regulations, and the procedures (such as testing or certification) used to determine whether a particular product meets such standards or regulations.  The aim of the TBT Agreement is to prevent the use of technical requirements as unnecessary barriers to trade.

Although the TBT Agreement applies to a broad range of industrial and agricultural products, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and specifications for government procurement are covered under separate agreements. The TBT Agreement rules help to distinguish legitimate standards and technical regulations from protectionist measures. Standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures are to be developed and applied on a nondiscriminatory basis, developed and applied transparently, and should be based on relevant international standards and guidelines, when appropriate.

The USTR WTO & Multilateral Affairs (WAMA) office has responsibility for trade discussions and negotiations, as well as policy coordination, on issues related technical barriers to trade and standards-related activities.


Text of the TBT Agreement

USA WTO TBT Enquiry Point – All WTO Members are obliged to maintain an Enquiry Point that is able to answer questions from interested parties and other WTO Members regarding technical regulations, standards developed by government bodies, and conformity assessment procedures, as well as provide relevant documents. The TBT Agreement also requires that WTO Members notify the WTO of certain proposed technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures so interested parties can become acquainted with them and have an opportunity to submit written comments prior to their finalization and entry into force. The enquiry point and notification authority for the United States is operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce.   REGISTER FOR ePing to receive e-mail notification alerts. 

The WTO TBT gateway provides direct links to all information provided by the WTO that is relevant to the TBT Agreement including:

• an introduction to WTO rules on technical barriers to trade and understanding the TBT agreement

• a technical explanation of the WTO Agreement on TBT

• annual reports and reviews from the TBT committee along with TBT committee meeting minutes and decisions and recommendations

• subscription to receive TBT notifications by e-mail, and

• notification by members, of events and mutual recognition agreements under the TBT agreement.


The free trade agreements concluded by the United States also contain a chapter with provisions on technical barriers to trade that must be met in order to claim preferential treatment under the agreement. These chapters can be accessed under Free Trade Agreements.