UNCTAD Non-Tariff Measures Week

Organised by
9 October 2018 to 11 October 2018
Geneva, Switzerland

UNCTAD defines NTMs as regulatory and non-regulatory measures that have a de facto impact on international trade, including licencing, procurement practices, subsidies, public SPS standards and voluntary sustainability standards (VSS). A high-level panel at the beginning of the week highlighted concrete cases of how NTMs can have an adverse impact on exports from developing countries. Key points from an ICTSD perspective from the rest of the week include:

  • There should be more transparency in how standards are adopted, regardless of whether they are public or private, so that producers in developing countries know who is blocking their exports and can try to address the problem;
  • Within developing countries, good regulatory practice can streamline the NTMs and reduce the cost of producing and exporting: several countries have participated in World Bank and OECD projects to encourage such practices;
  • At an international level, it’s important to promote regulatory harmonization around NTMs. Within the East African community, for example, there is a mechanism to discuss any new regulations and resolve issues. Using a common NTM classification and mutual recognition of each other’s rules is crucial. Adopting international rules, like from Codex Alimentarius, can help harmonization around standards;
  • A key part of UNCTAD work in recent years has been building an extensive database of such NTMs, covering 109 countries and 90% of trade, based on their statistical classification of each of these measures. This data complements ITC’s StandardsMap, which has info on VSS, and ITC firm-level data on standards adoption;
  • This database is used in the analysis of a new book by UNCTAD and the World Bank, entitled “The Unseen Impact of NTMs: Insights from a new database”. The book focuses on NTMs in the context WTO, TFA and SDGs, and assesses the effects of NTMs on market access.
  • UNCTAD also has a new book “Non-Tariff Measures: Economic Assessment and Policy Option for Development” which provides an overview of the evolving role of NTMs in the multilateral policy framework and how these measures affect development strategies. This book provides an overview of analytical tools for the assessment of how NTMs impact socio-economic development.
  • The UN Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) presented its new 3rdflagship report, which focuses on trade and VSS. The first chapter is by the European University Institute and essentially points out that VSS have a direct influence on sustainable development, by changing the way production is done; and indirectly, because VSS affects trade which affects sustainable development. They then look at all the requirements mentioned in VSS documents using ITC’s standards map, benchmark them against the SDGs, and find that some SDGs are much less represented (eg gender). The second part of the report is on the experience of the UNFSS national platforms.