There is a proliferation of technical regulations and standards worldwide to address a range of concerns, including product safety and the protection of the environment. Like the SPS Chapter, the TBT Chapter seeks to guarantee the right of PACER Plus Parties to adopt legitimate measures such as those aimed at protecting human, animal or plant life or health or the environment, preventing deceptive practices and protecting essential security interests and at the same time avoid unnecessary obstacles to trade. TBT measures seek to regulate a broad range of issues, including the size of a product, its shape, weight, design, performance, functionality and packaging.
Given their broad coverage, it could be costly for producers and exporters to comply with them, as they may have to seek the services of experts in the destination market, adjust their production processes to ensure compliance with the relevant measures and pay for firms to assess compliance with the relevant technical regulations and standards. These costs could discourage small producers from looking for markets abroad and thereby discourage trade between the parties.
PACER Plus Parties aim at following the disciplines contained in the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, under which a distinction is drawn between a technical regulation and a standard. The main difference between the two is that under the former, compliance with the measure is mandatory, whilst in the case of the latter it is voluntary. Conformity assessment procedures are the procedures used to determine whether a party’s technical regulations and standards have been complied with. These may include product testing, inspection, verification and certification processes.
Under the TBT Agreement, WTO Members are required not to accord less favourable treatment to any goods compared to like products of national origin or in any other Party. They are also encouraged to base their measures on international standards where they exist. Like the SPS Agreement, a measure which is based on international standard creates a rebuttable presumption that it is consistent with the TBT Agreement. The PACER Plus Parties aim at harmonizing their TBT measures and take measures to promote equivalence and the mutual recognition of each other’s TBT measures.
The Parties intend to promote transparency through the publication of all relevant TBT measures and giving each other the opportunity to comment on draft measures that could have a significant impact on trade. They also intend to enhance cooperation between them on matters covered in the Chapter. It is expected that Australia and New Zealand will provide the necessary assistance to the FICs, particularly the non-WTO Members, to implement their obligations under the Chapter and enhance their market access opportunities in the agreement.