Technical regulations regulate the nature, packaging or manufacture of products and thus address public interests such as health or environmental protection. If trading partners apply different technical regulations for the same product or do not mutually recognise the conformity assessment* for a product, this leads to technical barriers to trade in cross-border goods traffic and to additional costs for exporting companies. The multilateral agreements of the WTO define the international framework for preventing and removing unnecessary technical barriers to trade (TBT and SPS agreements). Building on these agreements, Switzerland aims to further reduce such technical barriers to trade through bilateral FTAs. To this end, agreements are concluded on the development of technical regulations, cooperation between authorities, transparency, exchange of information or recognition of conformity assessment results in certain product sectors.
*For products to be placed on the market, they must be tested for compliance with the relevant technical regulations (conformity assessment). Conformity must be demonstrated by procedures prescribed by the authorities (conformity assessment procedures).
Provisions in the TBT/SPS area contribute to the reduction of technical barriers to trade. Against the background of increasing tariff dismantling, such regulations are becoming increasingly important for the marketing of numerous industrial and agricultural products.
FTAs with important trading partners complement the multilateral agreements of the WTO in so far as the contracting parties agree on provisions which are not covered by the WTO agreements. These include clarifications of international standards, the recognition of certain inspections in the field of pharmaceuticals or simplifications for the marketing of industrial products such as electrical equipment, as well as principles for product labelling or bilateral procedures for market opening for the export of dairy and meat products. The exchange of information between the authorities creates additional transparency between trading partners. Cooperation can also be intensified on specific topics (e.g. animal welfare). Consultation mechanisms ensure that specific technical barriers to trade can be addressed by the trading partners.
Further information on technical barriers to trade can be found here.
FAQs on technical barriers to trade (SPS/TBT)
No, FTAs do not lead to a reduction in the level of protection, nor do they seek to harmonise technical regulations between trading partners. Irrespective of an FTA, imported products must comply with the technical regulations of the importing country in order to be legally marketed.
Last modification 09.09.2020