Products must comply with the technical regulations of the importing country and their conformity with these regulations needs to be assessed for them to be placed on the market. If the technical regulations of the two countries are different, two product ranges may need to be produced, one for each market. Furthermore, if the conformity assessments (such as tests, inspections or certification) carried out by the exporting country are not recognised by the importing country, the producer must have the product assessed in the exporting country as well as the importing country (double conformity assessment), if the product is placed on both markets. Different technical regulations or a failure to recognise conformity assessments pose a barrier to international trade, which is considered a technical barriers to trade. Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) are one instrument to remove such barriers to trade.
Objective and scope of MRA
The MRA’s objective is to reduce technical barriers to trade and to provide products largely unfettered access to foreign markets. There are two types of MRA: the so called «traditional» agreements and the «extended» agreements.
Traditional Mutual Recognition Agreements
In a traditional MRA, an importing country can pledge to recognise the conformity assessments carried out in an exporting country under the following two conditions: (1) the product in question has been produced according to the technical regulations of the importing country, and (2) the conformity assessment was conducted by a conformity assessment body of the exporting country which has been recognized under the MRA by the importing country (avoid double conformity assessments). The Mutual Recognition Agreement between Switzerland and Canada is based on this approach.
Extended Mutual Recognition Agreements
If the technical regulations of two Parties to an agreement are harmonised in certain product sectors, they may be deemed equivalent under the extended MRA. In that case, only one conformity assessment needs to be carried out for a product to be marketed in both countries. The assessment can be conducted by a competent conformity assessment body of the exporting country (recognised under the agreement) according to the technical regulations of the exporting country. The Agreement concluded between Switzerland and the EU, and the Agreement concluded between Switzerland and the EEA/EFTA states follow this extended approach.