Non-Tariff Measures in Regional Trade Agreements in Asia and the Pacific: SPS, TBT and Government Procurement

Working paper26 Sep 2019

This study reviews the extent to which Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) in Asia and the Pacific address three types of Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs): Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Government Procurement (GP). The analysis covers 58 RTAs signed or/and in force from 2009 to 2018 in Asia and the Pacific. RTAs signed on or after 2014 are found to include more NTM provisions than those signed earlier. Essentially all RTAs signed in the past five years feature extensive provisions on SPS and TBT, with strong links to the WTO SPS and TBT agreements. The number of RTAs featuring provisions on Government Procurement has increased sharply from around 50% prior to 2014, to nearly 80% for RTAs signed over the past five years, although these more recent RTAs refer less frequently to the plurilateral Government Procurement Agreement under the WTO. Provisions aimed at enhancing transparency for all three types of NTMs are commonly found. SPS and TBT provisions go further than those for Government Procurement, with establishment of focal points and dedicated committees to advance cooperation also commonly found, along with provisions on achieving mutual recognition of conformance procedures or equivalences. References to international standards, and the need for harmonization based on these standards, have increased but implementation remains very much of a best endeavour nature. The ratings of the 58 RTAs according to the NTM provisions they contain confirms that the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement goes further than most other RTAs in these areas and set a new global benchmark. Going forward, there is a scope for further strengthening of the NTM rules through RTAs, including through more systematic linkages to the provisions on capacity building and technical assistance for developing members.