Project Title

Strengthening Understanding of the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement 

Project Year

2022   

Project Number

SCSC 05 2022A 

Project Session

Session 2   

Project Type

Standard 

Project Status

Completed Project   
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Project No.

SCSC 05 2022A 

Project Title

Strengthening Understanding of the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement 

Project Status

Completed Project 

Publication (if any)

 

Fund Account

APEC Support Fund 

Sub-fund

ASF: General Fund 

Project Year

2022 

Project Session

Session 2 

APEC Funding

95,000 

Co-funding Amount

Total Project Value

95,000 

Sponsoring Forum

Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance (SCSC) 

Topics

Conformance; Standards 

Committee

Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) 

Other Fora Involved

 

Other Non-APEC Stakeholders Involved

 

Proposing Economy(ies)

United States 

Co-Sponsoring Economies

Australia; Canada; China; Indonesia; Japan; New Zealand; Peru; Philippines; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand 

Expected Start Date

01/12/2022 

Expected Completion Date

31/05/2024 

Project Proponent Name 1

Kent Shigetomi 

Job Title 1

Director 

Organization 1

Office of the US Trade Representative 

Postal Address 1

Not Applicable 

Telephone 1

(1-202) 3959459 

Fax 1

Not Applicable 

Email 1

Kent_Shigetomi@ustr.eop.gov 

Project Proponent Name 2

Not Applicable 

Job Title 2

Not Applicable 

Organization 2

Not Applicable 

Postal Address 2

Not Applicable 

Telephone 2

Not Applicable 

Fax 2

Not Applicable 

Email 2

Not Applicable 

Declaration

Kent Shigetomi 

Project Summary

The importance of non-tariff measures such as technical regulations has become more salient as tariffs have been reduced by successive trade liberalization.  The WTO has seen a growth in the number of specific trade concerns raised in the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.  Over 50 disputes have cited inconsistency with the TBT Agreement.  Economies recognize the need to improve good regulatory practices (GRP), but regulators are often unaware of the trade implications of the measures they develop. 

This project will organize a workshop to be held at SOM 1 in 2023.  Work would begin with a survey of economies to identify issues of interest.  The workshop would cover the importance of regulatory quality in the development of technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures and consistency with the TBT Agreement.


Relevance

Issues: Implementation of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) remains a priority for APEC economies.  Within the WTO TBT Committee, consideration of specific trade concerns (STC), or issues that one WTO member has with the regulatory measures of another member, have grown each year.  In 1995, the WTO received 365 notifications under the TBT Agreement; by 2021, that figure had grown more than tenfold to 3,966.  Implementation of the TBT Agreement has led to disputes, as well.  Fifty-seven WTO disputes have cited the TBT Agreement in the request for consultations. 

APEC economies recognize that their standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures remain a priority.  In the 2020 RAASR Individual Action Plans, more economies cited regulatory improvement as an area for work than any other issue.  Twelve APEC economies described work to improve regulatory quality, and to apply good regulatory practices (GRP), and to analyze the very structure of their regulatory process.  Under the EASSR, regulatory reform is described as contributing to environment for transparent and competitive markets.  Thus, APEC must continue disseminating information on the benefits of high-level support for regulatory reform, especially when non-tariff barriers to trade and restrictions to investment became the forefront of market access issues. 

Regulatory quality has a direct effect on trade.  Research has shown that when standards-related measures are outdated, overly burdensome, discriminatory, or otherwise inappropriate, such measures can reduce competition, stifle innovation, and create unnecessary technical barriers to trade. These kinds of measures can pose a particular problem for SMEs, which often do not have the resources to address these problems on their own. 

Eligibility and Fund Priorities: This concept note seeks funding from the APEC Support Fund – General Fund.  The project aims to improve implementation of the WTO TBT Agreement and regulatory quality in all economies—particularly developing economies.  

1) Economic and Trade Policies that Strengthen Recovery:  The project will boost regulators’ knowledge of and familiarity with the WTO TBT Agreement.  This will contribute to higher quality technical regulations and greater consistency with international obligations.  Greater consistency will theoretically lead to fewer trade concerns and increased trade. 

2) Promoting inclusive and sustainable growth, including for recovery:  Some APEC economies have been able to apply technology to speed up the review of pending technical regulations or to collect comments on pending measures.  We aim to share these ideas with participants. 

3) Facilitating Trade and Investment:  WTO-inconsistent technical regulations have the ability to cut off economies from the rest of the economy by imposing requirements that other economies are unable to fulfill. This project seeks to reduce trade barriers and boost overall trade. 

Capacity Building: This project is intended to strengthen the ability of regulators in all economies—and particularly those in developing economies—to understand and adhere to the obligations in the TBT Agreement.  In the 2020 RAASR survey, 12 economies identified aspects of regulatory improvement as a priority.  Nine of these 12 were developing economies.  By enhancing the ability of regulators to understand and apply the TBT Agreement, economies will be able to produce higher quality regulations that fulfil legitimate public policy objectives, while not creating unnecessary barriers to trade. 

The TBT Agreement contains rules that help ensure that standards-related measures serve legitimate objectives, are transparent, and do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade.  If implementation can be improved, we should see fewer trade disputes and increased trade between economies.  Regulations that have been developed consistently with the TBT Agreement will have greater stakeholder acceptance because more parties were given an opportunity to consider the measure and submit comments.  Implementing the measure will be easier because operational problems will have already been identified and addressed.  If international (rather than economy-specific) standards were used in the technical regulation, then it will be easier for all economies to produce goods that are consistent with the standard.  This increased trade would lead to greater prosperity and lower costs.

Objectives

The objective is to improve understanding of the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement and, over the long term, help to reduce the number of technical regulations raised as specific trade concerns.  The project aims to accomplish this through a workshop that brings together regulators,  stakeholders, and representatives of outside organizations.  The project will seek to share information about ways to improve the quality of technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures and address implementation issues.  For example, information about using technology to collect and respond to public comments, conduct simplified regulatory impact analysis, and work across agencies may be of interest to economies.

Alignment

Alignment to APEC: Regulatory quality has deep roots within APEC.  Section C.2 of the Osaka Action Agenda called on economies to “ensur[e] the transparency of APEC economies' respective non-tariff measures.”  APEC has long realized the important role of regulatory quality.  The Putrajaya Vision 2040 calls for work to create a “transparent and predictable trade and investment environment” through “support for agreed upon rules of the WTO.”  The Aotearoa Plan of Action includes commitments to “promote macro-economic policies…that promot[e] good regulatory practices and regulatory cooperation.”  To pursue structural reform, economies have agreed to work in these two areas.  Thailand’s priority to remain “open to all opportunities” envisions work to adapt and strengthen “domestic policies and institutions…, including economic and legal infrastructure, regulatory practices, as well as public sector and corporate governance.”  Each SCSC Meeting includes updates of the work in the WTO TBT and SPS committees.

Alignment to Forum: The SCSC “endeavour[s] to reduce technical barriers to trade and enhance market access through standards and conformance.”  SCSC’s terms of reference also includes work to “ensure greater transparency” and “promote and encourage participation in standards education and awareness programs to build capacity and capability.”

TILF/ASF Justification

Not Applicable.

Beneficiaries and Outputs

Outputs: 

1) Workshop: The main focus of the project is to organize and stage a two-day, in-person workshop in the United States on the margins of SCSC 1 (February 2023).  The Project Overseer will circulate a survey to economies prior to the workshop in order to gauge interest in specific issues.  Based on the results of the survey, the workshop may include sessions devoted to the relevance of the WTO TBT Agreement; Regulatory Impact Assessment and Cost-Benefit Risk Analysis; Developing Effective Technical Regulations, the WTO Jurisprudence on TBT disciplines; Approaches to Conformity Assessment; Regulatory Coherence in Trade Agreements; Regulatory Cooperation; and Private Sector Perspectives on the Development of Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessment Procedures. 

2) The focus of the workshop is to bridge the knowledge gap between regulators and trade officials.  Regulators develop mandatory government policies.  These measures are notified to the WTO, where they are questioned and sometimes challenged by other members.  Trade officials must defend their economy’s domestic regulations, sometimes using formal dispute settlement procedures.  If regulators knew more about the TBT Agreement obligations and the possible consequences of their actions, they may take more care to draft measures that are consistent with WTO obligations. 

3) Report: An electronic report that will be available to all economies will be developed at the end of the workshop.  It will contain the agenda, materials/presentations, summary of recent related work within APEC, and conclusions from the event. These materials will be e-mailed to participants and will be made available in the APEC website. 

4) Recommendations:  Recommendations for future work will be prepared as part of the report guided by the discussions/results of the workshop.  The project overseer will also survey and compile feedback from participants, especially input related to possible areas for future capacity-building activities. 

Outcomes:

1) Enhanced ability of regulators in APEC economies to understand and apply the obligations of the TBT Agreement in their work.

2) Increased understanding by project participants of the role and importance of stakeholder engagement in developing strong standards-related measures.

3) Increased knowledge amongst regulators in APEC economies on the relationship between their actions and international trade, specifically WTO-related effects. 

Beneficiaries: The target participants for this project will primarily be regulators in APEC economies.  However, since the quality of regulations is enhanced by transparency and broad opportunities for public comment, we intend to invite other government officials (e.g., trade), the private sector, and NGOs. All relevant materials will be made available to non-participants free of charge on the APEC website. It is expected that SCSC members will share the outcomes from the workshop within their governments. 

Women will actively participate in the planning, management, allocation of resources, and implementation of the project and will play key decision-making roles in planning the workshop. The project overseer will actively encourage the participation of women in the workshop, including as presenters at the workshop.  The project overseer will also seek to include material related to how differences between men and women affect regulatory development.  The project overseer is committed to collecting sex disaggregated data for all speakers and participants (not only those funded by APEC) at the project event. This data will be included when submitting a Completion Report to the Secretariat upon completion of the project, as well as providing guidance to future POs on their own gender parity targets. 

Description of Appropriate Workshop Participants: 

1) Regulators:  This workshop is intended to enhance regulators’ expertise with the TBT Agreement, so regulators are the ideal participants.  Officials from government agencies should have a basic understanding of the rulemaking procedures in their economy and the WTO TBT and/or SPS agreements.  Ideally, they should have line or supervisory responsibility for the development or implementation of regulations in their economy. 

2) Private Sector and Civil Society:  Sound standards-related measures should be developed through a process that provides for meaningful consultation with the public.  As a result, representatives of organizations that regularly review and provide comments to draft measures are also ideal participants.  Private sector participants should have experience providing comments on draft technical regulations, standards, or conformity assessment procedures.  They should be familiar with the rulemaking or standards development processes in their home economy.  In addition, representatives of organizations that represent SMEs or women-owned businesses would also provide a different perspective.  Specifically, the project overseer will consult with advisory committees that provide input on trade-related issues to the U.S. government (see “Gender,” below).  The project overseer will also consult with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, which houses the central regulatory body in the United States.  Finally, the project overseer will consult with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which has deep experience in identifying and incorporating the views of small and medium-sized organizations. 

3) Representatives of international organizations: Other multilateral organizations have conducted important work on GRP and the application of the TBT Agreement.  An official from the WTO Secretariat would be an obvious speaker on the subject of WTO jurisprudence.  Officials from the OECD, the APEC Specialist Regional Bodies (SRBs), and individual standards development organizations and conformity assessment bodies would also benefit from the workshop. These participants will have experience similar to that of regulators (e.g., transparency, public comment), or they will have background in the relevant international trade obligations. 

4) Representatives of Other APEC Groups:  The application of the TBT Agreement and good regulatory practice have been discussed in other APEC groups.  The Economic Committee has responsibility with the SCSC to organize the annual conference on GRP and has conducted GRP work on its own.  The SMEWG has done work to strengthen the relationship between industry and regulators.  The project overseer will reach out to other APEC groups to encourage participation.

Dissemination

1) The number, form and content of any publications:  The results of the workshop will be captured into a written document that can be published electronically on the APEC website. The electronic publication will include the workshop agenda, presentations, curricula vitae of speakers and a summary report of the workshop. This information will be accessible to the public following the workshop to ensure that only updated information is reflected therein.

2) Channels of dissemination:  Only the APEC website will be used to share workshop results.

3) The target audience:  The target audience would include government regulators, organizations that develop standards or conformity assessment procedures, trade officials, and representatives of trade associations.

4) Any intention to sell outputs arising from this project:  There is no intention to sell the outputs arising from this project. Member economies will be encouraged to disseminate results of the workshop with their respective agencies and business communities through their websites.

Gender

Both men and women in the APEC region are affected by standards-related measures. Standards-related measures that are nontransparent, discriminatory, or otherwise unwarranted can act as significant barriers to trade.  Such measures can pose a particular problem for SMEs, minority-owned businesses, and women-owned businesses, which often do not have the resources to address these problems on their own.  Consequently, the project overseer will make a strong effort to reach out to SMEs and women-owned businesses to encourage their participation.  In addition, technical regulations may be written for male body types and, as a result, may unknowingly be unfit for women.  For example, safety protections in autos may be geared for average male bodies, and may be unsuitable for female bodies.

The team of officials in the United States that is overseeing the project include both male and female officials. The proposing economy leads are facilitated by both genders according to the Guide on Gender Criteria for APEC Project Proposals of the Guidebook on APEC Projects.

The project overseer will consult closely with the advisory committees who provide input on trade issues to the U.S. Government, including the Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Small and Minority Businesses, a group of business persons who will also be able to provide the views of women-owned businesses.  The project overseer will consult with other economies to identify similar groups that can provide input.

               Targets

Female Participants (%)

50 percent

Female Speakers/Experts (%)

50 percent

Referring to the Guide on Gender Criteria for APEC Project Proposals in the Guidebook on APEC Projects, please tick the pillar or pillars that this project supports, in promoting women’s economic empowerment:

5 Pillars (you may tick more than one)

1

Access to Capital and Assets

2

Access to Markets

X

3

Skills, Capacity Building, and Health

X

4

Leadership, Voice and Agency

5

Innovation and Technology

X



Work Plan

Timeline

Tasks

Deliverables

Mid December 2022

Identify venue and confirm logistical arrangements

Confirmation of venue and logistical arrangements

Mid December 2022

Anticipated notification by PMU that the project proposal has been approved.

Formal work may begin

December 2022

Circulate a survey through the Subcommittee on Standards and Conformance (SCSC) to share information on the project timeline and to request participation in a pre-workshop questionnaire that will ask about priority areas of interest.

Assemble U.S. project implementation team and assign specific tasks (e.g., logistics, data analysis, participant identification).

Indications of interest from economies on areas to focus on

Early January 2023

Collect results of questionnaire, draft agenda and begin reaching out to potential speakers.  Once the date of SOM 1 and the workshop have been set, notify travel eligible economies and ask for nominations for participants.  Draft the General Information Circular (GIC).

Draft agenda and speaker list.

Mid-January 2023

Finalize agenda and speaker lists.  Approve travel plans for delegates from travel eligible economies.

Finalize participant list and speakers.

February 2023

Hold workshop at SOM 1. After the event, circulate post-event survey.

Workshop implemented

1 April 2023

Submit APEC Project Monitoring Report to APEC Secretariat

Submit final draft Project Summary Report to Secretariat for review and forum endorsement

APEC Project Monitoring Report

Draft Project Summary Report

August 2023

Submit APEC Project Completion Report and supporting documents to the Secretariat

APEC Project Completion Report

August 2023

Provide in-person report at SCSC2 2023 / SOM3 2023. 

PowerPoint presentation

May 2024

Compile workshop notes into a report.

Final report

6-12 months after project completion

Participate in the Longer Tern Evaluation of APEC Projects (LTEAP) survey

Completed LTEAP survey


Risks

No.

Risks

How will it be managed?

1

The United States has only recently identified the host city for SOM 1 in 2023 (Palm Springs, California).  The short notice may make the process of arranging for speaker and participant travel more difficult.

The project overseer will stay in close communication with site decisionmakers in order to minimize disruption.

2

The dates for the workshop may conflict with other international TBT-related meetings, such as the WTO TBT Committee meeting.  This could affect availability of speakers and participants.

The WTO recently set the date of the next TBT Committee meeting for March 8-10, 2023, which should eliminate the risk of conflict.

3

The United States requires diplomatic visas for government officials of other economies.  These officials cannot enter the United States on their tourist passports.  It takes time to process diplomatic visa applications.

When the project overseer sends out a request for nominations from travel eligible economies, he will note the visa requirement and the need for prompt responses.  The same will apply for workshop speakers.


Monitoring and Evaluation

Evaluation Focus

Indicators

Target Goals

Evaluation Method

Reporting Method

Outputs

1.   Workshop Pre-

paration

Drafting, circulation, and analysis of pre-workshop survey to identify specific areas of interest

31 Dec 2022

Analysis of questionnaire

Communication with economies through circulation of workshop agenda

No. of participants (excl. speakers/experts)

60

Survey responses

Completion Report

No. of speakers/experts engaged

8

Event Attendance List

Completion Report

No. of responding APEC economies

16

Survey responses

Completion Report

No. of responding travel eligible economies

11

Event Attendance List

Completion Report

2.   Workshop (SOM 1, 2023)

1.    No. of participants (excl. speakers/ experts)

60

Event Attendance List

Completion Report

2.    % of participating men/women (excl. speakers/experts)

50/50

Event Attendance List

Completion Report

3.    No. of speakers/
experts engaged

5

Event Attendance List

Completion Report

4.    % of speakers/
experts (men/women)

50/50

Event Attendance List

Completion Report

5.    No. of attending economies

16

Event Attendance List

Completion Report

6.    No. of travel eligible economies

11

Event Attendance List

Completion Report

3.    Project Summary Report

1.    No. of pages

12 pages

Certification by PO

Email to the Secretariat

2.    No. of recommendations identified

5

Through discussion and summary of event

Completion Report

3.    Submission to the Secretariat

31 May 2024

Submission to the Secretariat

Email to the Secretariat

Outcomes

Enhanced ability of regulators in APEC economies to understand and apply the obligations of the TBT Agreement in their work

1.    Application of workshop material in daily work

Late 2022

Tracking economies six months after event, ex post evaluation

Completion report

Increased understanding by project participants of the role and importance of stakeholder engagement in developing strong standards-related measures.

1.   Analysis of concerns raised in WTO TBT committee related to APEC economy participants

Early 2024

Ex-ante and ex-post evaluations

Completion Report

Increased knowledge amongst regulators in APEC economies on the relationship between their actions and international trade, specifically WTO-related effects

1. Application of workshop material in daily work

Late 2022

Tracking economies six months after event, ex post evaluation

Completion report

Others


Linkages

There is a strong relationship between technical barriers to trade (TBT) and good regulatory practices (GRP).  The WTO TBT Agreement establishes rules on developing, adopting, and applying voluntary product standards and mandatory technical regulations as well as conformity assessment procedures (such as testing or certification) used to determine whether a particular product meets such standards or regulations.  Technical regulations developed using good regulatory practices incorporate the views of diverse stakeholders and are less likely to be problematic.  As a result of this nexus, the project overseer will stay in close communication with the organizer of the 2023 APEC GRP conference in order to avoid overlap and promote efficiencies.  The workshop conclusions will be presented to the SCSC, CTI, and Economic Committee.  The results will be shared with the WTO Secretariat to determine if a presentation to the WTO TBT Committee is warranted. 

This project’s advantage is that it seeks to bridge the gap between regulators and trade officials.  Regulators typically focus their efforts on products sold in or actions that take place within their economies.  Trade officials must react to the responses of external trading partners who are affected by regulatory action.  This workshop will educate regulators on their responsibilities under trade agreements and the effect of their actions on trading partners.  Similarly, the workshop aims to provide trade officials with greater insight into the domestic procedures in APEC economies so that they can understand policymaking.

Sustainability

The workshop will take place in February 2023.  Through an analysis of the specific trade concerns raised at the WTO TBT Committee meetings in 2023 and early 2024, the project overseer will seek to determine if any concerns are raised with the technical regulations developed by agencies represented at the APEC workshop.  It should be noted that the available evidence from such an analysis is limited and agency-specific.  Consequently, approximately six months after the workshop, the project overseer will reach out to attendees to collect information related to application of information from the workshop in day-to-day work.  This reporting will be captured in the final report submitted in 2024.

Project Overseers

Kent Shigetomi, an official within the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, will serve as the project overseer.  He is currently one of two vice-chairs of the APEC Subcommittee on Standards and Conformance (SCSC), and will become the chair in 2023.  Mr. Shigetomi has served as the sole or joint project overseer on five APEC projects, the last of which was completed in 2022.

Cost Efficiency

Not Applicable.

Drawdown Timetable

Not Applicable.

Direct Labour

Not Applicable.

Waivers

Not Applicable.

Are there any supporting document attached?

No 
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Version HistoryVersion History

Project No.

Project Title

Project Status

Publication (if any)

Fund Account

Sub-fund

Project Year

Project Session

APEC Funding

Co-funding Amount

Total Project Value

Sponsoring Forum

Topics

Committee

Other Fora Involved

Other Non-APEC Stakeholders Involved

Proposing Economy(ies)

Co-Sponsoring Economies

Expected Start Date

Expected Completion Date

Project Proponent Name 1

Job Title 1

Organization 1

Postal Address 1

Telephone 1

Fax 1

Email 1

Project Proponent Name 2

Job Title 2

Organization 2

Postal Address 2

Telephone 2

Fax 2

Email 2

Declaration

Project Summary

Relevance

Objectives

Alignment

TILF/ASF Justification

Beneficiaries and Outputs

Dissemination

Gender

Work Plan

Risks

Monitoring and Evaluation

Linkages

Sustainability

Project Overseers

Cost Efficiency

Drawdown Timetable

Direct Labour

Waivers

Are there any supporting document attached?

hdFldAdmin

Project Number

Previous Fora

Secretariat Comments

Reprogramming Notes

Consolidated QAF

Endorsement By Fora

PD Sign Off

Batch

Forum Priority

Committee Ranking Category

Committee Priority

PDM Priority

Priority Within Funding Category

Monitoring Report Received

Completion Report Received

PMU Field 1

PMU Field 2

PMU Field 3

On Behalf Of

Proposal Status

Originating Sub-Forum

Approval Status
Attachments
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