The Importance of Technical Barriers to Agri-Food Trade: Evidence from the TBT Specific Trade Concerns Raised at the WTO

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Virginia Tech. Global Issues Initiative


This Working Paper distinguishes between 212 specific trade concerns (STCs) related to regulatory measures affecting trade of agri-food products and 336 concerning other products. These STCs were discussed at the WTO during 1995-2017 with respect to members’ rights and obligations under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The paper has three broad components. First, we document an increase not decline in the relative importance of STCs concerning agri-food products in a recent (2006-2017) compared to early (1995-2005) sub-period. Second, we assess the frequencies and correlations among objectives of members whose regulatory measures STCs have been directed toward and the issues raised by members with concerns about those measures. We find a number of broad similarities between the STCs concerning agri-food and other product but also some important differences. Third, our analysis addresses participation of 73 members in these STCs, distinguishing at an aggregated level between developed and developing members and disaggregating into eight groups based on WTO self-designation and World Bank income criteria. Developed members raising STCs directed toward developing members dominates participation concerning both agri-food and other products, followed by developing members raising STCs directed toward developed members. Disaggregation into the eight groups provides additional insights.



Agriculture, Food, Specific Trade Concerns (STCs), Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs), World Trade Organization (WTO), Developed Countries, Developing Countries