Liaison between WTO and IEC
The WTO (World Trade Organization) is the international organization dealing with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.
IEC – together with ISO and ITU – has built a strategic partnership with WTO. The political agreements reached within the framework of WTO require underpinning by technical agreements. IEC, ISO, and ITU, as the three principal organizations in international standardization, have the complementary scopes, the framework, the expertise and the experience to provide this technical support for the growth of the global market.
The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)
The WTO TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) Agreement – sometimes referred to as the Standards Code – aims to reduce impediments to trade resulting from differences between national regulations and standards. As far as international consensus-based standards are concerned, the Agreement invites the signatory governments to ensure that the standardizing bodies in their countries accept and comply with a "Code of good practice for the preparation, adoption and application of standards", embodied in Annex 3 to the Agreement and which is known as the WTO Code of Good Practice.
On behalf of the WTO, the ISO/IEC Information Centre records the acceptance of this Code by the national standards institutes.
Background to the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade
The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade is one of the 29 individual legal texts of the WTO Agreements which obliges Members to ensure that technical regulations, voluntary standards and conformity assessment procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. Annex 3 of the TBT Agreement is the Code of Good Practice for the Preparation, Adoption and Application of Standards. In accepting the TBT Agreement, WTO Members agree to ensure that their central government standardizing bodies accept and comply with this Code of Good Practice and agree also to take reasonable measures to ensure that local government, non-governmental and regional standardizing bodies do the same (for the definition of "standardizing bodies" see ISO/IEC Guide 2). The Code is therefore open to acceptance by all such bodies.
The contribution of international standards
The TBT Agreement recognizes the important contribution that international standards and conformity assessment systems can make to improving efficiency of production and facilitating international trade. Where international standards exist or their completion is imminent, therefore, the Code of Good Practice says that standardizing bodies should use them, or the relevant parts of them, as a basis for standards they develop. It also aims at the harmonization of standards on as wide a basis as possible, encouraging all standardizing bodies to play as full a part as resources allow in the preparation of international standards by the relevant international body, including the IEC and ISO.
In the interest of transparency, the Code requires that standardizing bodies that have accepted its terms notify this fact to the ISO/IEC Information Centre. At least once every six months, standardizing bodies having accepted the Code must publish their work programmes and also notify the existence of their work programmes to the ISO/IEC Information Centre. Other important provisions relate to the preparation, adoption and application of standards.
The contribution of the IEC
IEC International Standards in all fields of electrotechnology are endorsed by the WTO in the WTO TBT Agreement. When the Affiliate Country Programme was launched in 2001, the then WTO Director General complimented the IEC, the programme being an appropriate tool to enhance the participation of WTO developing countries in international standardization activities.
On a regular basis, the IEC gives a report on its activities and support to the IEC Family at WTO TBT Committee meetings.