Technical Barriers to Trade
What are Technical Barriers to Trade?
Governments have a right to regulate for legitimate purposes that are to protect inter alia, the national security, the protection of human life, health and safety, the protection of animal or
plant life and health, the protection of the environment and the prevention of deceptive practices. Regulations should not cause unnecessary barrier to international trade. When standards,
technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures cause barriers to trade it can be seen as a technical barrier to trade.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has a multilateral trade agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) that provides provisions to Members on how to deal with standards, technical regulations
and conformity assessment procedures to prevent technical barriers. The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) is responsible for South Africa's participation in the WTO and ensures
compliance with TBT rights and obligations domestically through the South African Interdepartmental Coordination and Advisory Committee on TBT.
South African TBT Webpage
The South African Interdepartmental Coordination and Advisory Committee on TBT are co-chaired by the dti
Market Access Unit and the dti
Technical Infrastructure Unit.
(Market access unit) has the responsibility for market access related trade negotiations and the South African implementation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Technical Barrier to Trade (TBT) Agreement, and therefore ensures that the obligations under the TBT Agreement are fulfilled.
the dti's contact details for WTO TBT matters are as follows:
The Director: Market Access
International Trade and Economic Development Division
Department of Trade and Industry
Private Bag X84
Tel.: +27 12 394 9500
Fax: +27 12 394 9501
the dti (Technical Infrastructure Unit)
Technical Infrastructure Unit ensures that South Africa's technical infrastructure meets with domestic, regional and international market demands, complies with international
standards, technical regulations and best practices. The unit is responsible for policy development and strategic direction in area of technical infrastructure by closely working with the
Technical Infrastructure entities namely SANAS, SABS, NRCS and NMISA.
The Technical Infrastructure entities
South African National Accreditation System (SANAS)
SANAS is South Africa's sole national accreditation body, responsible for carrying out accreditations in respect of conformity assessment, as mandated through the Accreditation for Conformity
Assessment, Calibration and Good Laboratory Practice Act (Act 19 of 2006). Its primary role is to provide an internationally recognised and effective accreditation system, and to give formal
recognition that laboratories, certification bodies, inspection bodies, proficiency testing scheme providers and good laboratory practice (GLP) test facilities are competent to carry out specific
National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS)
NRCS was established in accordance with the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications Act, 2008 (Act No. 5 of 2008). The legislative mandate of the NRCS is derived from the following:
The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications Act, (Act no. 5 of 2008), The Legal Metrology Act, (Act No. 9 of 2014 ), The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act,
(Act No. 103 of 1977). It administers compulsory specifications and other technical regulations on behalf of the dti
to protect human health and safety as well as the environment,
and ensure fair trade in accordance with government policies and guidelines
National Metrology Institute of South Africa (NMISA)
NMISA operates in accordance with the Measurement Units and Measurement Standards Act, 2006 (Act No. 18 of 2006). It is responsible for aligning the national measurement system with the international measurement system.
South African Bureau of Standards (SABS)
The SABS is a statutory body that was established in terms of the Standards Act, 1945 (Act No. 24 of 1945), and continues to operate in terms of the latest edition of the Standards Act, 2008 (Act No. 8 of 2008). The products and services offered by the SABS facilitate trade with foreign markets, and provide South Africa with standards and conformity assessment to ensure the safety and functionality of goods and services.
The Economic Impact and Intellectual Property Department, (formerly the Standards Information Centre) at the South African Bureau of Standards has been appointed as the WTO TBT Enquiry Point in South Africa by the Department of Trade and Industry.
The WTO TBT Enquiry Point is responsible for the functions of an enquiry point as decided by the TBT Committee and serves as the focal point for disseminating information to concerned regulatory departments and authorities on South Africa's obligations under the TBT Agreement.
The South African WTO TBT Enquiry point contact details are as follows:
The South African WTO/TBT Enquiry Point:
ECONOMIC IMPACT & IP Department
South African Bureau of Standards (SABS)
1 Dr Lategan Road, Groenkloof
Private Bag X191
Tel.: +27 12 428 6229
Ms. Dineo Hexana
Tel: + 27 12 428 6229
Many Government departments have mandates and legislation that they enforce via technical regulations or compulsory specifications. These regulatory overlaps often result in areas of uncertainty and confusion for stakeholders. Inefficiencies in the current operating environment have been regularly identified especially when market failures are communicated to a regulator by industry associations and/or consumer organisations as well as when Government departments request a particular regulator to develop a technical regulation. The NRCS R&D Regulatory Activity Matrix is a valuable tool, especially when a request is received for a new technical regulation/compulsory specification to be drawn up. In executing a feasibility study for the development of a technical regulation, insight in current regulatory regimes are required in order to identify possible regulatory mandate overlaps and conflicts that may arise. The information required is easily accessible from the regulatory matrix and will assist Government departments and regulators alike to interact pro-actively with their appropriate counterparts and avoid overlap and conflict by clearly defining the role-players and responsibilities. Access to accurate information will ensure smooth functioning of workflow and avoid unnecessary delays due to unclear roles. Consumers using the regulatory matrix will be well informed on whom to approach and this will positively impact on service delivery.
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