The key role of WTO in general and of the Technical Barriers to Trade Committee in particular

We have always urged the European Union to be a leading voice in the WTO and to support its day-to-day work in developing and enforcing international trade rules.  In this respect, the meetings of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee are crucial moments for the Commission to voice the concerns of the European exporters.  The agenda of the 29 March meeting is likely to feature a number of important issues faced by our sector in markets such as Korea, India, Russia, Mexico and Thailand.

Many of the issues we face derive from legal uncertainty due unclear rules and lack of consultation of the economic operators when adopting and implementing new legislation.  This is for instance the case with Mexico regarding a draft legislation setting up definitions, specifications and methods of analysis for alcoholic beverages.  Given the importance of the EU-Mexico trade relation in the spirits sector and the call to enhance this relation, we hope to find solution to some concerns (minimum alcohol content, analytical parameters; divergences in definitions) that could prevent European spirits from being exported to Mexico.  

Very often, the request to the EU is to help us grant sufficient time for transition to the new rules and exhaustion of stocks, like for instance in Korea with the new labelling requirement. 

The TBT process is very long and it is important to support the Commission in remaining vigilant.  For instance, in the case of Russia, a draft technical regulation was notified to the WTO in December 2012 to which the Commission submitted comments within the TBT procedure in February 2013.  It seems that the draft regulation was recently finalised and should be published in the coming weeks.  We invite the Commission to ask Russia and its Customs Union partners on the progress of the Alcoholic Drinks Technical Regulation and to confirm their willingness to notify the project to the TBT once it is modified.