‘Relevant International Standards’ and ‘Recognized Standardization Bodies’ under the TBT Agreement
26 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2014
Date Written: September 2014
Owing to innovations and a growing consumer demand for better and safer products, the number of technical standards has been steadily increasing in recent years. As standardization is a major catalyst to global commerce, The World Trade Organization (WTO), a typical consensus-driven organization, exercises a high level of deference towards technical rationality as expressed through international standards. The WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) even requires WTO Members to use relevant international standards and presumes compliance with the TBT when such standards are used. Nonetheless, practice shows that several international standards are adopted through processes which do not appear to respect the fundamental tenets of transparency and due process. Representativeness and inclusiveness are not guaranteed in several international standard-setting bodies (ISSBs) and power politics seem to prevail over good governance practices. Through recourse to negotiating history and case-law, this paper aims to analyse the origins of the WTO approach vis-à-vis standards and examine, from a normative perspective, what procedural and substantive guarantees an international standard and an international standard-setter will have to comply with in a era of increased legalization of international rule-making. Conceptually, the paper aims at the tentative identification of an analytical framework that would lead to a gradual democratization of international standardization.
Keywords: international standards, international standard-setting bodies, standard-setting organizations (SSOs), World Trade Organization (WTO), WTO agreement on technical barriers to trade (TBT), transparency, inclusiveness, standardization
JEL Classification: D82, F02, F13, F23, F68, K33, L15
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