- Non-tariff barriers to trade
Non-tariff barriers to trade (NTBs) are trade barriers that restrict imports but are not in the usual form of a tariff. Some common examples of NTB's are anti-dumping measures and countervailing duties, which, although they are called "non-tariff" barriers, have the effect of tariffs once they are enacted.
Their use has risen sharply after the WTO rules led to a very significant reduction in tariff use. Some non-tariff trade barriers are expressly permitted in very limited circumstances, when they are deemed necessary to protect health, safety, or sanitation, or to protect depletable natural resources. In other forms, they are criticized as a means to evade free trade rules such as those of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the European Union (EU), or North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that restrict the use of tariffs.
Some of non-tariff barriers are not directly related to foreign economic regulations, but nevertheless they have a significant impact on foreign-economic activity and foreign trade between countries.
Trade between countries is referred to trade in goods, services and factors of production. Non-tariff barriers to trade include import quotas, special licenses, unreasonable standards for the quality of goods, bureaucratic delays at customs, export restrictions, limiting the activities of state trading, export subsidies, countervailing duties, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, rules of origin, etc. Sometimes in this list they include macroeconomic measures affecting trade.
Six Types of Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade
- Specific Limitations on Trade:
- Customs and Administrative Entry Procedures:
- Valuation systems
- Anti-dumping practices
- Tariff classifications
- Documentation requirements
- Standard disparities
- Intergovernmental acceptances of testing methods and standards
- Packaging, labeling, and marking
- Government Participation in Trade:
- Government procurement policies
- Export subsidies
- Countervailing duties
- Domestic assistance programs
- Charges on imports:
- Prior import deposit subsidies
- Administrative fees
- Special supplementary duties
- Import credit discrimination
- Variable levies
- Border taxes
- Voluntary export restraints
- Orderly marketing agreements
Examples of Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade
Non-tariff barriers to trade can be:
- Import bans
- General or product-specific quotas
- Rules of Origin
- Quality conditions imposed by the importing country on the exporting countries
- Sanitary and phyto-sanitary conditions
- Packaging conditions
- Labeling conditions
- Product standards
- Complex regulatory environment
- Determination of eligibility of an exporting country by the importing country
- Determination of eligibility of an exporting establishment (firm, company) by the importing country.
- Additional trade documents like Certificate of Origin, Certificate of Authenticity etc.
- Occupational safety and health regulation
- Employment law
- Import licenses
- State subsidies, procurement, trading, state ownership
- Export subsidies
- Fixation of a minimum import price
- Product classification
- Quota shares
- Foreign exchange market controls and multiplicity
- Inadequate infrastructure
- "Buy national" policy
- Over-valued currency
- Intellectual property laws (patents, copyrights)
- Restrictive licenses
- Seasonal import regimes
- Corrupt and/or lengthy customs procedures
Types of Non-Tariff Barriers
There are several different variants of division of non-tariff barriers. Some scholars divide between internal taxes, administrative barriers, health and sanitary regulations and government procurement policies. Others divide non-tariff barriers into more categories such as specific limitations on trade, customs and administrative entry procedures, standards, government participation in trade, charges on import, and other categories. We choose traditional classification of non-tariff barriers, according to which they are divided into 3 principal categories.
The first category includes methods to directly import restrictions for protection of certain sectors of national industries: licensing and allocation of import quotas, antidumping and countervailing duties, import deposits, so-called voluntary export restraints, countervailing duties, the system of minimum import prices, etc. Under second category follow methods that are not directly aimed at restricting foreign trade and more related to the administrative bureaucracy, whose actions, however, restrict trade, for example: customs procedures, technical standards and norms, sanitary and veterinary standards, requirements for labeling and packaging, bottling, etc. The third category consists of methods that are not directly aimed at restricting the import or promoting the export, but the effects of which often lead to this result.
The non-tariff barriers can include wide variety of restrictions to trade. Here are some example of the “popular” NTBs.
The most common instruments of direct regulation of imports (and sometimes export) are licenses and quotas. Almost all industrialized countries apply these non-tariff methods. The license system requires that a state (through specially authorized office) issues permits for foreign trade transactions of import and export commodities included in the lists of licensed merchandises. Product licensing can take many forms and procedures. The main types of licenses are general license that permits unrestricted importation or exportation of goods included in the lists for a certain period of time; and one-time license for a certain product importer (exporter) to import (or export). One-time license indicates a quantity of goods, its cost, its country of origin (or destination), and in some cases also customs point through which import (or export) of goods should be carried out. The use of licensing systems as an instrument for foreign trade regulation is based on a number of international level standards agreements. In particular, these agreements include some provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures, concluded under the GATT (GATT).
Licensing of foreign trade is closely related to quantitative restrictions – quotas - on imports and exports of certain goods. A quota is a limitation in value or in physical terms, imposed on import and export of certain goods for a certain period of time. This category includes global quotas in respect to specific countries, seasonal quotas, and so-called "voluntary" export restraints. Quantitative controls on foreign trade transactions carried out through one-time license.
Quantitative restriction on imports and exports is a direct administrative form of government regulation of foreign trade. Licenses and quotas limit the independence of enterprises with a regard to entering foreign markets, narrowing the range of countries, which may be entered into transaction for certain commodities, regulate the number and range of goods permitted for import and export. However, the system of licensing and quota imports and exports, establishing firm control over foreign trade in certain goods, in many cases turns out to be more flexible and effective than economic instruments of foreign trade regulation. This can be explained by the fact, that licensing and quota systems are an important instrument of trade regulation of the vast majority of the world.
Agreement on a "voluntary" export restraint
In the past decade, a widespread practice of concluding agreements on the "voluntary" export restrictions and the establishment of import minimum prices imposed by leading Western nations upon weaker in economical or political sense exporters. The specifics of these types of restrictions is the establishment of unconventional techniques when the trade barriers of importing country, are introduced at the border of the exporting and not importing country. Thus, the agreement on "voluntary" export restraints is imposed on the exporter under the threat of sanctions to limit the export of certain goods in the importing country. Similarly, the establishment of minimum import prices should be strictly observed by the exporting firms in contracts with the importers of the country that has set such prices. In the case of reduction of export prices below the minimum level, the importing country imposes anti-dumping duty which could lead to withdrawal from the market. “Voluntary" export agreements affect trade in textiles, footwear, dairy products, consumer electronics, cars, machine tools, etc.
Problems arise when the quotas are distributed between countries, because it is necessary to ensure that products from one country are not diverted in violation of quotas set out in second country. Import quotas are not necessarily designed to protect domestic producers. For example, Japan, maintains quotas on many agricultural products it does not produce. Quotas on imports is a leverage when negotiating the sales of Japanese exports, as well as avoiding excessive dependence on any other country in respect of necessary food, supplies of which may decrease in case of bad weather or political conditions.
Export quotas can be set in order to provide domestic consumers with sufficient stocks of goods at low prices, to prevent the depletion of natural resources, as well as to increase export prices by restricting supply to foreign markets. Such restrictions (through agreements on various types of goods) allow producing countries to use quotas for such commodities as coffee and oil; as the result, prices for these products increased in importing countries.
Embargo is a specific type of quotas prohibiting the trade. As well as quotas, embargoes may be imposed on imports or exports of particular goods, regardless of destination, in respect of certain goods supplied to specific countries, or in respect of all goods shipped to certain countries. Although the embargo is usually introduced for political purposes, the consequences, in essence, could be economic.
Standards take a special place among non-tariff barriers. Countries usually impose standards on classification, labeling and testing of products in order to be able to sell domestic products, but also to block sales of products of foreign manufacture. These standards are sometimes entered under the pretext of protecting the safety and health of local populations.
Administrative and bureaucratic delays at the entrance
Among the methods of non-tariff regulation should be mentioned administrative and bureaucratic delays at the entrance which increase uncertainty and the cost of maintaining inventory.
Another example of foreign trade regulations is import deposits. Import deposits is a form of deposit, which the importer must pay the bank for a definite period of time (non-interest bearing deposit) in an amount equal to all or part of the cost of imported goods.
At the national level, administrative regulation of capital movements is carried out mainly within a framework of bilateral agreements, which include a clear definition of the legal regime, the procedure for the admission of investments and investors. It is determined by mode (fair and equitable, national, most-favored-nation), order of nationalization and compensation, transfer profits and capital repatriation and dispute resolution.
Foreign exchange restrictions and foreign exchange controls
Foreign exchange restrictions and foreign exchange controls occupy a special place among the non-tariff regulatory instruments of foreign economic activity. Foreign exchange restrictions constitute the regulation of transactions of residents and nonresidents with currency and other currency values. Also an important part of the mechanism of control of foreign economic activity is the establishment of the national currency against foreign currencies.
The transition from tariffs to non-tariff barriers
One of the reasons why industrialized countries have moved from tariffs to NTBs is the fact that developed countries have sources of income other than tariffs. Historically, in the formation of nation-states, governments had to get funding. They received it through the introduction of tariffs. This explains the fact that most developing countries still rely on tariffs as a way to finance their spending. Developed countries can afford not to depend on tariffs, at the same time developing NTBs as a possible way of international trade regulation. The second reason for the transition to NTBs is that these tariffs can be used to support weak industries or compensation of industries, which have been affected negatively by the reduction of tariffs. The third reason for the popularity of NTBs is the ability of interest groups to influence the process in the absence of opportunities to obtain government support for the tariffs.
Non-tariff barriers today
With the exception of export subsidies and quotas, NTBs are most similar to the tariffs. Tariffs for goods production were reduced during the eight rounds of negotiations in the WTO and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). After lowering of tariffs, the principle of protectionism demanded the introduction of new NTBs such as technical barriers to trade (TBT). According to statements made at United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD, 2005), the use of NTBs, based on the amount and control of price levels has decreased significantly from 45% in 1994 to 15% in 2004, while use of other NTBs increased from 55% in 1994 to 85% in 2004.
Increasing consumer demand for safe and environment friendly products also have had their impact on increasing popularity of TBT. Many NTBs are governed by WTO agreements, which originated in the Uruguay Round (the TBT Agreement, SPS Measures Agreement, the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing), as well as GATT articles. NTBs in the field of services have become as important as in the field of usual trade.
Most of the NTB can be defined as protectionist measures, unless they are related to difficulties in the market, such as externalities and information asymmetries information asymmetries between consumers and producers of goods. An example of this is safety standards and labeling requirements.
The need to protect sensitive to import industries, as well as a wide range of trade restrictions, available to the governments of industrialized countries, forcing them to resort to use the NTB, and putting serious obstacles to international trade and world economic growth. Thus, NTBs can be referred as a “new” of protection which has replaced tariffs as an “old” form of protection.
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- World Bank's World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) provides access to trade, tariff and non-tariff data.
- NTM Network Wiki serves as both a place for researchers to find and add content related to non-tariff measures and discuss research and ideas.
- Sheila Page (2010) What happens after trade agreements? Overseas Development Institute
- Trade Costs and Facilitation: The Development Dimension, the main World Bank project on trade facilitation, economic growth and development.
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