Opportunities from EVFTA commitments on Technical barriers to trade (TBT)

Technical barriers to trade (TBT) are standards and technical regulations that a country applies to imported goods and/or conformity assessment procedures of imported goods to ensure the compliance with the standards or technical regulations.

Each country has its own TBT system which is developed for many different management purposes (for example, to protect the safety and health of users, and protect the environment...). Requirements such as labeling, packaging, minimum/maximum standards of product quality… are TBT measures. The WTO has a separate agreement on TBT, with provisions to ensure that countries maintain a transparent and reasonable TBT system that does not create disguised barriers.

The EVFTA also has a separate Chapter on TBT (Chapter 5), with commitments to bind Vietnam and the EU (including Germany) in promulgating and implementing TBT measures for goods. The TBT Chapter of the EVFTA emphasizes compliance with the TBT Agreement of the WTO, and also adds some additional principles on how Vietnam or the EU (including Germany) issues and maintains TBTs to limit the abuse of TBT measures to protect domestic production, notably:

• More specific requirements for the promulgation and implementation of technical regulations in general

Technical regulations are compulsory technical requirements promulgated by the Government for products (normally in the form of maximum and minimum technical standards allowed for each specific product, specific production process, etc.).

Regarding technical regulations, the EVFTA has its own requirements in comparison to the WTO as follows:

  • Before promulgating technical regulations, the EU/Vietnam must ensure a number of requirements: (i) Considering different management methods, not just legal regulations, endeavoring to assess the impact of regulations, (ii) Using international standards such as ISO, IEC, ITU, Codex when appropriate, in case the application of standards is different from international standards, it is necessary to clarify the difference and explain the reasons why those international standards are inappropriate for its country, (iii) Notifying the Government of the other Party of the proposed regulation and allowing at least 60 days for the other Party to comment;

  • In the process of implementing technical regulations, the EU/Vietnam must ensure a number of requirements: (i) Reviewing technical regulations when necessary to ensure convergence with relevant international standards, (ii) Regular reviewing standards that are not based on international standards with the aim of increasing compatibility with international standards, (iii) Considering equivalence recognition of technical regulations of the other Party upon request.

• Requirements for technical regulations on Marking and Labeling

Marking and labeling requirements are the most common technical regulations. The EVFTA has a number of specific commitments on TBT related to marking and labeling of goods, notably:

  • Mandatory information on labels and marks of goods will only includes information that is relevant to consumers/users; or information about the product's conformity with mandatory technical regulations;

  • Except for the public interest, if the goods have met the relevant mandatory standards, it is not required to register or apply for approval of the labels or marks before being circulated on the market;

  • It is permissible to attach or supplement labels, in authorised premises in the territory of importing country (for example, in the customs or bonded licensed warehouse at the point of import), but may require keeping (not removing) the original label on products;

  • Permitting information in other language in addition to the language required by the importing country, or internationally accepted nomenclatures, pictograms, symbols or graphics, and other information;

  • Encouraging the approval of non-permanent labels that are not fixed, can be detached/peeled off from goods or marking or labeling in the accompanying documentation rather than physically attached to the product.

In addition, for non-agricultural goods (except pharmaceuticals), although Vietnam law requires to have information about specific countries of origin, Vietnam committed to allow product labeling "Made in EU" for goods from any EU member state. Therefore, non-agricultural goods imported from Germany can be labeled as above without violating Vietnam's regulations.

 • Specific requirements on the conformity assessment procedures and market surveillance.

  • Regarding the conformity assessment procedures: The EVFTA encourages the Parties to recognize the results of conformity assessment conducted by bodies in the other Party and limit inadequacies in conformity assessment procedures.

  • Regarding market surveillance: The commitment of the EVFTA on market surveillance in the implementation of TBT regulations emphasizes the need to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest between market surveillance bodies and the economic operators subject to control or supervision, between the market surveillance function and the conformity assessment function.

 EVFTA full text for more information: https://wtocenter.vn/chuyen-de/12778-eu-vietnam-trade-and-investment-agreements 

Source: "Business Handbook: Exploiting the EVFTA  to import and export goods between Vietnam and Germany"