Non-tariff measures (NTMs) are requirements that countries apply to traded goods separate to ordinary customs tariffs. They can affect international trade by changing quantities traded, prices, or both.
Goods exported by Australian agriculture and food producers must meet these NTM requirements for an importing country to accept them, such as health and safety certification or biosecurity compliance.
All countries that trade, including Australia, apply NTMs. These measures help facilitate and regulate international trade.
Importing country requirements
It is important for Australian agricultural producers and exporters to understand country-specific NTMs and to make sure their goods comply with importing country requirements. NTMs applied by importing countries:
- ensure imported products are safe and healthy for consumers,
- protect countries from harmful pests and diseases that imported goods could carry, and
- help producers meet specific customer requirements.
Meeting non-tariff measures
For Australian producers and exporters, NTMs are a normal part of doing business. They can be applied in different ways and at different stages of the supply chain.
Commercial requirements may also apply in addition to NTMs. Although they are not written into law, these requirements can help Australian producers differentiate their products in international markets, and meet the preferences of consumers and manufacturers, as well as specific quality standards.
Find out more about meeting NTMs by contacting your relevant peak industry organisation or email the NTM team.
Australian grain farmers follow best practice to meet importing countries’ NTMs and deliver high quality produce around the world.
Meeting NTMs when exporting table grapes is how exporters can showcase the high quality of Australia’s horticultural produce.
Australian seafood exporters meet importing country NTMs by delivering safe, fresh oysters to overseas markets.
Australian wine producers meet NTMs when exporting to overseas markets by making sure they follow all additive and labelling requirements.
Australia’s reputation as a sugar exporter is due to its high quality produce and ability to meet market and importing country requirements.
The superior quality of Australia’s wool exports means it is in high demand around the world.
Improving market access for Australia’s agricultural exports is vital. More access supports a vibrant and competitive agricultural industry.
We run an ongoing program of market access achievements. We also manage a network of agricultural counsellors in key overseas markets.
This is an ongoing process and core business for the department.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a whole-of-government Non-Tariff Barrier Action Plan that provides information on when NTMs can act as a barrier to trade. They also maintain a summary of Australia’s involvement in disputes currently before the WTO.
Non-tariff measures and barriers to trade
The World Trade Organization (WTO) provides guidelines for applying NTMs.
The WTO rules state that NTMs must be:
- not overly restrictive to trade, and
- not applied arbitrarily.
These rules help distinguish legitimate policy regulations and procedures from protectionist measures that may impede trade.
Most NTMs are reasonable and adhere to international standards for the trade of goods.
The Australian Government supports the WTO rules.
Sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade
NTMs on food and agricultural products are predominantly:
As of 30 June 2018, SPS and TBT notifications make up over 86 per cent of all NTMs reported through the WTO, the majority of which relate to the trade of agricultural commodities.
NTMs also include measures such as:
- price control mechanisms, and
- other measures outlined in the UNCTAD non-tariff measure classification system.
These can have an economic impact on trade by reducing access to markets and competitiveness.
Country-specific Technical SPS and TBT requirements are available in the Manual of Importing Country Requirements (Micor).
Exporters must meet these requirements for overseas countries to accept their products.
Priority non-tariff measures
In some cases an NTM may be inconsistent with WTO rules and will act as a barrier to trade for Australian agricultural food exports.
The Australian Government is working with industry to address NTMs that are unfair, or overly costly, barriers to trade. We seek to do this by removing or reducing their impact.
If an NTM is identified as constraining trade, the Australian Government and industry may:
- put a commercial solution in place to minimise impacts of meeting importing requirements,
- hold bilateral discussions with the importing country to negotiate a solution,
- seek resolution through appropriate international forums (for example, international standard setting bodies, SPS and TBT committees or WTO dispute settlement processes), or
- use mechanisms through Free Trade Agreements to engage importing country governments.
Universal classification system
To help identify and quantify NTMs, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) developed a universal classification system (see Table 1). These measures reflect tools for regulation used in international trade environment.