The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the UN Conference on Trade and Development published their biennial report on trade developments in the region.
The report highlights that non-tariff measures - such as quotas, phytosanitary measures, and environmental standards - play an increasingly important role in regulating trade.
While NTMs increase the costs of trade, the report emphasizes that NTMs "are neither good nor bad," and sets out good practices in applying NTMs, noting they can help achieve the SDGs.
In their latest report on trade developments in the region, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) highlight that non-tariff measures (NTMs) play an increasingly important role in regulating trade, and can help achieve the SDGs. NTMs include measures such as quotas, phytosanitary measures and environmental standards.
The biannual report titled, ‘Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2019: Navigating Non-Tariff Measures Toward Sustainable Development,’ maps existing NTMs in Asia-Pacific against each SDG, finding that many NTMs relate to health (SDG 3) and responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), while other aspects of sustainable development are neglected. For example, very few NTMs in the region address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing (covered by SDG 14) and illegal timber trade (part of SDG 15).
The authors note that some NTMs are thought to have indirect or unintended benefits for sustainable development. For example, NTMs imposing restrictions on the sale of alcohol may have positive impacts on gender equality (SDG 5) by reducing violence against women (SDG target 5.2).
Asia-Pacific countries have increased their use of NTMs have by 15% each year, as developing countries “catch up” to apply standards that are already prevalent in more developed economies. However, many countries lack the necessary infrastructure, such as testing laboratories, to assess conformity with regulations. The authors recommend building capacity and expertise in developing countries to strengthen local capacity and promote developing countries’ participation in international standard setting, to ensure that international standards benefit them and are relevant to their needs.
They further recommend that countries conduct detailed sustainability impact assessments on the impacts of NTMs at the country and sector levels, and propose developing regional guidelines on sustainability impact assessment of NTMs.
While NTMs increase the costs of trade, the report emphasizes that NTMs “are neither good nor bad,” and sets out good practices in applying NTMs. [Publication: Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2019: Navigating Non-Tariff Measures Toward Sustainable Development] [Report conclusions]