Group photo of Malawi Referencing standards workshopUSAID’s Southern Africa Trade Hub is providing technical assistance support to Lesotho, Malawi, and Zambia to establish an effective World Trade Organization (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Enquiry Point and Notification Authority.

The first phase of technical assistance involved capacity building workshops in December 2013.

The workshops equipped participants with a deeper understanding of the functioning of an effective enquiry point and notification authority, and were facilitated by a U.S.-based consultant with over 30 years of experience working in standards and WTO TBT Enquiry Points. In all three countries, participants came from the national standards bodies (NSBs), trade and consumer associations, and other interested private and public sector stakeholder groups. 

The technical assistance is part of the Standards Alliance program under the Partnership for Trade Facilitation (PTF) facility and was provided in response to the requests of Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia for assistance.

The Standards Alliance Program

The Standards Alliance program was announced by USAID and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) at the WTO in November 2012 and is a US facility to support developing countries in implementing commitments under the WTO TBT agreement. The program is a collaborative initiative for practitioners and policymakers involved in trade and transport facilitation. It provides technical and financial resources to advance reforms that help businesses participate in the global trading system while building the capacity of developing countries in areas of the proposed WTO agreement on trade facilitation.

The WTO TBT Agreement and National Enquiry Points

The WTO TBT agreement requires each WTO member to set up a national enquiry point and notification authority. An enquiry point is a single contact point to which requests for information by other WTO member enquiry points, individuals and organizations from other countries and domestic stakeholders in public and private sectors can be made.

In addition to responding to all enquiries for information concerning regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures, an effective enquiry point maintains a reference collection of standards, specifications, test methods, codes and recommended practices. A notification authority is a government authority responsible for implementation of provisions concerning notification procedures at the national level.  

About the Workshops

The Trade Hub-sponsored capacity building workshops involved presentations, group exercises and group discussions to demonstrate the usefulness of establishing and operating an effective TBT Enquiry Point and Notification Authority.

group discussion at the workshop

The three-day program in each country gave participants an overview of the WTO and TBT agreement and the obligations of WTO members; outlined roles and responsibilities of both the enquiry point and notification authority; explained the operation of the TBT enquiry point, enquiry point and notification authority operations and management; and dissected information flows and relationships.
 
On the final day of the training, participants discussed the crucial next steps required to ensure a fully functioning enquiry point and notification authority for their country.

One participant from Malawi stated: “I have gained new knowledge which will help Malawi fulfill her obligations as a WTO member.” Another participant added that “It has reinforced the need for consultation when developing technical regulations which is my daily work,” and a standards manager and TBT National Enquiry Point desk officer in attendance shared that the workshops had been a significant eye-opener.

On the photo: Workshops took place on December 4-6, 2013 in Blantyre, Malawi, on December 9-11, 2013 in Lusaka, Zambia and on December 16-18, 2014, in Maseru, Lesotho.

 

 
 

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