Australia - United States Free Trade

Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement - Guide to the Agreement

8. Standards and Technical Regulations

This Chapter applies to all standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures of the central (federal) government that affect trade in all goods.   As tariffs are lowered or, in the case of an FTA eliminated, addressing non-tariff measures that can be used to frustrate trade becomes even more important.   The Chapter contains 11 Articles and 1 Annex.

1.    Affirmation of the TBT Agreement (Article 8.2)

Both Australia and the United States affirm their existing rights and obligations to each other under the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement where such issues as standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures are addressed.

2.    Regional Governments (Article 8.3)

Under this Article, both Parties agree to provide information to state level governments and relevant bodies and to encourage their adherence to the commitments in the Chapter.

3.    International standards (Article 8.4)

There are many entities in the US which develop standards in both the government and private spheres as well as at the federal and sub-federal/state levels. Exporters can find it very difficult and costly to meet these different standards and technical regulations.    Both Parties have therefore agreed to use, to the maximum extent possible, international standards.

4.    Technical Regulations (Article 8.5)

In this Article both Parties have agreed to give positive consideration to accepting, as equivalent, each other's technical regulations, provided they are satisfied that they adequately fulfil the objectives of their own regulations. This is important because sometimes the technical regulations of the Parties may be different but achieve the same result.

For example, if a US technical regulation stipulates that a product must contain certain features and pass certain tests to ensure safety, and this technical regulation is different from Australia's regulation covering the same product, the US will give positive consideration to accepting Australia's technical regulation.   The result is that the Australian product, subject to US agreement would enter the US market without changes to production methods or the characteristics of the end product.

5.    Conformity Assessment Procedures (Article 8.6)

Products often need to be tested to determine whether relevant standards and technical regulations have been met before they can enter the market.   In many cases the tests are carried out in the country from which they are being exported. If the importing country does not accept the results of the test it may require further testing which can significantly add to costs.   Both Parties have therefore agreed to facilitate the acceptance of each other's conformity assessment procedures.

Where they are rejected, the Parties must explain the reason for the refusal in detail.   In some cases it may be possible to establish working groups involving practitioners to resolve the problem.

6.    Transparency (Article 8.7)

Under this Article each Party allows persons of the other Party to participate in the development of standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures.

Further, both Parties agree to exchange and publish relevant information to ensure that their processes are transparent.

7.    Chapter Coordinator (Article 8.9)

Both Parties agree to establish a mechanism to address issues raised by either Party relating to the development, adoption, application or enforcement of standards, technical regulations or conformity assessment procedures.

In this case an enquiry point, and possible technical working groups, will aim to ensure that relevant practitioners are involved in finding practical solutions to real market access problems.

8.    Information Exchange (Article 8.10)

Both Parties agree to provide each other with information or explanations in a timely manner and electronically.

9.    Chapter Coordinator (Annex 8-A)

Under this Annex the relevant agencies which will assume the role of Chapter Coordinator are nominated.   In the case of Australia it will initially be the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources.   In the case of the United States it will be the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

March 6, 2004

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