Since its establishment, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) had contributed to the liberalization of world trade. However, the elimination of tariffs and quantitative restrictions has not led to total trade liberalization and free trade. Many classical trade barriers such as tariffs and quotas have been replaced with new measures such as product standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures. Measures that ostensibly protect human, animal, plant life or health, environment, and prevent deceptive practices have been increasingly used as an excuse for protectionism. Such an environment in international trade has increased the need for elimination of technical barriers. Domestic regulations that affect world trade through technical requirements, testing, certification, and labeling have become a crucial area to promote trade liberalization.
The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) tries to ensure that technical regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade during their preparation, adoption, and application. The preamble of the TBT Agreement repeats this formulation and determines the legitimate objectives for which technical regulations may be adopted. Accordingly, "no country should be prevented from taking measures necessary to ensure the quality of its exports, or for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health, of the environment, or for the prevention of deceptive practices, at the levels it considers appropriate?" However, these measures shall not "(be) applied in a manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where the same conditions prevail or a disguised restriction on international trade..."
The Agreement sets out some key principles, inter alia transparency. Transparency includes notification obligations and the establishment of national enquiry points. Under the TBT Agreement, member states are under obligation of notifying other members on their draft technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures;
- whenever a relevant international standard or guide or recommendation does not exist, or the technical content of a proposed or adopted technical regulation or procedure is not in accordance with the technical content of relevant international standards or guides of recommendations; and
- if the technical regulation or conformity assessment procedure may have a significant effect on the trade of other Members.
Moreover, member states must establish national enquiry points acting as focal points where other World Trade Organization (WTO) members can request and obtain information and documentation on a member's technical regulations, standards and test procedures as well as on participation in bilateral or plurilateral standard-related agreements, regional standardizing bodies and conformity assessment systems.
Following its approval by the Turkish Parliament, the Agreement Establishing the WTO and annexed the TBT Agreement came into force on 31 December 1994. The full text of the Agreement Establishing the WTO was published in the Official Gazette No. 22213 dated 25 February 1995.
Guidelines for relevant national authorities to meet the requirements on notification procedures given by the TBT Agreement is incorporated into the Regulation published in the Official Gazette No. 22965 dated 15 April 1997. According to this Regulation, the Ministry of Trade is responsible for the implementation and the administration of the TBT Agreement in the fields of technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures. On the other hand, Turkish Standards Institution (TSE) is the National Enquiry Point regarding notifications in the field of standards.
The purpose of this Regulation is to establish the principles and procedures relating to the notification of the draft technical regulations, conformity assessment procedures and bilateral or multilateral agreements in the field of standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures and other obligations under the TBT Agreement.