TBT Agreement: Participation in International Standard Setting (Article 11.2)

Article 11.2 of the TBT agreement stipulates that Members shall, if requested, advise other Members, especially the developing country Members, and shall grant them technical assistance on mutually agreed terms and conditions regarding the establishment of national standardizing bodies, and participation in the international standardizing bodies, and shall encourage their national standardizing bodies to do likewise.

In 2000, the TBT Committee decided that tangible ways of facilitating developing countries’ participation in international standards development should be sought. The impartiality and openness of any international standardization process requires that developing countries are not excluded de facto from the process. With respect to improving participation by developing countries, it may be appropriate to use technical assistance, in line with Article 11 of the TBT Agreement.

The 2001 Doha Ministerial Decision on Implementation-related Issues & Concerns (paragraph 5.3):

(i) Takes note of the actions taken to date by the Director-General to facilitate the increased participation of members at different levels of development in the work of the relevant international standard setting organizations as well as his efforts to coordinate with these organizations and financial institutions in identifying TBT-related technical assistance needs and how best to address them; and

(ii) urges the Director-General to continue his cooperative efforts with these organizations and institutions, including with a view to according priority to the effective participation of least-developed countries and facilitating the provision of technical and financial assistance for this purpose.

Relevant international standard setting organizations for the TBT Agreement include:

This is an illustrative list. In contrast with the SPS Agreement, the TBT Agreement does not designate international standard setting bodies. The first three organizations are Geneva-based. The Codex Alimentarius is relevant with respect to food labelling. The Codex Trust Fund is specifically aimed at helping developing countries and countries in transition to participate in its meetings. LDCs and SIDS are eligible for special support under the Trust Fund.

The ISO, ITU and IEC have launched several initiatives to increase developing country’ participation:

Organization Examples
ITU ITU’s Bridging the Standardization Gap (BSG) programme, Resolution 59 – Enhancing participation of telecommunication operators from developing countries (defined as LDCs, SIDS and transition economies) of October 2008
ISO ISO first Action Plan for developing countries 2005-2010, second Action Plan covers 2011-2015, third Action Plan 2016-2020
IEC IEC Affiliate Country Programme. Launched in 2001, the IEC Affiliate Country Programme is aimed at developing countries around the world. The Programme offers such countries a form of participation in the IEC without the financial burden of actual membership. Most affiliates are LDCs.
UNECE UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), in particular the Working Party on Agricultural Quality Standards develops internationally agreed commercial quality standards for agricultural produce, helps with their interpretation and promotes their practical application.


Utilization by LDCs:

Available Smooth Transition Procedures:


  1.  Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade
  2. 2001 Doha Ministerial Decision on Implementation-related Issues and Concer
  3. ITU Bridging the Standardization Gap (BSG) programme
  4. ITU Resolution 59 – Enhancing participation of telecommunication operators from developing countries
  5. IEC Affiliate Country Programme
  6. Codex Alimentarius & The International Food Trade
  7. URUGUAY ROUND AGREEMENT: Decision on Review of the ISO/IEC Information Centre Publication
  8. International Food Standards (Codex Alimentarius)