Technical Barriers to Trade

Successive rounds of multilateral trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the negotiation of numerous bilateral and regional trade arrangements have led to a substantial reduction in global tariffs. As tariffs have decreased, there has been increased focus on ensuring non-tariff measures or policies, including technical regulations and standards, do not restrict or distort international trade.

Governments use technical regulations and standards to achieve a range of policy goals, such as ensuring the health and safety of their citizens, protection of the environment, and consumer protection. While the vast majority of technical regulations and standards are designed to achieve non-trade related objectives, they can also have the unintended effect of restricting or distorting trade. Furthermore, as the use of tariffs as a trade-policy tool has diminished, there can, at times, be an increased incentive for governments to use regulations and standards as an alternative, and less transparent means of restricting the entry of foreign products.

Through its participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and ongoing bilateral free trade negotiations, Canada is promoting the adoption of and compliance with, rules and procedures related to technical regulations and standards.

The WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) is aimed at ensuring that technical regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. The WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) imposes disciplines on measures aimed at ensuring food safety, and animal and plant health. Important principles of these agreements include transparency, the use of international standards, proportionality (measures should not be more trade-restrictive than necessary), and equivalency (countries should accept each others standards, where they offer an equivalent level of protection). Similar rules are found in the NAFTA.

Canada’s international trade agreements preserve the right of Canada and its trading partners to regulate in order to meet legitimate objectives, such as human health and safety, or environmental protection. At the same time, they impose rules that aimed at ensuring that technical regulations and standards do not unnecessarily restrict international trade. Having strong international rules relating to technical regulations and standards provides Canadian exporters with more secure, predictable access to foreign markets for their products. It also helps business and consumers, by ensuring that technical regulations and standards do not add unnecessary costs to internationally traded products.

  • Canada Applauds WTO Ruling on Genetically Modified Organism Imports
    News Release - November 22, 2006

Standards and Technical Barriers to Trade


Technical Barriers to Trade

  • Report of the Third Triennial Review of the WTO TBT Agreement
  • Canada's Position in WTO and FTAA Negotiations
  • Report of the Second Triennial Review of the WTO TBT Agreement
  • WTO - Information Paper - August 2001

Report a Trade or Investment Barrier

Is a trade barrier holding back your export business? Register a trade barrier and our Trade Commissioner Service will assist you.

Contact Point

If you have questions or comments about technical barriers to trade and regulations, we would like to hear from you. Please contact Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada at:

Technical Barriers and Regulations (TBT) 
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 promenade Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0G2
Fax: 613-944-0756
E-mail :