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  • Non-tariff measures (NTMs) are of particular concern to exporters and importers in developing countries, as they are a major impediment to international trade and can prevent market access. Exporting companies seeking access to foreign markets and companies importing products need to comply with a wide range of requirements including technical regulations, product standards and customs procedures.

    The business sector, particularly in developing countries, often lacks the information, capabilities and facilities needed. Meeting the complex requirements and demonstrating compliance with NTMs can also come at a considerable cost.
  • Similarly, national policymakers often lack a clear understanding of what their business sector perceives as predominant obstacles to trade, which can make it difficult to develop appropriate trade-related policies. At the same time, while there is an on-going global effort to increase economic liberalization that seek to eliminate or reduce tariffs, during the past decade there has also been a steady increase in the number of non-tariff measures.

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    NTMs can be broadly defined as policy measures, other than ordinary custom tariffs, that may have an economic effect on international trade in goods. They may also affect the price of traded goods or in the quantity of trade goods, or both. Although the use of NTMs is in many cases legitimate - for example to ensure quality or protect consumers' health - they are also sometimes used as protectionist measures. It is usually difficult to clearly determine if the purpose of the regulation is for legitimate or protectionist reasons.

    Learn more about NTMs


    The International Trade Centre's (ITC) programme on NTMs aims at increasing transparency and help countries better understand obstacles to trade faced by the business community. In close collaboration with national and regional stakeholders, ITC is engaged in a multi-agency initiative that assists countries in finding solutions tailored to meet their specific needs.

    The programme consists of two main activities:

    1. Official NTM data: One part of the project is focused on the collection of official regulation related to export or import of goods. These regulations are uniformly classified according to measure types using the international NTM nomenclature that was developed under a multi-agency framework, including ITC, and led by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Since the data is collected from published official sources it is often very reliable. ITC creates a central depository for all the collected data and disseminates this through its Market Access Map.

    2. NTM Business Survey: The second part of the programme aims to complement the official data collected by identifying measures that exporters and importers perceive problematic and why. For this purpose ITC conducts large-scale company-level surveys to identify regulations that are too strict to comply with and regulations whose compliance is difficult because of related procedural obstacles. ITC collaborates closely with ministries, export promotion agencies, research institutes, business associations and local experts in each country.

    ITC’s programme on NTMs is co-funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

    Upon request, ITC also offers capacity building programmes in the area of NTMs, in particular with regards to technical regulations. If you are interested in finding out more or would like to receive more information on the survey methodology, contact us at NTM@intracen.org.