The EU’s ACP-EU Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) programme

  • 28th January 2016
  • by secretary
Published on 13 Jan 2016. Trade is an increasingly international business, but not all countries are able fully to take part. Products must meet exacting international standards, which can be a barrier to trade for countries without adequate infrastructure, regulations, quality testing and certification. They are working with the EU to address these issues and help exporters to thrive.

The ACP-EU TBT Programme focusses on three areas:

  • Upgrading and strengthening Quality Infrastructure and related institutions 
  • Empowering economic operators and export sectors to comply with international market requirements 
  • Disseminating results, good practices and experiences 

The Programme is financed by the European Union in partnership with the ACP Secretariat under the 10th European Development Fund (intra-ACP). It is a demand-driven Programme responding to requests for capacity building from ACP countries to ensure full ownership by the ACP beneficiaries.

“When you trade in raw materials, you are selling jobs, actually,” says Nsengimana in below interview. “You are selling your raw materials to people in developed industries to transform your raw materials, because you couldn’t really conform to the standards in the chain, and then the final product comes back to you.”

This is one factor behind high trade deficits in some ACP countries. By reducing the need to import goods which could be manufactured domestically, and allowing ACP manufacturers to sell to global markets, the TBT Programme could be an economic boost: creating new trade opportunities and jobs, while reducing trade deficits.
Although the ‘red tape’ of regulations is often bemoaned, the need for internationally-recognised standards is clear in the case of kava. 

The calm-inducing root, used for thousands of years by Pacific islanders as a ceremonial drink, became a major export to the EU in the 1990s. Islanders set aside land to cultivate kava, and came to depend on its revenues: around $200 million each year. Then in 2002, fears that kava was causing liver damage led Germany to withdraw licenses for kava products. The ban spread to other European countries, Australia and New Zealand. Despite thin medical evidence, trade came to a halt. 

The economic impact on Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tonga was severe. After much campaigning, Germany lifted its ban last year. But the islands lacked the capacity to undertake scientific assessments to rehabilitate kava’s reputation, develop safety protocols or propose standards for international trade. This EU’s ACP-EU Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) programme is working at the islands’ request to help establish quality and safety standards.