Non-Tariff Measures

Fruits in the produce section of a storeWhat are non-tariff measures? 

Non-tariff measures are policy measures other than customs tariffs that can potentially affect traded goods by changing their quantities, prices, or both. They often aim to protect public health or the environment, and may imply information, compliance, and procedural costs. These measures apply to either imports or exports and are classified into 16 categories. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) provides a full list of non-tariff measures and their definitions.


What are different types of non-tariff measures? 

Below is a table with broad categories of non-tariff measures that you may encounter. The first two apply to importers, or buyers, and the last applies to exporters, or sellers. It is important to note that some of these, such as quotas and trade-related investment measures, are prohibited under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules except for specific circumstances. 

For more details, please see the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)

  Technical measures on imports
A Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures: These include measures to restrict substances, ensure food safety, and prevent the dissemination of diseases or pests. (See guide on SPS measures)
B Technical barriers to trade: These relate to product, technical, or quality requirements. They also include measures on labelling and packaging. (See guide on TBT)
C Pre-shipment inspection and other customs formalities: These involve other technical measures.
  Non-technical measures on imports
D Contingent measures: These include antidumping, countervailing, and safeguard measures.
E Licensing and quotas: These also cover quantity controls and other related restrictions.
F Price control measures: These affect the prices of imported goods.
G Finance measures: These restrict payment of imports and terms of payment.
H Competition measures: These grant privileges to one or more economic operators.
I Trade-related investment measures: These impose local content or export conditions on investment.
J Distribution restrictions: These regulate the internal distribution of imported products.
K Restrictions on post-sales services: These restrict, for example, the provision of accessory services.
L Subsidies and other forms of support: These include financial transfers to enterprises, individuals, or households.
M Government procurement restrictions: These restrict bidders from selling products to a foreign government.
N Intellectual property: These involve restrictions or rules related to intellectual property rights.
O Rules of origin: These are criteria involving the origin of products or their inputs, which can affect whether these are subject to restrictions, duties, or other measures.     
P Export-related measures: include export quotas and other export prohibitions.

How can I start identifying non-tariff measures? 

Chambers of commerce, industry associations, and trade agencies may provide online portals with lists of non-tariff measures applicable for your products. Businesses can also identify trade restrictions in their targeted markets by using four available online tools, described below:

  • Market Access Map: This database features specific non-tariff regulations that apply to exports or imports of products, as well as a tracker of temporary trade measures put in place in response to COVID-19. Visit the Market Access Map.
  • Trade Analysis Information System (TRAINS): The TRAINS database provides an exhaustive list of non-tariff measures available for more than 160 countries, covering more than four fifths of world trade. Visit the TRAINS site. 
  • Global Trade Helpdesk: The Global Trade Helpdesk provides an overview non-tariff measures coming from the Market Access Map and TRAINS, as well other information on rules of origin, trade statistics, and related procedures for importers or exporters targeting foreign markets. Visit the Global Trade Helpdesk.
  • World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS): The WITS presents country profiles on non-tariff measures by type. Visit the WITS website.