Enquiry/contact points are officials in government agencies designated to answer questions that actors involved in international trade may have about trade requirements, such as customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and technical barriers to trade (TBT) (see guide on sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade). Authorities that are typically concerned about getting in contact with enquiry points include border agencies, trade authorities and businesses involved in international trade. For more information, see WTO’s Trade Facilitation Facility.
Enquiry points aim to increase transparency in international trade. Timely information is critical for MSMEs to trade, and enquiry points can make it possible for individual traders, government authorities and any other interested person to obtain specific information on import, export or transit requirements. SPS and TBT enquiry points are also involved in sharing information on upcoming changes in product regulations, facilitating regulatory cooperation between members and reducing potential trade frictions. A study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has documented the potential that establishing enquiry points have in streamlining trade and transit procedures. When countries adopt enquiry points by physical, telephone, or virtual means, users get assistance in their customs-related questions and procedures. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Trade Facilitation Technical Note No. 6 offers an overview of guidelines for implementing enquiry points and their relevance to international trade. Additionally, one of the recommendations given to the Informal Working Group on MSMEs from business associations included establishing national SME contact points.
An updated list of WTO Member’s SPS and TBT enquiry points can be consulted on the ePing website. In addition, interested stakeholders can register on ePing to receive email alerts on changes to regulatory requirements notified by WTO member governments. These alerts also provide information on who to contact for further enquiries, both domestically and in export markets.