Harmonisation, equivalence and mutual recognition of standards: an analysis from a trade law perspective
Zúñiga Schroder, Humberto Angel
Standards are necessary for an efficient functioning of the market and their regulation is an increasingly important area of law. Such is their importance that today it is possible to find thousands of standards developed by international standardising bodies, governmental agencies and even private companies in products that range from SIM cards and medical devices, to the pasteurisation of milk and computer protocols. Reasons that justify their widespread use are not difficult to ascertain: they play, for example, an important role in the achievement of economies of scale in manufacturing and in the attainment of compatibility of products and processes. However, together with these positive effects, standards can also have discriminatory consequences for trading partners, especially in cases in which they are badly designed and applied (for example, when they are introduced with the real purpose of creating an artificial comparative advantage for domestic producers). Given the existence of these ambivalent effects, three different policy tools have been developed within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) legal regime, aimed at maximising the benefits derived from the use of standards: harmonisation, equivalence and mutual recognition. The present thesis investigates the way in which both the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Agreements regulate these three instruments, and also, the potential shortcomings of the system from a trade law perspective. For that purpose, it studies relevant legal provisions of both Agreements, WTO jurisprudence and guidelines issued by international standardising bodies, among other topics.