What are Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade?

Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade

Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) refer to a wide range of restrictive regulations and procedures, imposed by government authorities, that make importation or exportation of products difficult and/or costly.

NTBs comprise policies of economic protectionism against foreign trade, such as prohibitions, quotas, licenses or discriminatory taxes. Restrictive customs procedures can also be NTBs. NTBs can also include the unjustified and/or improper application of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and other technical barriers to trade (TBT).

However, not all government regulations or procedures that are costly for a trader can be considered NTBs. Regulations and procedures can be justified by the protection of human, animal or plant health, the environment, or other important public policy objectives. Still, such measures should be proportionate and restrict trade as little as possible. Furthermore, they should not discriminate against foreign companies or products. Otherwise, they may be considered NTBs.

Please also refer to the categories of NTBs that are recognized under the AfCFTA.

Some examples of Non-Tariff Barriers

NTBs to trade can arise from:
  • Import bans
  • General or product-specific quotas
  • Complex/discriminatory Rules of Origin
  • Unjustified quality requirements imposed by the importing country
  • Unjustified Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary conditions
  • Unjustified packaging, labelling, product requirements
  • Determination of eligibility of an exporting country by the importing country
  • Determination of eligibility of an exporting establishment (firm, company) by the importing country
  • Excessive document requirements
  • Import licenses and their restrictive application
  • State subsidies
  • Export subsidies
  • Inadequate product classification or customs valuation
  • Seasonal import regimes
  • Restrictive customs procedures