Panel Discussion on Standards and Market Access

“Northern Consumers – Southern Producers: The need for an alliance”

Participants are invited for a panel discussion on Standards and Market Access, to be held as part of the Cancun Trade and Development Symposium hosted by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) on 11-12 Sept.’03.

Session Topic: Northern Consumers – Southern Producers: The need for an alliance

Organised by: Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) in collaboration with (tentative co-organisers): Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), India, Research and Information System for the Non-Aligned and other Developing Countries (RIS), India, Consumers Association (CA), UK, South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), Nepal, Bureau Europeen des Unions Consommateurs (BEUC), Brussels and International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP), Canada.

Session Time: 9:30 AM– 1:30 PM, September 11th, 2003

Session Venue: Picasso Room,
Hotel Gran Melia
Boulevard Kukulcan, km. 16.5
77500 Cancun MEXICO
Tel: +52 998 8811100


The Uruguay Round of Trade Negotiations resulted in substantial reductions in import tariffs and non-tariff barriers (such as quantative restrictions (QRs), quotas etc) by the members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The aftermath of the negotiations saw focus shift towards the impact of a growing number of non-tariff measures on the export prospects of countries, especially developing. Technical barriers to trade (TBT) and Sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures (SPS) form the core of non-tariff measures applied by both developed and developing countries. TBT measures are mandatory technical regulations laid down by governments on imported products for reasons of security, health or environment. SPS measures are those that are applied to protect human life or health, animal life or health and plant life or health, in particular. They maybe applied in the form of laws, regulations, requirements or procedures.

Governments of most countries accept the fact that trade restrictions of this nature may be necessary and appropriate to ensure food security and animal and health protection. However, the increasing and arbitrary use of such measures by developed countries, often to protect domestic industry, has caused great concern among developing countries. Further, firms from developing and less-developed countries often face considerable difficulty in conforming to high standards and technical regulations set by the industrialised countries. The problems of compliance could be varied such as: high financial costs involved, costs associated with product redesign and creation of appropriate administrative systems, lack of timely and adequate information and subsequent transaction costs, difficulties involved in testing and monitoring and the irrelevance of foreign standards to local conditions.

Both Northern consumers and Southern producers have an interest in preventing arbitrary and ‘protectionist’ standards imposed as a result of pressures from some producer lobbies in an importing country in the North. Not only can this threaten the livelihoods of Southern producers by preventing or restricting their access to Northern markets but it can result in high prices and limited choice for consumers in the North. This understanding forms the basis of the rationale and potential for an alliance between Northern consumers and Southern producers.

In view of the above, CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics & Environment (CUTS-CITEE) will organise a session on standards and market access at the Trade and Development Symposium, with the prime objective of exploring ways and means by which an alliance between Northern Consumers and Southern Producers can be facilitated on a sustainable basis.

The overarching goal of this discussion and a potential network will be to help promote better understanding of trade relations between Northern consumers and Southern producers

The discussions will centre on:

  1. Generating awareness amongst Northern consumers of the negative impact of “protectionist” standards on developing countries’ exports. Case studies can be used by speakers to highlight cases where measures have been arbitrarily high and protectionist in nature.
  2. To discuss ways in which availability of information to developing country exporters regarding standards can be improved. How can Southern enterprises better distinguish between a legitimate standard, and one suitable to local conditions, against those that are arbitrarily high and unsuitable? The importance of an alliance in increasing availability of information regarding consumer preferences and needs in the North will also be discussed.
  3. To discuss ways in which greater participation of developing countries in international standard setting bodies can be facilitated. What methods can be used to connect producers with standard-setting bodies on a permanent basis?
  4. To discuss the main concerns regarding issues in the Agreement on SPS and Agreement on TBT at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that have not be addressed in the Doha Agenda.
  5. Further, how can developing countries make effective use of the technical and capacity building and dispute settlement provisions in the WTO framework?



Panellists (15 minutes each)

  • A.C. Muthaiah, Federation for Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI), India
  • Phil Evans, Consumers Association, CA, UK
  • Manoj Joshi, Government of India*, India
  • Lakshmi Puri, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)*
  • Debapriya Bhattacharya, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD)*, Bangladesh
  • Dominique Njinker, International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP), Canada
  • Sachin Chaturvedi, Research and Information System for the Non Aligned and Other Developing Countries (RIS), India
  • Dominique Forest, Bureau Europeen des Unions Consommateurs (BEUC)*, Brussels
  • Moderator: Pradeep S. Mehta, CUTS, India


  • Floor Discussions


  • Book Release: “Bridging the Difference: Analyses of Five Issues of the WTO Agenda”, under the EU-India Network on Trade and Development (EINTAD) Project.

* to be confirmed