Treatment of Technical Standards in Regional Trade Agreements
- Some lessons for mutual recognition arrangements

Author Name NAIKI Yoshiko  (Lecturer, Osaka University Graduate School of International Public Policy)
Creation Date/NO. May 2006 06-J-042
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This paper examines what kind of rules are set forth under regional trade agreements (RTAs) with respect to technical standards. Particular focus is placed on cases in which RTAs provide for "mutual recognition" arrangements concerning technical standards. The results of a survey on RTAs show that standards-related arrangements under RTAs mostly follow the basic obligations under the World Trade Organization Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The finding is hardly surprising because any "WTO plus" agreements in the area of technical standards - one that goes beyond the requirements of WTO law - must be in the form of either "mutual recognition" or "harmonization" and it is no easy task for any two countries to conclude such an agreement. Still, some RTAs do include provisions for mutual recognition. This paper starts by reviewing the conventional understandings, definitions and practice of mutual recognition, and then provides a comprehensive analysis of mutual recognition agreements covering the entire process from negotiation to implementation. For the purpose of this research, the mutual recognition arrangement under the Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement was taken up as a case study and interviews were conducted with those concerned from the two countries. By conducting such an interview survey, this paper explores a more dynamic picture of problems associated with the negotiations and implementation of a mutual recognition agreement. It concludes that mutual recognition should be perceived as a learning process through mutual understandings on domestic regulatory systems between two governments. Moreover, it suggests that in engaging into the negotiations, governments should attempt to create a system that is widely utilized by their industries.