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Cybersecurity and Technical Barriers to Trade

To date, more than 70 cybersecurity-related Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) measures have been notified to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Of that total, 70% were notified in the last three years.

These include cybersecurity of the Internet of Things, 5G technology, telecommunications and radio equipment, and software-based and network-connected products.

Most of these measures indicate that they are proposed or adopted for the protection of national security imperatives (Article 2.2 of the TBT Agreement).

Other notified objectives include the prevention of deceptive practices, the protection of human health or safety, and quality.

The most active notifying Members in this area include the European Union (and/or its member states), Brazil, the United States, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, Uganda, Japan, China and Chinese Taipei.

In recent years, WTO Members have increasingly used TBT Committee meetings to raise and discuss specific trade concerns relating to various TBT measures related to cybersecurity.

The measures that are the subject of these concerns regulate, among other things, ICT products and network equipment, vehicles, civil aviation, banking and insurance.

Cybersecurity

To date, Members have raised at least 24 specific trade concerns, most of them (60%) in the last five years (2017-2022).

Those specific trade concerns related to measures maintained mainly by China, the United States, the European Union and Viet Nam.

The measures subject to these concerns took the form, for example, of mandatory market access requirements for Internet-connected radio equipment, restrictions on the use of network elements from high-risk producers under 5G or data localization requirements.

Members who raised such concerns were concerned, specifically, that the measures did not comply with the transparency and non-discrimination obligations under the TBT Agreement and that the measures lacked clarity, were broad in scope, inconsistent with international standards and unnecessarily trade-restrictive.

In response, Members to whom these specific trade concerns were raised generally emphasized the need for cybersecurity standards to, inter alia, address national security issues and ensure consumer privacy.

 

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