Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: June 2018

7 - Non-Tariff Barriers



As mentioned in Chapter 6, not only tariff barriers but also a wide range of non-tariff barriers restrict trade. While tariff barriers were systematically reduced since the late 1940s as a result of successive rounds of tariff negotiations, non-tariff barriers have in recent decades gradually become an ever more prominent instrument of protection. The term ‘non-tariff barrier’ is not defined in WTO law, but this important residual category of barriers to trade can be understood to include all government imposed and sponsored actions or omissions that act as prohibitions or restrictions on trade, other than ordinary customs duties and other duties and charges on imports and exports.

Unlike tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers not only affect trade in goods but also trade in services.

This chapter deals in turn with: (1) quantitative restrictions on trade in goods; (2) ‘other non-tariff barriers’ on trade in goods; (3) market access barriers to trade in services; and (4) other barriers to trade in services. Note, however, that this chapter does not deal with two specific types of ‘other non-tariff barriers’ to trade in goods, namely, technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures. Due to their importance and detailed nature, the rules on these ‘other non-tariff barriers’ are discussed, separately, in Chapters 13 and 14 respectively. While non-tariff barriers have become a prominent instrument of protection, they often also serve important public policy objectives, such as public health, consumer safety and environmental protection. To the extent that they do so, their elimination or liberalisation may not be desirable at all. That is the case in particular, but not only, for the ‘other non-tariff barriers’ discussed in Chapters 13 and 14. WTO law regulates these other non-tariff barriers with a view to allowing their use but minimising discrimination and their adverse impact on trade.


The archetypical non-tariff barrier to trade is a quantitative restriction on trade in goods. This section discusses: (1) the definition and types of quantitative restriction on trade in goods; (2) the rules on quantitative restrictions; and (3) the administration of quantitative restrictions.

Definition and Types

A quantitative restriction on trade in goods, also referred to as a ‘QR’, is a measure that limits the quantity of a product that may be imported or exported.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO