Non-Tariff Barriers Explained

Non-Tariff Measures and Trade Barriers

Governments can apply their own rules and procedures to manage the flow of goods and services into their country. For example the Australian Government, like our trading partners, impose non-tariff measures on importers to protect human, animal and plant health.

However, when these rules are not transparent, are overly restrictive or arbitrarily applied, or are inconsistent with trade rules, they can become barriers to trade.

New opportunity for Tasmanian seafood exporter

New opportunity for Tasmanian seafood exporter

Naming conventions present an export barrier

The first query lodged through the Non-Tariff Barriers Gateway was from Huon Valley Seafood—a Tasmania-based seafood processing and packing business that employs 16 staff.

Despite expanded export market access opportunities provided by the China–Australia Free Trade Agreement, one of Huon Valley Seafood’s products—Gould’s Squid—was not on China’s eligible species list that approves exports from Australia.

In January 2019—following long-term efforts by the Department of Agriculture—four new seafood species, including Gould’s Squid, were added to the eligible species list and granted market access.

"Improved market access for Australian seafood products into a diversity of markets is a great win, as suppliers will be able to grow their business to fill increased international orders," said Jane Lovell, Chief Executive Officer, Seafood Industry Australia.

The market access achievement has been touted as a major win for the seafood industry by Huon Valley Seafood.

"We are anticipating sales between three and four million dollars next season, which will substantially increase our turnover and direct employment," said Ambrose Coad, Managing Director of Huon Valley Seafood.

"The flow-on effect to the fishing industry and transport sector is also very positive. All these factors are important to the continued viability of our company and the industry."

Cherries ripe for improved access to China

Cherries ripe for improved access to China

Tapping into demand for quality fresh fruit

Australian cherry producers first gained access to the Chinese market in 2013, and it is now one of Australia's most important export destinations for cherries, worth over $27 million in 2018–19, more than doubling the previous year's export worth.

China's growing middle class provides a strong market for Australia's fresh fruit exporters, particularly a high-value fruit like cherries. However, China's regulations required costly and lengthy treatments to their crop prior to export, affecting the freshness of the cherries and hurting growers' bottom line.

Improving our ability to compete in China

In collaboration with the cherry industry, the Australian Government successfully negotiated the removal of barriers that were hampering exports to China. In November 2017 Australia signed a new agreement with the Chinese Government allowing improved options to make it easier and cheaper to export.

The agreement meant growers could get fresher cherries to China by reducing treatment times from two weeks to a two hour procedure. Now growers can pick fruit in the morning, treat in the afternoon and have fresh produce on a plane the same day.

Cherry Growers Australia President Tom Eastlake said, "This agreement has expanded access to an important market for Australian cherry growers. They can be more competitive with other cherry exporting nations, by getting cherries from harvest to Chinese consumers faster and more cost-effectively”.

Cherry Growers Australia forecasts that exports to China could grow to as much as $50 million in future years as a result.

"The willingness of Australian producers to export has never been higher," said Mr Eastlake.

Bringing a taste of Australian summer to China

Bringing a taste of Australian summer to China

Australia's bounty of summerfruit—apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums—are now counted among the most popular products on Chinese supermarket shelves.

This wasn't always the case. Despite significant tariff reductions under the China–Australia Free Trade Agreement, transport and lengthy post-harvest treatment requirements meant it was difficult and costly export fresh fruit to China.

Quick shipments allow easier access

In November 2017, Australia and China agreed on updates to existing trade rules to enable new market access for Aussie peaches, plums and apricots.

The new agreements allow transport of fresh fruit by air – a method previously excluded for some types of fruit – greatly decreasing the time from harvest to market.

Avocados a success in the Japanese market

Avocados a success in the Japanese market

Using a natural defence to achieve market access

When exporting fresh fruits to Japan, growers must meet set biosecurity conditions, including treatments against fruit fly. Under international trade rules, countries have the right to use biosecurity measures for protecting plants and plant productsfrom pests and diseases.

The Hass avocado is a special example of how a plant's natural characteristics can be used to meet the import requirements of Australia's trading partners.

A tough skin makes all the difference

Hass avocados have a textured, pebbly skin that deters some species of fruit fly—like Mediterranean fruit fly. This provides an advantage for Hass avocados grown in some parts of Australia, including Western Australia.

Working in conjunction with industry over several years, the Department of Agriculture negotiated a protocol with Japan to successfully secure new access arrangements for hard-mature Australian Hass avocados.

As a result, from January 2018, hard-mature, Australian Hass avocados grown in areas officially recognised as being free from Queensland fruit fly are able to be exported to Japan shortly after picking and packing, without having to undergo costly and time-consuming treatments.

Avocados Australia Chief Executive Officer John Tyas said, "The protocol is a very workable one, so we congratulate the Australian Government and their Japanese counterparts."

Lentils pulsing in Bangladesh

Lentils pulsing in Bangladesh

Lentils in demand

Australia's lentils are in great demand in many markets in Asia—particularly in Bangladesh, which accounts for almost a third of all Australian lentil exports. As a major grower and exporter of the high-value crop, in 2018-19 Australia exported more than $124 million of the pulse to Bangladesh.

But up until 2017, Bangladesh required Australian lentils to undergo a costly and environmentally unfriendly food safety treatment before export. Australian farmers and industry identified this as a significant and unnecessary barrier to trade because of the strict quality control and high food safety standards already in place in Australia.

Improved market access benefits the environment

In early 2014, Australia’s Agriculture department started discussions with Bangladesh to remove the unnecessary fumigation treatment. After three years of negotiations, the Bangladeshi Government changed regulatory requirements and issued the first import permit for Australian lentils.

Since then, Bangladesh has continued to accept Australian lentils treated to approved Australian standards.

Yielding results for a popular crop

Australian farmers consider this a significant achievement, particularly as demand for Australian lentils in Bangladesh continues to grow. By removing the unnecessary treatment, a significant compliance cost has been removed and the risk of delivery delays reduced.

"This is a fantastic result for the local industry," said Pulse Australia CEO Nick Goddard. "Lentils are a popular commodity with our trading partners in the South Asia region and maintaining our access with Bangladesh secures a strong future for the industry."

New listings open up market for private higher education providers

New listings open up market for private higher education providers

Seeking expanded access

In 2018, more than 200,000 Chinese students pursued education opportunities in Australia, making a significant contribution to our classrooms, the community and the economy.

For information about higher education opportunities, Chinese students gather their information from the highly-respected Chinese Ministry of Education overseas study website, known as the JSJ website.

In 2015 there were already 105 Australian institutions (including public universities and TAFEs) on the JSJ website. However, until recently, Australian private higher education providers were not included on the website, facing a non-tariff barrier by their simple exclusion.

Listening to industry

During the course of China-Australian Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) negotiations, industry consistently raised the inclusion of private higher education providers on the JSJ website as a priority.

Australian officials provided their Chinese counterparts with detailed briefing about Australia’s robust regulatory and quality assurance settings, in turn building the awareness and acceptance of the high quality of Australian education institutions in China.

As a result, the Australian Government was able to negotiate the addition of 68 Australian private higher education providers to the JSJ website, substantially boosting Australia’s education profile within China.

Boost to Chinese student numbers

Following the additional listing on the JSJ website in 2016, Chinese student enrolments in private higher education increased by 5 per cent in 2017, and by 4 per cent in 2018.

Canola study maintains market access

Canola study maintains market access

Biofueling the European Union

For many years, the EU has been a valuable market for Australian canola exports, which are primarily used for biofuel production.

From 1 January 2018, the EU introduced a new greenhouse gas savings target for all biofuel source material—requiring Australian growers and exporters verify the low emission status of canola compared with fossil fuels, to ensure continued access to the EU market.

Industry and government working together to achieve results

The Australian Oilseeds Federation and Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre commissioned the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to produce a country report to verify the level of greenhouse gas emissions for canola cultivation in Australia on a regional basis.

The CSIRO report found that the entire lifecycle of growing canola in Australia—planting, fertilizing, harvesting and transport—produced approximately half the amount of greenhouse gases compared to fossil fuels.

With the CSIRO report completed, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources worked closely with counterparts in the European Commission to ensure that Australia’s country report was accepted and endorsed to allow Australia’s trade in canola to the EU to continue.

Australian Oilseeds Executive Director Nick Goddard said the potential implications if trade was disrupted were serious.

"The EU market is too valuable to lose for Australian canola growers," said Mr Goddard.

"In 2016/17, Australian canola exports to the EU were typically worth over $1 billion, with nearly all those exports being used for biodiesel production."

Just in time

In December 2017, Australia became the first non-EU supplier to have its country report on canola endorsed—just before the EU’s new greenhouse gas emissions target was introduced from 1 January 2018. This endorsement provided certainty to EU canola buyers and Australian exporters of continued access of Australian canola to the EU market.

This also means that Australian-grown canola can continue to be part of the EU’s renewable energy mix into the future.

Advocacy results in extended shelf life for meat to the Middle East

Advocacy results in extended shelf life for meat to the Middle East

Short shelf-life requirements impede trade

The United Arab Emirates is one of Australia's largest red meat markets in the Middle East, but requirements imposing a short shelf life have restricted potential market opportunities for Australian exporters in the past.

The UAE's requirements on product shelf life and long voyage times meant there was little actual shelf life left for chilled meat once it arrived in market. This limited the competitiveness of Australian products and was costing Australian exporters up to $60 million per year according to industry sources.

Industry and government working together

The Australian Government, working closely with the Australian meat export industry, advocated the commercial and scientific merits of the UAE increasing its shelf life period for vacuum-packed chilled meat.

This paid off in 2017 when UAE increased its maximum shelf life from 90 days to 120 days for vacuum-packed beef and from 70 days to 90 days for sheep meat. This provided Australia's meat exporters more flexibility in exporting meat to the Middle East, helping to reduce costs by allowing bulk shipments via sea instead of smaller shipments sent by air.

National Farmers' Federation President Fiona Simson said, "The Middle East, including the UAE, is a crucial market for our beef and sheep meat with combined exports to the UAE alone valued at $295.8 million per annum."

"The breaking down of non-tariff trade barriers is acutely important for all agricultural exports with seemingly 'simple' barriers often costing sectors significantly as a result of limited or no market access.

"The positive outcome for beef and sheep meat demonstrates the value of industry and government working together to achieve tangible results for Australian farmers, food processors and manufacturers."

Expanding export opportunities in the Middle East

The Australian Government is continuing to promote extended shelf life for vacuum-packed chilled meat with other countries in the Middle East, taking advantage of a second Agriculture Counsellor posted to the region to help tackle market access impediments like this one and to expand Australia's agriculture exports.

Non-Tariff Barrier Examples

Unjustified trade rules can occur either at the border, where products or services are permitted to enter an overseas market, or behind the border, where products or services are traded within the overseas market.

Non-tariff barriers are generally less visible than a straightforward tariff. The government works closely with industry to verify the nature of barriers, evaluate options and discuss the benefits and risks of taking action. Here are some examples of non-tariff barriers, at the border and behind the border.

At the Border

At the Border

Importing country certification


Biosecurity requirements


Pre-Inspections


Border and customs delays


Product labelling and packaging standards

Behind the Border

Behind the Border

Red tape


Regulatory rules


Price controls


Local ownership rules


Foreign work requirements


Implementation of requirements


Data storage and privacy requirements

Australia’s action plan seeks to clearly define responsibilities, expectations and processes to help to improve outcomes when Australian businesses face non-tariff barriers.

To achieve this, we will seek to:

Set clear expectations for information sharing

Exporters have a right to know how the government is addressing concerns about barriers affecting their business and which areas of government are responsible. To determine our approach and set clear expectations, we will clarify roles and responsibilities across government and set out how we will share information with business in a timely, accessible and comprehensive manner.

Be upfront about processes, constraints and limitations

Some barriers can be overcome by seeking information or clarifying requirements. Others are allowable under WTO rules and can take years to resolve depending on the nature of the barrier and the willingness of our trading partners to take action. Despite our best efforts, some may even be intractable. Government and business will maintain open and frank lines of communication to ensure all parties are clear on what is and is not possible.

Report regularly on progress and outcomes

To keep the business community informed on progress eliminating trade barriers, the government will make regular reports available to the public. When industry associations conduct analysis of barriers affecting their exports, government will report back on how action is being taken. Reporting and feedback will be provided to individual businesses reflecting their specific concerns, and in aggregate based on industry-wide trends.