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.

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.

Overcoming Barriers For Mango Exports To Korea

Overcoming Barriers For Mango Exports To Korea

Challenges for Korean mango imports

When the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) entered into force in December 2014, mangoes grown in Australia qualified for special tariff rates.

Despite these improvements, Australia’s growers and exporters were restricted by Korea’s food safety laws from using common procedures to improve the shelf life of mangoes. This meant exporters were not able to make the most of the agreement.

Negotiating to remove trade barriers

To complement the tariff reductions in the free trade agreement, in December 2016 the Australian Government negotiated new trade rules with Korean authorities, allowing fresher, longer lasting mangoes into the Korean market.

Since then, exports of Australian mangoes to Korea have flourished, growing by around 35 per cent from 2016–17 to 2017–18 to be worth over half a million dollars.

Opportunity to grow through seasonal demand

Mango consumption has increased rapidly in Korea, and Korean consumers consider Australia’s unique varieties a premium product.

Manbulloo Mangoes Managing Director Marie Piccone said, "There’s strong demand for mangoes from all over the world in the Korean market and Australian mangoes have got a really significant place there."

Korea imported over $70 million worth of mangoes in 2017, making it an attractive market for Australian growers and exporters.

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


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.