Models for Avoiding and
Policing Technical Barriers
PREVIOUS CHAPTERS explored the scope and significance of technical barriers to trade and developed some positive and normative economic considerations bearing on the genesis of technical barriers and their economic consequences. This chapter discusses the legal/ institutional treatment of technical barrier problems, identifying the approaches that have been developed to discipline them and indicating, when possible, their strengths or weaknesses in practice.
Given the staggering variety of standards and regulations in the international economy, it is perhaps surprising that technical barriers are not more of a problem in international markets and that much trade occurs without serious attention to them. This was true even before important international initiatives such as those of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Market activity alone suffices to avoid many technical barrier problems. When decentralized markets alone are not enough, firms move toward cooperative efforts undertaken by international organizations that resemble, in many respects, the private and public-private standardization entities that operate domestically in most trading nations. It would be misleading to characterize these organizations as affording a strictly "market" solution to technical barriers, for they are typically supported by a mixture of public and private funding, and their members include