World Trade Organisation (WTO) members use the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee to discuss each other’s product regulations and standards, which are at times problematic for producers and traders. Governments use product regulations to protect consumer safety and health or to give consumers information. However, they need to do it in a way that does not make trade in these products unnecessarily burdensome.
Several years ago there was a scare concerning the level of lead found in some children’s toys. The result was a number of countries scrambling to implement increased levels of protection against this risk, and the tightening up of levels of harmful chemicals that children could be exposed to when playing with toys.
At the June 2015 TBT Committee meeting, toy safety again featured high on the agenda, with five trade concerns discussed by members. Discussions focused on how to ensure that toys do not pose a health risk for children, while still allowing for regular international trade in toys. In some cases, safety standards differ from one country to another, or testing procedures may be duplicative, burdensome, or specific to one market.
New Zealand has aligned its standards for toys with international standards, ISO and IEC, and with EU (CEN) standards. This removes any substantial obstacles to trade in toys, as international standards have been agreed by the international community, and are very widely used.