To lay the ground for mutual recognition and streamlining of standards across G20 countries so that they don’t act as barriers to trade, India is planning to hold a regulators’ dialogue on standards at the closing online G20 Summit proposed in November 2023, said government officials.

“We are inviting regulatory bodies from G20 nations, plus the nine invitee nations, to come and discuss on a mutual basis how Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) can be done, and how we can streamline standards rather than have every country repeat the same tests which end up impeding trade,” said the official.

There are already some existing international standards, such as the Codex and the well-defined MRLs, on which countries could try and have some kind of understanding to begin with, said the official. “Discussions can happen across the board and the agreements could be bilateral rather than plurilateral such as India with the US, India with the EU, India with Australia or the EU with Australia,” said the official.

The Commerce & Industry Ministry, which will hold the regulators dialogue, is in touch with Indian standards bodies such as the BIS and FSSAI. “We are calling some of the important regulatory bodies from other countries. It will be first of its kind regulatory dialogue,” said the official.

multiple testing

The idea behind the dialogue is to ensure that need not be multiple testing of goods, which adds to costs. For example, if there are standards that are applicable to a particular product in a country which its authorised body is approving, then the product should not be subjected to multiple testing when it is exported to other countries. “At present, every country is doing its own testing of items. For exports it comes as a barrier and bottleneck as costs go up,” he added.

G20 economies rank among the main notifiers of SPS measures, accounting for 65 per cent of total regular notifications (including revisions and addenda), and 35 per cent of emergency notifications (including revisions and addenda), according to data submitted to the WTO from January 1, 1995, to September 30, 2022, per the report on G20 Trade and Investment Measures, jointly brought out by the G20, the WTO and the UNCTAD in July this year.

During the review period — October 2022-May 2023 — Japan, Brazil, Canada, the EU, and the US were the top five notifiers of regular and emergency notifications (including revisions and addenda), accounting for 72 per cent of all the notifications submitted by G20 economies in that period.

“When products are exported, many a times because of technical barriers, such as requirements like lab testing, it becomes very costly. Many times those inspections don’t happen as some countries don’t send their inspectors to inspect new exports and, therefore, new entrants can’t start their supplies. This has been happening in the case of marine products and some other items,” another official pointed out.

This year, India held the presidency of the G20 nations — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, the United States, the African Union and the European Union. From December 2023, it would pass on to Brazil.