Regional integration

Addressing Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) is fundamental for all regional trade agreements (RTAs), from free trade areas to those with ambitions of creating a common market or a customs union. With the increasing relevance of regional and global value chains, an efficient NTM regime on imported inputs for domestic processing and export can enhance competitiveness. However, while non-tariff “barriers” with economic and protectionist objectives may be eliminated, measures with objectives to protect public health or the environment cannot be eliminated. Such SPS and TBT measures need to be addressed through harmonization in order to lead to an adequate degree of consumer/environment protection while still being supportive for regional economic development.  

Coordinating national non-tariff policy regimes, including “behind the border” SPS measures and TBT, on a regional level is a permanent challenge. Nevertheless, and particularly in the area of NTMs, regional initiatives can be a more flexible tool than multilateral negotiations to lead to mutually beneficial deep economic integration.

Responding to these challenges, UNCTAD has developed innovative methodologies to analyze comprehensive NTM data (for merchandise trade) to assess the potential and benefits for “deep” NTM-related regional integration.

Regional non-tariff measures integration reviews provide analytical support for regional integration processes by systematically addressing NTMs in RTAs.

A review consists of:

  • NTM data collection [only if NTM data is not already available]
  • Economic impact assessment, including a novel methodology to measure “regulatory distance” between members of a trade bloc and computable general equilibrium modeling to assess economic benefits of further integration.
  • Institutional analysis to identify strengths and weaknesses in the regional integration of non-tariff measures.
  • Validation workshop to develop strategies for deeper regional integration. Further, tailored advisory services and support for policymakers to streamline national regulations, establish good regulatory practices and strengthen value chains are available upon request.


UNCTAD has conducted projects and provided regional NTMs integration reviews in the following region:

  • Southern African Development Community (SADC)
  • Mercado Común del Sur / Southern Common Market (Mercosur)
  • Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
  • Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)