There are three types of technical requirements. Technical regulations are mandatory requirements set by governments. Standards are voluntary and are usually developed by a group of stakeholders, such as industry, consumers, public authorities and researchers. Standards can become mandatory if this is decided by government bodies. Conformity assessments are procedures such as testing, inspection and certification.
There is a risk that technical regulations, standards etc. are being used as a means of protectionism. The Technical Barriers to Trade agreement (TBT) was created to ensure that technical requirements do not lead to unnecessary obstacles to trade. All products, including industrial and agricultural products, are subject to the Agreement (except purchasing specifications and SPS measures which are covered by other WTO agreements). The TBT Agreement recognises that governments have the right to take the necessary measures for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health, but they should not discriminate against countries nor constitute disguised restrictions to trade. The TBT agreement includes provisions for the preparation, adoption and application of technical regulations and standards.