Non-tariff trade barriers to trade are damaging too

On average, the economic costs of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) now far exceed those of tariffs, which have generally been falling as new free trade agreements are implemented. Indeed, NTBs to trade are particularly malignant. Their costs are harder to quantify and the benefits easier to overstate, especially if they can be justified on grounds of ‘health and safety’ or protection from ‘unfair’ competition. Food standards should be proportionate and science-based. Too often they are not, particularly in Europe. Multiple studies have shown big economic gains from removing anti-competitive market distortions, including NTBs. Attempts by powerful lobbies to promote NTBs on the basis of flimsy evidence therefore need to be resisted at every turn, with a focus instead on putting consumers’ true interests first.

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