Removing or minimizing obstacles to international trade.
One of the WTO's tasks, the elimination of non-tariff barriers to trade, is performed in part through two other agreements. The agreement on technical barriers to trade and the one on sanitary and phytosanitary measures each claim to "harmonise" standards and rules for the protection of the environment, public health and consumers. In practice, "harmonisation" imposes ceilings that effectively reduce national laws to the lowest common denominator and dispenses with the precautionary principle. Anyone who refuses to import a product on the grounds that it may be hazardous to health or destructive to the environment must provide scientific proof. One of the battles between WTO countries will be over the principle of on whom the burden of proof lies.
The protective effectiveness of non-tariff barriers depends a great deal on their qualitative details and the exact way in which they are administered. For this reason it is particularly desirable to reduce these barriers and, where some restrictions are deemed absolutely indispensable, to switch to more visible instruments such as tariffs.
The liberalization of non-tariff barriers cannot easily be forced upon countries from outside.