copy the linklink copied!Key terms used in the report

Regulation is the diverse set of instruments by which governments set requirements on enterprises and citizens. Regulation include all laws, formal and informal orders, subordinate rules, administrative formalities and rules issued by non-governmental or self-regulatory bodies to whom governments have delegated regulatory powers (OECD, 2018[1]).

Although there is no agreed definition of international standards across international organisations, the term is used in this report in its “WTO” understanding. The TBT Committee set out six principles for the development of international standards,1 including i) transparency; ii) openness; iii) impartiality and consensus; iv) effectiveness and relevance; v) coherence; and vi) the development dimension. In addition, WTO case-law provides some guidance.2 For an instrument to be considered an “international standard” under the TBT Agreement it must both: constitute a “standard” (i.e. a document approved by a recognized body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for products or related processes and production methods, with which compliance is not mandatory) and be “international” in character, i.e. adopted by an international standardising body.

International normative documents developed by international organisations go beyond such international standards. Therefore, to encompass the broader range of legal and policy documents adopted by international organisations, and in line with the approach used in (OECD, 2018[1]), this report refers to the broader term of international instruments. These cover legally binding requirements that are meant to be directly binding on member states and non-legally binding instruments that may be given binding value through transposition in domestic legislation or recognition in international legal instruments. This broad notion therefore covers e.g. treaties, legally binding decisions, non-legally binding recommendations, model treaties or laws, declarations and voluntary international standards.3

Better regulation or regulatory policy is the set of rules, procedures and institutions introduced by government for the express purpose of developing, administering and reviewing regulation (OECD, 2018[1]).

International regulatory co-operation (IRC) is defined, following (OECD, 2013[2]), as any agreement or institutional arrangement, formal or informal, between countries to promote some form of coherence in the design, monitoring, enforcement or ex post evaluation of regulation. It also includes the unilateral efforts of countries to account for the international environment in domestic rulemaking and the impacts of regulations beyond borders.

The report refers to “departments and regulators”, be they government departments, executive agencies or non-departmental bodies, to characterise the range of national bodies responsible for making and enforcing regulation. Box 3.1 specifies further the categories of UK bodies with regulatory powers. Some of the better regulation requirements apply specifically to government departments and selected regulatory agencies – it is specified in the review when it is the case.


[1] OECD (2018), OECD Regulatory Policy Outlook 2018, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[2] OECD (2013), International Regulatory Co-operation: Addressing Global Challenges, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[3] OECD/WTO (2019), Facilitating Trade through Regulatory Cooperation: The Case of the WTO’s TBT/SPS Agreements and Committees, OECD Publishing, Paris/World Trade Organization, Geneva,


← 1. TBT Committee Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations with relations to Articles 2, 5 and Annex 3 of the TBT Agreement (G/TBT/1/Rev.13, Annex 2).

← 2. For further information see (OECD/WTO, 2019[3]).

← 3. For an overview of the different families of international instruments developed by international organisations, ranging from treaties, prescriptive instruments and policy instruments to incentive instruments, technical standards, mutal recognition agreements and supporting instruments, see The Contribution of International Organisations to a Rule-Based International System, 2019,

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