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Review of mutual recognition (2003)

Research report

This report was released on 17 October 2003.

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  • Key points
  • Media release
  • Contents

While data are limited, there are indications that the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) and the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA) have been effective overall in achieving their objectives of assisting the integration of the Australian and New Zealand economies and promoting competitiveness. They should continue.

Many of the permanent exemptions and exclusions should remain, as mutual recognition would otherwise erode justified regulatory differences. However, some modifications to coverage, scope, administrative practices and review mechanisms are warranted.

Improvements likely to yield net benefits include:

  • clarifying or correcting some permanent exemptions (for example, changing the endangered species exemption to reflect the current legislation in Australia) to increase policy consistency and effectiveness;
  • limiting the exception for the registration of sellers to apply only to regulatory differences based on health, safety and environmental grounds;
  • removing occupational qualification requirements from business licences that are inconsistent with mutual recognition objectives;
  • facilitating the use of the exemption and referral processes available under the MRA and TTMRA to introduce or change standards;
  • making it easier to appeal decisions and review provisions of the MRA and the TTMRA;
  • integrating product safety bans with the temporary exemption mechanism; and
  • increasing the attention given to mutual recognition obligations by policy makers effecting new or revised regulation.

Consideration should be given to establishing a review group of officials to assess expanding mutual recognition to cover regulations governing the use of goods and possibly to undertake other MRA/TTMRA related work.

Significant further progress in relation to the TTMRA special exemptions will require greater cooperation across agencies and jurisdictions to address inconsistent and cumbersome regulatory practices.

  • Better focussed cooperation programs would assist reaching agreement across jurisdictions.

The effectiveness of the schemes would be enhanced by undertaking an awareness program on the obligations and benefits of mutual recognition, aimed at regulators, policy advisers and relevant industries and professions.

In a report released today, the Productivity Commission has found that the Australian Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) and the Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA) have been effective overall in achieving their objectives of assisting the integration of the Australian and New Zealand economies and promoting competitiveness.

These two schemes provide a practical way to overcome regulatory differences inappropriately restricting goods and labour mobility. They are important government initiatives that involve significant inter-governmental cooperation across ten governments at the national, state and territory levels.

Commissioner Tony Hinton said: 'The Commission’s evaluation of the schemes identified a range of potential improvements, as well as some other actions by the involved governments, that would enhance their effectiveness.'

The Commission suggested that widening the scope of mutual recognition obligations to apply to regulations relating to the use of goods could be considered by a review group of officials.

Work should continue on reaching agreement on regulatory differences to enable elimination of the TTMRA’s six special exemptions. This would be facilitated by implementing better focussed cooperation programs that have been set up for these six areas.

The effectiveness of both schemes would be enhanced by a coordinated awareness campaign on the benefits and obligations of mutual recognition. This could usefully be directed at regulators, local governments and relevant industry and occupational associations.

The Report will be used by the ten governments that requested the evaluation in considering possible changes to the two schemes.

Cover, Copyright, Foreword, Terms of reference, Contents, Abbreviations, Overview, Findings

1 Introduction
1.1 Background to mutual recognition
1.2 Previous reviews
1.3 The reference
1.4 The Commission’s approach
1.5 Structure of the report

2 Mutual recognition framework
2.1 Legislative environment
2.2 Mutual recognition mechanisms
2.3 Coverage of the MRA and TTMRA

3 Objectives and assessment criteria
3.1 Clear and credible objectives
3.2 Effectiveness
3.3 Efficiency
3.4 Practicality
3.5 Sovereignty
3.6 International obligations and sovereignty
3.7 Conclusion

4 Impact of mutual recognition
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Impacts on goods mobility
4.3 Impacts on labour mobility
4.4 Prices, wages, costs, economies of scale, and standards
4.5 Standard Setting
4.6 Other Impacts
4.7 Conclusion

5 Operation of mutual recognition
5.1 Mutual recognition of goods
5.2 Mutual recognition of registered occupations
5.3 Appeal processes
5.4 Monitoring and compliance systems

6 Regulation and standards processes
6.1 Regulation and mutual recognition
6.2 Standard setting

7 Permanent exemptions and exclusions to mutual recognition
7.1 Permanent exemptions: goods
7.2 Permanent exemptions: occupations
7.3 Exclusions

8 Special exemptions under the TTMRA
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Hazardous substances, industrial chemicals and dangerous goods
8.3 Therapeutic goods
8.4 Road vehicles
8.5 Gas appliances
8.6 Electromagnetic compatibility and radiocommunications equipment
8.7 Consumer goods

9 Scope of the schemes
9.1 Exceptions applying to goods
9.2 Exceptions applying to occupations
9.3 Expanding the schemes

A Submissions and meetings

B 1998 Review Recommendations

C Registered occupations and licences under legislation

D Other approaches to mutual recognition
European Union
United States of Americay

E Interstate mobility by occupation
E.1 Introduction
E.2 Data
E.3 Interstate migration
E.4 Model outline
E.5 Results

F Minimum Energy Performance Standards
Electric storage water heaters
Lighting ballasts

G Variations in food standards
How non alignment occurs
Examples of variations
Other DOHA and FSANZ Options


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