This paper aims to assess the role of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) for new member states (NMSs) exports in the agri-food sector, in the period just before the EU accession actually stepped into force. The assessment is based on a detailed sectoral gravity model, which was enhanced with inclusion of different categories of NTBs: sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), quality measures and import certificates. While the first two categories have implications primarily on production costs, the last category relates to transaction costs. SPS and quality measures do not so much act as barriers to trade for NMSs agro-food exports in the period immediately before joining the single market (year 2003), and their diminishing role, confirmed by the use of gravity modelling technique rather reflects the progress made in implementing the acquis communautaire. In contrast, import certificates still act as a barrier to trade, for reasons relating to the transaction costs involved. While developing the model on the product level, prices and two ratios of competitiveness (bilateral, global) were introduced, by which the multilateral resistance to trade is indicated.