COPANT is a multinational organization tasked with promoting standards and conformity assessment activities in the Americas and worldwide. The group is made up of 28 National Standards Bodies (NSBs) from the Americas, as well as 8 adherent members from other parts of the world.
The General Assembly provides a forum to advance standardization activities in the Americas, and offers opportunities for U.S. interests to share information, network with standards and conformance bodies from the region, and build important relationships that support trade and economic growth. During the assembly, ANSI and the Instituto Ecuatoriano de Normalización (INEN), Ecuador's national standards body, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in support of greater U.S.-Ecuadorian cooperation on issues related to standards and conformity assessment [see related story].
Mr. Bhatia provided some thoughts on his new position in a series of interview questions with COPANT:
What inspired you to seek the presidency of COPANT?
A key part of ANSI's mission is to initiate and support activities that address national and global priorities through standardization solutions, and facilitate the partnerships that enable those solutions. In my four years as COPANT vice president, I saw firsthand how COPANT can be a terrific forum for fostering that kind of collaboration in the Americas and beyond. My election as president demonstrates the U.S.'s commitment to international standardization and to our important trade partners in the region. I expect my role will help to raise awareness of international standardization within U.S. government and industry, and contribute to the spirit of regional and international cooperation that drives the standardization community.
In addition to COPANT, ANSI serves as the U.S. member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) via the U.S. National Committee, the Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC), and many other regional and international standardization organizations. In representing the U.S. in these forums around the globe, one commonality I have seen as a critical element in developing the strongest standards and conformance solutions is broad participation.
ANSI is an active COPANT member body because we know that standards and conformance are critical to addressing the technological, economic, and societal challenges that we all face. The U.S. is committed to developing globally relevant, responsive standards, and the opportunity to lead COPANT is both a personal honor for me, and a great opportunity for ANSI to foster recognition for the important work being done in the region.
What do you see as the challenges for COPANT, and the road forward?
I think COPANT faces some of the same challenges we are seeing in all areas of the world in standardization, as well as a few that are specific to the region. As I said earlier, broad participation is the key to strong globally relevant standardization solutions. But in many areas of the world - the U.S. included - we are seeing an alarming trend in decreased funding and prioritization of participation in standards and conformance activities. Even some of the largest organizations have made cutbacks that have resulted in reduced funding and human resources for standardization. We need to make sure the decision-makers in all of the COPANT nations - whether in government or the private sector, in countries large and small - know what a mistake it is to reduce or opt out of participation in international standardization.
We also need to get more young professionals involved, through targeted activities and outreach efforts, to ensure the strength of future generations of standardization leaders throughout the region. And we need to keep looking for ways to reduce financial barriers that may prevent some countries from becoming more active or taking leadership roles. The recent COPANT General Assembly is a great example of collaborative work to increase sub-regional participation. COPANT felt that it was important to host the meeting in a Caribbean nation to increase accessibility to many of that area's member bodies. To enable the St. Lucia Bureau of Standards (SLBS) to host such a large and important meeting, ANSI and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) provided support for the event.
The 2011-2015 COPANT Strategic Plan spells out our objective to modernize the organization and more effectively help member countries develop themselves through increased communication, participation, and collaboration. We will be looking at new ways of doing things that promote inclusion. We will seek out new participants and venues for open discussion. And we will continue working on agreements and partnerships that benefit all of our member nations.