ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Commerce Department Launches Standards Initiative

New York, Mar 20, 2003

Department of Commerce (DOC) Secretary Don Evans announced yesterday a new initiative aimed at boosting U.S. exports by reducing technical barriers to trade around the world. Included in the program is an eight-point plan intended to augment current DoC activities. The goal is to create a more level playing field around the world and incorporates assessment, training, warning systems, dialogue with industry and more.

The project acknowledges that foreign standards – and methods used to assess conformity to standards – can facilitate efficient international trade and its benefits, or they also can be used intentionally or unintentionally to impede access to foreign markets. This observation mirrors statements included in the National Standards Strategy (NSS) for the United States that was approved in 2000.

The NSS establishes a framework that can be used by all interests including companies, government, nongovernmental organizations, standards developers and consumers, to further improve U.S. competitiveness abroad while continuing to provide strong support for domestic markets. It was developed over a two-year period by representatives from the public- and private-sectors; its development was coordinated by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

“The Bush Administration remains committed to promoting competition and opening new markets for U.S. goods,” said Evans. “Standards and testing are key to our international competitiveness. But more and more we are hearing that foreign standards and testing requirements are keeping our products out of foreign markets. This is the wrong approach that reduces efficiencies, limits competition and increases prices for the consumer goods.”

“This welcome new initiative from the Commerce Department will help to further and strengthen a widespread understanding of the important role that developing and using voluntary standards and conformity assessment play in the support of U.S. citizens and the competitiveness of our nation’s industry in international trade,” said Mark Hurwitz, ANSI president and CEO. “We are pleased that the Department of Commerce solicited and relied on input from ANSI in finalizing this new standards initiative. We believe the National Standards Strategy will help to serve as an effective roadmap to developing reliable, market-driven standards in all sectors.”

A DOC press release summarizes the initiative as follows:

1. Developing a Commerce Global Standards Activity Assessment: The Technology Administration, through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will take the lead in conducting a standards activity assessment of all existing Commerce Department programs and efforts to reduce standards-related barriers in foreign markets. Following consultations with industry and other stakeholders, including ANSI and its member standards developers, recommendations will be made to the Secretary for future action.

2. Reinforcing Expertise in Key Markets: NIST and the International Trade Administration (ITA) have developed a new, redesigned, intensive training program for standards liaisons posted abroad.

3. Devising an Effective Training and Outreach Program: NIST and ITA, in cooperation with U.S. standards development organizations, will develop a standards training program for all Commerce Department Foreign Commercial Service Officers.

4. Creating a "Best Practices" Database: Working with its offices abroad, other government agencies, and industry, the Commerce Department will develop a database of "best practices" in addressing standards issues in foreign markets.

5. Expanding the Early Warning System: The Commerce Department will strengthen and expand "Export Alert!," a free, web-based service to disseminate market intelligence and information on standards developments in key priority foreign markets in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

6. Partnering with the President's Export Council on Standards Leadership: The Commerce Department will support the development of a dialogue on standards within the proposed President's Export Council subcommittee on technology and competitiveness.

7. Reaching out to U.S. Industry: The Commerce Department will host a series of industry-specific roundtables to gather input from U.S. industry on the most pressing standards issues and priority foreign markets.

8. Appointing a Liaison at the International Trade Administration: A senior official will be named to act as ITA's Standards Liaison with U.S. industry to ensure that industry's priorities on standards are promoted through the Commerce Department's international policies and programs, and will also work closely with other U.S. government agencies.

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