ANSI - American National Standards Institute
 Print this article  Previous Next 

ISO Maintains Country Coding System to Facilitate Trade and Information Exchange

New York, Mar 20, 2002

The global exchange of goods and information is facilitated by an international country coding system that is relied upon by millions of operations worldwide. Maintaining the registration of country codes for this crucial system has been recently transferred to the Central Secretariat of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a non-governmental, worldwide federation of national standards bodies to which ANSI is the U.S. national member body.

In a recent ISO press release, the organization states that the system, based on ISO 3166, Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions, which is maintained by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 46, Information and documentation, is comprised of codes for 239 country names, which are "used in many applications worldwide in all branches of industry, trade and statistics." According to Cord Wischloefer, secretary of the ISO 3166 Maintenance agency, "In all such operations, country names in abbreviated or coded form can save time, space, energy and confusion-and, therefore, money too."

The responsibilities of the Maintenance agency for ISO 3166 are to manage the updating of the country codes and serve as a contact point for users regarding the correct application of the standard. ISO has devoted a section of its website to serve as a resource center for users. Before ISO took over maintenance responsibilities, the German national standards body, DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung), oversaw updates to the system and served as the primary point of contact.

"The international country coding system is widely used within the U.S. business community," indicated Patricia Harris, executive director for the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), a non-profit, association accredited by ANSI to serve as the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to TC 46. "The system is an indispensable tool for companies that conduct business internationally."

ISO has indicated that it will follow international developments to keep its country code listings up to date and will publish a newsletter to alert users to changes, which will be available via the ISO website. In addition, ISO will maintain an overview of existing code systems and coordinate with bodies running or using them with a view toward alignment.

For more information including a complete list of country names and code elements, see the Products and services section of ISO Online (

ISO TC 229 Nano technology Wiki