ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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WTO Standards Report Explores the Role and Impact of Standards on Global Trade


New York, Jul 08, 2005

We live in a world "profoundly reliant on standards" that have "far-reaching implications" for trade, says the World Trade Organization's (WTO) 2005 World Trade Report. The recently released 376-page document explores the links between trade, standards and the WTO, and includes essays on offshoring of services and international trade in air transport.

The report provides a thorough and expansive discussion that highlights the important benefits standards deliver in terms of information for consumers, environmental protection and compatibility among related goods and services, while asserting that the application of technical standards by national governments can have both constructive and detrimental effects on international trade.

"The impact of standards and conformity assessment programs on the global economy has always been quite clear, and the 2005 World Trade Report discussion of standards and trade reinforces this," said ANSI president and CEO Mark W. Hurwitz.

The report acknowledges the changes that have occurred in standardization over time, noting a current focus on industry and trade that has resulted in greater participation by the private sector and an increase in standards that are voluntary rather than mandatory. Depending on the function of a standard – compatibility, safety, or environment – the effect standards have on international trade will vary.

Standards must “comply or be compatible with international norms and the testing and certification elements need to be recognized internationally,” according to the report. And standards institutions must be "flexible and responsive to changes in market demand for standards.”

"The report touches on many of the principles of the U.S. system of standardization, which is private sector led and public sector supported, extremely flexible, and it provides great autonomy for industry. As we enter the next era of standards setting, we must be advocates for an open, sector-based structure and management within the global standardization and conformity assessment community,” said Hurwitz.

The crucial role that conformity assessment plays in commercial transactions was also highlighted in the report, which acknowledged a "significant amount of international cooperation" that is taking place to establish confidence in the work of various global conformity assessment bodies.

To view the report in its entirety or by section, click here.

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