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ANSI Annual Conference Showcases Perspectives on Standards Challenges in China

Washington, DC, Oct 13, 2004

"During the past several months, global industry and the media have kept a keen eye on standardization developments in the People’s Republic of China," said Dr. Mark W. Hurwitz, American National Standards Institute president and CEO, in his opening remarks at the ANSI Annual Conference, on October 13, 2004, in Washington DC. “Whether approaching the issue from the perspective of an importer or an exporter, standards and conformity assessment programs have always been key factors impacting the global economy.”

Titled “East Meets West: Facing Challenges and Making Connections,” the ANSI event offered a unique forum to delve into the nuances and interrelationships of standards and conformity assessment, commerce and trade in the Chinese market.

Keynote speaker Robert A. Kapp, president of the U.S.—CHINA Business Council, explored broad ideas about what China is, where it is going, and what its fate is. Since ascending to the World Trade Organization, “[the Chinese] have finally started to get the hang of entering the global world of ideas, borrow from it, learn from it, draw from it, contribute to it, and achieve a level of economic advancement that they had not been able to manage before,” said Dr. Kapp. “Their place is still profoundly in transition,” he continued, “and Americans trying to do work with China face a reality of constant flow and change.”

The first of the day’s panels looked at free trade, fair trade, and WTO compliance. Along with illuminating the emerging and highly competitive market opportunities in the People’s Republic of China, panel discussions revealed that a Chinese understanding of “international standards” is generally limited to those developed in the framework of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), or the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Panelists discussed the enormous amount of counterfeit goods being manufactured in China, and the intellectual property implications for U.S. industry. A panelist from the AFL/CIO emphasized that fair labor standards are not a requirement of China’s WTO membership, and urged business leaders to be cognizant of and concerned about this when working with their Chinese partners. After a question and answer period, the panel ended with a lively discussion on the reality vs. the perception of workers’ rights violations in China.

The second panel of the morning included speakers from the U.S.—CHINA Business Council, the Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s Office of Market Access and Compliance, and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Office of China Affairs. This panel highlighted that among the key industry concerns over China’s standards regime are protectionism, access and transparency. There was also discussion of the efforts the Department of Commerce and the USTR are making in terms of education and training, both domestically and in China, toward greater cooperation and understanding between the disparate standards systems.

An afternoon panel presented a case study exploring the specific issues that arose when a Chinese policy was issued requiring adherence to a national standard that would have locked many U.S. Wi-Fi manufacturers out of the expansive Chinese market. The remaining two panels of the conference focused on international recognition of product certification programs, and homeland and global security.

Charles W. Freeman III, acting assistant U.S. Trade Representative in the Office of China Affairs, served as the keynote speaker for the luncheon midway through the conference. He confirmed that his office is concerned that standards are being used as a tool to limit the competition within China from abroad, and the competition from the U.S. in particular. Mr. Freeman emphasized that trade between the U.S. and China has been a primary contributor to many of the economic developments in the latter nation; in fact, China is currently the fastest growing export market for U.S. goods. Freeman also underscored the problems of counterfeiting and piracy in China, another ongoing challenge being addressed by the USTR office.

World Standards Week and Annual Conference proceedings are now available on the ANSI website [click here].

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