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Standards Regulatory and Policy Officials from Stability Pact Nations Meet with U.S. Delegation in Geneva

Standards Coordination in Southeast Europe focus of latest Commerce Department Workshop

Geneva, Switzerland, Jun 26, 2003

A four-day workshop on the coordination of standards and conformity assessment activities in Southeastern Europe concluded today in Geneva, Switzerland with the development of proposed action plans for ongoing collaboration among the nations present.

“The lack of a clear and coordinated infrastructure in standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment systems is one of the primary barriers to efficient trade and investment in the region,” explained conference organizer, Stuart Kerr, senior counsel of the Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) in the Office of the General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Commerce. “By introducing standards officials from the Southeastern Europe ‘Stability Pact’ nations to a wide range of national, regional and international standards and conformity assessment systems infrastructures, they will be on a path for improved regional coordination activities.”

Delegations from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia-Montenegro were each comprised of four representatives from ministries and standards certification bodies in the respective nations. A two-person observer delegation from Kosovo was also in attendance. According to statistics from the United States International Trade Commission, these nations represented more than $1.25 billion in product exports to the United States during 2002.

In addition to the standards and conformity assessment focus, sessions on the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (WTO/TBT), WTO/TBT enquiry points, the transparency of information, and mutual recognition arrangements/agreements and multi-lateral agreements were presented by a panel of experts. Representatives of the American National Standards Institute*; ANSI-accredited standards developers ASTM International, National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)*, and Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL)*; the International Organization for Standardization (ISO); the World Trade Organization (WTO); and the Stability Pact Trade Working Group addressed the audience at various times during the week.

“The workshop was an extraordinary opportunity to meet and work with colleagues from the Stability Pact nations,” said Helen Delaney, who represented ASTM International on the panel of experts. “While these nations are anticipating membership in the European Union and the adoption of European laws and standards, their interest in the U.S. standards system and in international standardization is a clear indication of a region bent on industrial development and international trade. This is evidenced, in part, through their membership in groups such as ASTM International, ISO, the International Laboratory Accreditation Committee, the International Accreditation Forum, and others. We wish them well.”

CLDP consultant John Donaldson, recently retired chairman of the ISO Conformity Assessment Committee (ISO/CASCO) and formerly of ANSI and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), played a key role in the discussions, answering numerous questions relating to conformity assessment procedures.

Donaldson also assisted in the summation of near- and long-term objectives. Key among these is the development of mechanisms to enhance information sharing within the region. Though several solutions were proposed, a number of delegates expressed support for establishing their respective WTO inquiry points as central repositories of information that can be shared among the other member nations. Delegates recognized, however, that each nation was in a different stage in the process of applying for or achieving membership in the World Trade Organization and in the European Union.

The development of a resource inventory – both in terms of information and in such other areas as training programs for both standardization and conformity assessment activities – was also identified as a top near-term objective.

The proposals were in line with the conference goal to develop a roadmap towards the regional coordination of standards and conformity assessment based on international standards and guidelines for conformity assessment procedures. The roadmap will consist of guidelines and a timeline delineating when and how the countries will establish mutual acceptance arrangements in testing, calibration, and certification of standards, and in identifying common areas for consideration as regional standards.

“There is a vast diversity among you,” Donaldson told the participants. “You need to identify resources that are relevant in these areas and identify those [within your countries] who have responsibility for standards, metrology and conformity assessment. Share who those points of contact are and let those people know that they should coordinate and share information directly among themselves. Your cooperation is not only possible, it is imperative.”

“There are so many ‘parts’ that make an economy and political system work,” agreed Mr. Kerr in his closing remarks. “The standards work that you do is an extremely important component of a vibrant economy.”

CLDP organized the program and will be responsible for tracking actions taken. The U.S. State Department SEED (Southeastern Europe Economic Development) Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development provided funding for the conference.

*NEMA was represented by Gene Eckert, Director of Global Standardization Programs; UL was represented by Carlos Correia of the UL Europe office. ANSI was represented by Stacy Leistner, Director of Communications and Public Relations.

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