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White Paper Aligns Principles of WTO Report and U.S. National Standards Strategy

U.S. Private/Public Sector Positions Promoted in International Standards Development and Use

New York , Mar 19, 2002

In an effort to coordinate the positions of the U.S. public and private sectors regarding international standardization, the ANSI International Committee (IC) has published a white paper to advance the tenets of a report on the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement issued by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the U.S. National Standards Strategy (NSS), a document that was approved by the ANSI Board of Directors in August 2000.

Developed by an IC task group chaired by June Ling, a member of ANSI's Board of Directors, the ANSI Paper on International Standards Development and Use advocates the concept that the principles and actual use of a standard should drive its acceptance at the international level rather than by the organization that publishes the standard. These views may contradict previous interpretations of the TBT that advocated the recognition of international standards developed exclusively by organizations such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The paper notes several areas wherein the concepts of the WTO report and the NSS are very closely aligned and advances the concept that effective and valued international standardization can best be achieved through the recognition of sector driven standards and adherence to basic principles of standards development. [Editor's Note: The white paper is included in the left hand sidebar as a .pdf file.]

Ling stated, "The IC published this white paper to demonstrate the alignment between the WTO TBT Committee report and the positions taken by the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. private sector. The IC encourages members of the ANSI Federation to move this paper forward to colleagues around the world. The IC hopes that this paper will initiate dialogue within the international public- and private-sectors, whether it is government to government, industry to industry, or across sector lines, to promote the concept of principles of international standards development as well as to ensure the development of international standards that meet the needs of the global marketplace while satisfying the safety and health concerns of consumers."

To improve the quality of international standards, the WTO committee has developed principles of transparency, openness, balance, relevance, consensus and coherence that very closely reflect the principles of the NSS for the development of effective national and international standards.

Specific items included in the paper that demonstrate other similarities between the WTO report and the NSS focus on sector driven international standards. For example, the paper excerpts a portion of the WTO report that states, "the development of technically sound standards which promote trade and innovation while ensuring adequate levels of protection and safety can best be achieved on an industry and market sector basis…Whenever possible, international standards should be performance based rather than based on design or descriptive characteristics..."

The paper then cites passages from the NSS that promote a sector based approach to standards development that is derived from "participants…who understand what is needed in their sector…" and through "interested parties to address their own issues and develop working methods that fit the problems at hand." The paper specifically calls upon the U.S. private and public sectors to continue to support the principles of national and international standards development and "oppose attempts to exclude standards simply on the grounds of organizational name and structure."

The closing statement of the paper sums up the benefits to U.S. standards developing organizations: "Cooperative work and efforts with other standardizing bodies of the world, strengthened U.S. private and public sector partnership, and adaptation to meet the needs of developing nations and rapid technological changes are essential to ensuring that the U.S. continues to be a major contributor to international standards setting."

"Building upon the NSS, the paper advances the idea that there are multiple paths to developing an international standard," Ling asserted. "It is crucial that the U.S public and private sectors speak with a single, united voice regarding the concept of sector driven standardization needs and multiple paths to international standardization. We must now work to gain a broader agreement of these concepts among our public- and private-sector colleagues around the world."

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