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Commerce Secretary Gutierrez Meets with CAFTA Ambassadors on World Standards Day

Washington, DC, Oct 14, 2005

U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez hosted ambassadors from the signatory nations of the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) in Washington, DC, today, joined by Dr. Mark W. Hurwitz, president and CEO of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and Mr. James Thomas, president of ASTM International, a leading ANSI-accredited standards developer. This roundtable discussion on standards and trade was held just prior to the secretary’s first visit to the Central American region since the agreement was approved by Congress in July and signed by President Bush on August 2, 2005. Gutierrez will be accompanied on the trade mission by executives from 18 U.S. companies to meet with business leaders in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

“One thing these companies have in an interest in knowing what standards their products have to meet and what they need to do to demonstrate compliance with standards to enable market access,” said Gutierrez. “World Standards Day is a particularly appropriate day to talk about standards and their role in enhancing trade and economic competitiveness.”

CAFTA-DR reaffirms the World Trade Organization’s Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement and incorporates the WTO TBT criteria for international standards. “Proactive implementation of these CAFTA-DR provisions will go a long way to enhancing trade in the region as well as enabling our governments to identify the best standards to meet their health, safety and environmental protection needs,” Gutierrez added.

“The signing of the CAFTA-DR agreement is another step in bringing the economies of these neighboring nations more closely into harmony,” said Hurwitz. “From our perspective, we hope that implementation of this trade agreement will facilitate increased political and regulatory cooperation, in the same way that standards harmonization has been advancing for decades under the banner of the Pan American Standards Commission - COPANT."

Dr. Hurwitz encouraged each nation to increase its participation in COPANT activities at both the policy and technical levels, to strengthen COPANT’s regional and sub-regional technical standards harmonization work and to engage in training events focused on decreasing standards barriers and to increase regional participation in international standards development.

The event resulted in all participants agreeing to redouble their efforts to work together and promote the use and adoption within the CAFTA-DR nations of WTO compliant international standards – regardless of origin.

“ANSI stands ready to assist our Central American friends in accessing U.S.- based standards developers and their documents, and in providing general information about the U.S. system,” said Hurwitz.