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The USMCA Expands Opportunities for Participation in Standards Development


The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that will go into effect on July 1, 2020, is an update to the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and is intended to create balanced, reciprocal trade for the North American economy. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recognizes the update, which eliminates barriers to the acceptance and use of international standards, and welcomes the strong support for the multiple path approach, as evident in the USMCA's World Trade Organization (TBT) technical barriers to trade (TBT) chapter.

The modernization of NAFTA will affect industry groups that encompass manufactured goods, textile and apparel, and agricultural good sectors. It also has the potential to change the standardization landscape to engage more stakeholders with the standards development process. Signed into law on January 29, 2020, USMCA recognizes multiple paths to globally-relevant standards in its reference to the WTO's TBT Committee, in Article 11.4, Section 3.

The U.S. standardization system is fundamentally built on the needs of the marketplace, where users decide which standards best meet their needs, and in which standards development venues they wish to work. ANSI recognizes that there are multiple paths to global relevance, as articulated by the WTO's TBT. The Institute has supported the modernization of NAFTA. In 2017, for example, ANSI testified on NAFTA's modernization, and joined more than 130 individuals representing companies, organizations, trade associations, and other groups - including many ANSI members and accredited standards developers. ANSI and the standardization community emphasized that the multiple-path approach is more effective than when regulators mandate the use of a standard developed by a particular body.

ANSI has also worked in cooperation with the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), as well as with representatives of the Direccion General de Normas (DGN) (Mexico) during regularly scheduled meetings, to discuss ongoing areas of collaboration regarding standards, conformance, and technological advancements in the standards arena, and to develop new areas of cooperation that also supported the NAFTA negotiations.

The USMCA states: "With respect to any agreement or understanding establishing a customs union or free-trade area or providing trade-related technical assistance, each Party shall encourage the adoption, and use, as the basis for standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures, of any relevant standards, guides, or recommendations developed in accordance with the TBT Committee Decision on International Standards."

"By recognizing the WTO's Technical Barriers to Trade Committee's Decision on international standards, the USMCA opens the door for more U.S. standards to be used internationallyand with it potentially more business for U.S. manufacturers and distributors," said S. Joe Bhatia, ANSI president and CEO. "In addition to standards-related benefits, the Agreement opens the door for qualified U.S.-based conformity assessment bodies to test and/or certify products to Canadian and Mexican regulatory requirements, thus potentially reducing redundancy and cost and speeding time to market for U.S. products."

Read more about the USMCA.

What is the WTO/TBT Agreement?

The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) was created in 1995 to ensure that technical regulations, standards, and testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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