THE AGENDA OF SOUTH & STANDARDS, CONFORMITY ASSESSMENT
Muhammad Midhat Ali
Source: ICQI 2004 – Pakistan 8th International Convention on Quality Improvement, Lahore
Publisher: PIQC Institute of Quality
Mr. Muhammad Midhat Ali is the Managing Partner and Consultant at Quality Pakistan – an engineering and management consultancy firm. Mr. Ali has bachelors in mechanical engineering and masters in industrial and systems engineering from U.S.A. His entire working experience is in quality assurance and general management. Mr. Ali has another portfolio as Principal Consultant at Sustainable Development Counsel, which is dedicated for research and training assignments, related to trade and environment. This paper is part of a study, which he has proposed to undertake in association with a local business forum. Mr. Ali is known in quality management circle within the country for his publications, training programmes and consultancy assignments. This will be the fourth time that he is participating as a speaker in this convention.
The jeopardy of standards and technical regulations acting as non-tariff barriers (NTB) to trade, particularly through duplication conformity assessment testing procedures, is an increasing one. Developing countries should pay due attention as it may restrain trade growth considerably as well as impact economic efficiency.
Among developing countries, there appears to be a growing awareness of the possible deprivation of trade posed by differing national standards and technical regulations. This awareness, however, associates an equal lack of knowledge and comprehension of the impact of standards that may have on trade and economic development. In terms of standards development, the first priority of developing countries should be the adoption of international standards, as they exist, along with the international standardizing Guides of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Both would facilitate the integration of their manufactured exports into world markets and would reduce the costs of required conformity assessment procedures.
On a national level, most developing countries lack adequate infrastructure and human capital for the functioning and maintenance of adequate laboratory testing facilities. The level of sophistication and awareness with respect to standards development is very low in most developing countries and it may take several years and considerable investment to improve this situation. On an international level, while many developing countries are members of the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission, but do not participate actively in their working committees nor in the elaboration of internationally agreed standards. The same is true of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The endorsement of Uruguay Round and entry into force of the WTO in January 1995 has not brought with its implementation the obligations and disciplines contained in this Agreement by the large majority of developing members. For developing countries, it would be desirable to act more forcefully in a number of areas:
Firstly, in the area of adoption of standards: A more active and concerted participation in the committee work of the international standardizing bodies would ensure that new international standards closely reflect developing country needs and would reduce the predominantly European influence found in the new standards.
Secondly, for the adoption of national standards: Where no international standard exists, there is little economic rationale for developing countries to invest in the elaboration of their own standards. These standards should consequently in most cases be taken from their major trading partners to promote trade flows and international technology transfer.
Thirdly, with respect to existing multilateral disciplines: For standards and conformity assessment, developing countries should strive for a more effective implementation of the disciplines and obligations contained in the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. This would enhance transparency and assist domestic producers and exporters in commercializing their products in foreign markets.
Fourthly, establishing a national inquiry point: It would oblige government officials in developing countries to put into practice a system of national standards information which should benefit local producers and exporters as much as foreign buyers. Collection and dissemination of this information would also oblige governments to be more aware of the choices that they are making and imposing on their private sector with respect to standards development.
This paper examines in detail the probable agenda of developing countries to find ways out for the technical barriers to their trade especially in standardization perspective.