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ASTM International Training at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica

In late March, ASTM International presented training at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica in Kingston on the use of electronic tools for standards development and the creation of a business model that would enable the solicitation of industry for new standards development initiatives.

This training was requested by BSJ as part of the memorandum of understanding they signed with ASTM in 2001. BSJ is now interested in evolving their operations and standards development philosophy to take greater advantage of Jamaican industry input. BSJ is also interested in establishing a more proactive leadership position within the regional standards organizations in which they are active. The key BSJ staff members who requested and organized the session were Omer Thomas, executive director; Norman Hall, manager, Information Division; Hermon Edmondson, manager, Metrology and Testing; Gladstone Rose, manager, Standardization; and Marie Iton, manager, Human Resources and Administration.

The class, taught by Pat Picariello, ASTM director of Developmental Operations, provided BSJ staff exposure to tools and practices they can use to help BSJ accomplish its goals in these areas. Using a combination of existing literature and lectures, ASTM offered four training sessions over the two-day visit for over half of the 137-person BSJ staff. According to Marie Iton, “The seminars were extremely useful and exposed the majority of our staff to specific areas of standardization for the first time. Especially important were the online demonstrations. Staff members have asked for us to do these seminars on a regular basis.”

Picariello offered live demonstrations of ASTM’s Web-based services, including the standards search engine, electronic balloting tool, Interactive Standards Development Forums, technical committee Web pages (including minutes, roster, and agenda maintenance), ASTM University, consultant and laboratory directories, meetings area, and proficiency testing program. The highlight of each day was a demonstration of ASTM’s new Virtual Meeting tool. This demo consisted of a real-time meeting administered at ASTM Headquarters by Jim Olshefsky, director, ASTM Committee Services, and accessed remotely from BSJ’s training center. The attendees participated in a 20-minute meeting that provided examples of the tool’s utility that included the posting of information, polling and tallying of votes, and application sharing. For further information about ASTM’s training programs, please contact Pat Picariello (phone: 610/832-9720). //

ASTM International’s Comments on Second Draft of FTAA

In April, ASTM International submitted its comments on the second draft of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Agreement to the chair of the Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society. The comments refer particularly to the Chapter on Market Access, Article 12, Definition of an International Standardization Body, and read as follows:

“ASTM International is an organization in which representatives from one hundred countries develop standards. Thousands of these standards are global in scope and use. They are developed according to principles set down by the World Trade Organization. They appear in the national portfolios and regulations of many countries around the world. Their effect on trade is significant. Their value to the economies of many FTAA countries is incalculable. There is language in the FTAA draft document however, which effectively precludes their use and the use of standards like them.

“At present, the second draft agreement definition of an international standardization body effectively limits international standards solutions and places some industry sectors in the FTAA countries at a disadvantage. The language used to define an International Standardization Body makes specific reference to two European-based, private sector voluntary standards organizations (the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)), pointedly excluding all others.

“This definition, with its direct references to the ISO and IEC, is a virtual recommendation. It is certainly an endorsement; and it suggests that the standards that issue from these two bodies are somehow endowed with a presumption of conformity with the terms of the agreement.

“It is ASTM International’s assertion that no standards body comprised of national bodies — which tend to operate as political and economic blocs — can ensure that the standards they issue will not act as barriers to trade.

“But more importantly, these references taint the definition with bias and exclusivity. Implicitly, and by omission, this definition suggests that thousands of technically advanced international standards that are developed in organizations other than the ISO and IEC are either (1) not credible, (2) not international, or (3) present barriers to trade. None of these is true.

“The position taken by the USTR [office of the U.S. Trade Representative] within the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade has been that bodies which operate with open and transparent procedures and that afford an opportunity for consensus among all interested parties will result in standards which are relevant on a global basis and prevent unnecessary barriers to trade. The position of the USTR has been that the process of international standardization and the relevance and fair trade aspects of the resulting standards are related more to principles than to the structure of the institutions that produce them. ASTM International agrees wholeheartedly. These principles are articulated in the Second Triennial Review of the Operation and Implementation of the WTO/TBT Agreement in Annex 4 of that review. It is the view of ASTM International that these principles go to the heart and spirit of the TBT Agreement, and can be and should be applied to any agreement that has as its aim the elimination of technical barriers to trade, in particular the FTAA Agreement.

“To that end, ASTM International proposes that the FTAA draft language in brackets be replaced by the following:

The Parties recognize that international standards, guides or recommendations must have been elaborated following the set of principles set forth in the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, ‘Decisions and Recommendations adopted by the Committee since 1 January 1995,’ G/TBT/1/Rev.7, 28 November 2000, Section IX (Decision of the Committee on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations with relation to Articles 2, 5, and Annex 3 of the Agreement), i.e., Annex 4.” //

Sri Lanka Signs MOU with ASTM International

The Sri Lanka Standards Institution has signed a memorandum of understanding with ASTM in order to strengthen the relationship between ASTM and the SLSI so that they may enhance the ability of the standards of both organizations in supporting the needs of the Sri Lankan people, continue growth of the Sri Lankan economy, and aid in the development of Sri Lankan national standards for health, safety, and the environment. //

Spanish-Language SN Articles

SN has begun posting selected articles in Spanish on its Web site. Articles of interest to the Latin American and Spanish speaking standards community can be found by going to www.astm.org; click on the Standardization News link and then the navigation bar, “Escogidos articulos en español.” As of this printing, two Plain Talk articles by ASTM President Jim Thomas are posted as well as the May feature article on the CASA Act, a U.S. legislative initiative that earmarks funds for training Latin American construction professionals on the use of codes and standards. Check back frequently for more articles. //

Copyright 2003, ASTM