|Richard Wilhelm is news editor/writer for SN.
|OPEN HOUSE PARTICIPANTS
Ahmed Isa Bubshait, undersecretary for standards and consumer protection, Bahrain Standards and Metrology Directorate
Anup Chandra Pandey, director general, Bureau of Indian Standards
Ghadhanfar Al Rafeek,
president, Central Organization for Standardization and Quality Control
Michael Wolf, director, standardization division, Standards Institution of Israel
Rula Madanat, director of the information center, Jordan Institution for Standards and Metrology
Khaled Al Fahad, director, standards and metrology department, Public Authority for Industry
Abderrahim Taibi, minister of industry, commerce and telecommunications, Service de Normalisation Industrielle Marocaine
More participants on next page
Standardization has the power to facilitate trade among nations, aid consumers and protect the environment. In addition, the development and discussion of standards brings people together. Nowhere was this more apparent than at ASTM International Headquarters in West Conshohocken, Pa., and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., on July 26-28, where 62 top executives from standards developing organizations from Morocco to India to the United States gathered for an Open House for Middle East, North Africa and South Asia Standards Leaders. The event, which was held in cooperation with NIST and the American National Standards Institute, proved to be a thought-provoking exchange of ideas that touched on many major issues currently confronting the world of modern international standardization.
James Thomas, ASTM International president, welcomed the Open House participants, encouraging the group to share ideas and thoughts and to make new friends. “This Open House is a great opportunity for networking and exchange. We want to help you achieve your goals,” said Thomas. He noted that ASTM’s board and members welcomed the opportunity to work with Open House participants to enhance global participation in the development of ASTM International standards.
The countries participating in the dialogue, which was aided through simultaneous translation to and from Arabic, were Bahrain, India, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Yemen. Representatives from the Standardization Organization of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, a collective of standards leaders from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, also attended.
Following welcoming remarks from Thomas; Mark Hurwitz, president, American National Standards Institute; and Mary Saunders, chief, standards services division, NIST, each Open House participant introduced themselves and the SDO they represented. Each also outlined some of the concerns currently facing their organizations and regions. This round of introductions resulted in spirited discussions on topics such as meeting World Trade Organization/ Technical Barriers to Trade obligations; how market forces affect standards and their impact on consumers; the need for greater awareness of the standards developing process of U.S.-based standards developing organizations; standards in college and university education; the definition of an international standard; and issues concerning intellectual property rights.
The open atmosphere allowed delegation members to speak honestly on several important standardization issues. Dr. Khaled Al-Khalaf, director general, Saudi Arabian Standards Organization, spoke of the metric system and his feeling that although the United States showed promise on conversion in the 1970s, it should again confront the issue.
Ali Bal Faqeh, director, standards department, Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology, noted that the United Arab Emirates has a major trade exchange with the United States, but has little knowledge of ASTM and other U.S.-based standards developing organizations and wondered how to reconcile this issue.
Alluding to the hot weather on the days of the Open House, Anup Chandra Pandey, director general, Bureau of Indian Standards, began his remarks with the observation that “the warmth of the air is more than matched by the warmth of ASTM staff.” He then stated that the first concern of any national standards organization is to meet consumer expectations, which in India’s case, means over one billion consumers. Pandey said that the needs of such a large and diverse populace demands that BIS have exposure to the American system of standardization.
Michael Wolf, director, standardization division, Standards Institution of Israel, spoke of the issues involved in defining an international standard, particularly in regard to the World Trade Organization -Technical Barriers to Trade agreement and the use of international standards in free trade with both the United States and Europe.
Because many participants expressed curiosity about the decentralized U.S. standards system, it was appropriate that the next section of the Open House featured presentations on U.S.-based standards developing organizations. After Mark Hurwitz provided an introduction to the U.S. standards system, Joseph Bhatia, Underwriters Laboratories and chair of the U.S. Standards Strategy Committee, outlined the recent draft of the U.S. Standards Strategy.
Participants were then introduced to major U.S.-based standards developing organizations through a series of presentations from representatives of ASME International, SAE International, the American Concrete Institute, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (see section on speakers next page).
Other presentations made at ASTM headquarters were the following:
• ASTM President James Thomas’ presentation, “ASTM International Connected to the World,” detailed ASTM’s relationships with members, standards, standards organizations and technology.
• ASTM International 2005 Chairman of the Board N. David Smith, provided a detailed description of ASTM’s largest committee, D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants.
• Katharine Morgan, general manager, technical committee support, ASTM International, spoke on and demonstrated the extensive opportunities ASTM members around the globe have to participate in the standards developing process using electronic technology.
• Kitty Kono, ASTM International vice president of global cooperation, reported on the memorandum of understanding program that ASTM has launched with national standards bodies throughout the world.
Following the section of the open house held at ASTM International, the delegation traveled to Gaithersburg, Md. Dinner speaker Doug Bell, director for Middle East and North Africa, U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, addressed the group on the importance of a robust trade policy to the economic success of North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. “The future of the region lies on the ability to trade competitively, not only with the U.S., but more broadly,” Bell said, emphasizing that, in order to advance economically, countries need to understand what is in their best interest.
The following morning, Hratch Semerjian, deputy director, NIST, welcomed the open house delegation to NIST headquarters. Holly Vineyard, deputy assistant secretary for Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, spoke of the importance of standards in international trade. “The common acceptance of standards is fundamental to the success of robust, fair and free trade,” said Vineyard, who noted that standards are important building blocks that affect 80 per- cent of world commodity trade. “Standards are increasingly at the forefront of international trade issues,” Vineyard said. “The bridges that you are building with this Open House will have long-term consequences beyond these few days.”
While at NIST, the delegation also heard presentations by Mary Saunders on the U.S. government and its support of the U.S. standards system, and by Steve Carpenter, director, office of international and academic affairs at NIST, on the role of metrology in social and economic development. James Turner, chief Democratic counsel, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, and ASTM International board member, spoke at NIST as well, noting the importance of consensus to the U.S. standardization system. Also present during the Open House sessions at NIST was new NIST director, William Jeffrey.
A highlight of the Open House was the signing of two new memorandums of understanding. ASTM signed an MOU with the Palestine Standards Institute while at ASTM Headquarters and another with the Iraqi Central Organization for Standardization and Quality Control at NIST (see MOU section on next page).
ASTM President Thomas closed the Open House by noting that the goals of the program were to bring people together, learn from each other and help each other accomplish objectives. “The challenge now is to continue the dialogue and strengthen the interaction among all of our organizations so that all those who use our standards around the world will benefit from our cooperation,” said Thomas.
This Open House was the third in a series of such events held at ASTM International. The first brought together standards leaders from 23 countries in the Western Hemisphere in November 2001, while representatives from 16 countries of the Asia Pacific area gathered in September 2003. ASTM’s Kitty Kono feels that these workshops are important both for sponsors and attendees. “The ASTM Open House provides a wonderful way for the standards leaders of different parts of the world to meet each other, open lines of communication and to find new ways to work together,” said Kono. “This is our third Open House and each time we find that the standards community worldwide is a very close knit family, with common goals and challenges. Working together we can achieve so much more than we could ever do on our own.” //