ASTM's Offices and Outreach Create Partnerships that Enhance Standardization Globally
Over the last decade, ASTM International has opened offices and initiated outreach in key locations around the globe. Their work helps the society better understand the needs of regional stakeholders and governments and fosters the awareness and use of ASTM standards internationally. In this feature section we learn about the issues that ASTM representatives in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East work with on a daily basis.
ASTM International opened its Canadian office in February 2013. Located in the nation's capital of Ottawa, the ASTM office was established to enhance our presence in Canada. With more than 1,400 ASTM members in Canada, ASTM has benefited from Canadian technical expertise and leadership in standards development and policy setting for many years.
Currently, Canadian members participate in 132 ASTM technical committees and serve as committee and subcommittee officers. One of the vice chairmen of the ASTM board of directors, Ralph M. Paroli, Ph.D., is from the National Research Council Canada. Periodically, ASTM committee meetings are held in Canada; in fact, ASTM committee weeks are being held in Toronto, Ontario, in May and June, and the 2014 ASTM annual business meeting will be held in June, also in Toronto.
The primary objective of the Canadian office is to strengthen government and industry awareness, recognition and support for ASTM International in Canada. We are doing this by establishing and maintaining relationships with government authorities, the private sector, academia, consumer groups and other stakeholders who can contribute their input by participating in the ASTM standards development process as well as benefit from the use of ASTM standards in Canada.
Over the next few years, we will be focusing on ASTM standards relevant to the following sectors in Canada:
- Consumer products such as toys, children's jewelry, baby cribs and play yards (Committee F15 on Consumer Products); amusement rides (Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices); and flammability of textiles (Committee D13 on Textiles)
- Transportation, specifically unmanned aircraft systems (Committee F38 on Unmanned Aircraft Systems) and intelligent transportation systems (Committee E17 on Vehicle-Pavement Systems)
- Environment/sustainability (Committees E50 on Environmental Assessment, Risk Management and Corrective Action and F20 on Hazardous Substances and Oil Spill Response)
ASTM International works closely with the Standards Council of Canada, the national standards body for Canada. SCC is a federal Crown corporation with a mandate to promote efficient and effective standardization in Canada and oversee the national standards system, Canada's network of people and organizations involved in the development, promotion and implementation of standards.
ASTM applied for accreditation by SCC, which was received in 2013, to demonstrate our commitment to meeting the needs of Canadian stakeholders in our standards development process. SCC accreditation is the formal recognition of ASTM's competence to develop consensus standards that are of high technical quality and relevant for use in Canada.
As an SCC-accredited standards developer, ASTM International may submit standards to SCC to be recognized as national standards of Canada. The NSC designation signifies the relevance of these standards to Canada and confirms that they were developed through an open and transparent consensus process. Currently, several ASTM standards are being evaluated to determine their potential for development as NSCs.
In the past year, ASTM International has become engaged in a number of standards-related activities in Canada. ASTM is a member of SCC's Standards Development Organizations Advisory Committee, a policy advisory committee mandated by the Standards Council of Canada Act. SDOAC offers SCC-accredited standards developers the opportunity to provide input to the Council on matters of strategic importance that affect standardization in Canada. In the past year, ASTM has participated in SDOAC discussions and activities related to duplication of standards and effort; the development of a centralized reporting system to include notices of new work, work programs and information about current standards; a dispute resolution mechanism and SCC's 2014-2015 strategic priorities.
ASTM is now an associate member of the National Public Safety Advisory Committee, a forum comprising senior public safety regulators who represent provincial, territorial and federal governments in Canada. NPSAC members are responsible for administering public safety in areas related to amusement rides, boilers and pressure vessels, electrical, elevators, gas and passenger ropeways. NPSAC has formal relationships with SCC and the National Research Council Canada as well as with the Provincial/Territorial Policy Advisory Committee on Codes for building, fire and plumbing requirements. Participation in NPSAC has provided an excellent opportunity for ASTM to connect with relevant safety authorities in Canada.
ASTM International also participates in SCC's Consumer and Public Interest Panel. The CPIP provides strategic and policy advice on standardization issues related to consumers and the public interest, including items such as health, safety and the environment. Membership includes consumers and representatives of environmental organizations, labor, academia, occupational health and safety organizations, standards development organizations and the federal government.
ASTM has been engaged in the work of the Regulatory Cooperation Council on both sides of the border. Created in 2011, the RCC aims to better align regulatory systems between Canada and the United States to enhance trade and competitiveness. As an accredited standards developer in Canada (through SCC) and in the United States (through the American National Standards Institute), ASTM International offers regulators and industry greater flexibility and additional opportunities to address regulatory issues and improve trade between both countries.
In October, ASTM responded to the request from the RCC for comments from stakeholders in Canada and the United States concerning the next steps for regulatory cooperation. In our submission to Canada's Privy Council Office and the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, we supported the ongoing work of the RCC and provided information about ASTM standards activities in the areas of consumer safety, general aviation and light sport aircraft. The ASTM response also offered recommendations for RCC working groups, expanded regulatory cooperation to provincial/territorial and state governments, and using the approach taken by Health Canada and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on toys as a model for further cooperation, highlighting the benefits of ongoing engagement by regulatory agencies in standards development activities.
1. In December 2012, Health Canada and CPSC reaffirmed their commitment to work cooperatively to align toy safety standards through both agencies' participation on ASTM F15.22.Diane Thompson, director, ASTM International Canada Office
ASTM International's Mexico office is a liaison and contact point in Mexico and occasionally for contacts in Central and South America. We have five main strategic focus areas: 1) to serve as the ASTM point of contact for Mexico, 2) to encourage participation, 3) to support industry technical questions and needs by providing appropriate sources in ASTM International standards or committees, 4) to offer education to students and technical experts, and 5) to show the value of ASTM standards as globally recognized, frequently updated consensus standards developed with advanced Internet-based communications technologies.
In short, we are ASTM International technology evangelists, using the tools available to us within ASTM to assist industry, academia and technical experts to develop their technology needs to improve knowledge, business and research.
Mexico has a standards and codes system resembling many in the world, with a central government office, the Dirección General de Normas, responsible for planning new standards and codes as well as approving new documents and revisions. Our pledge to them is to be available to Mexican industry and tech experts with our technology and assistance at all times. We maintain relationships with most Mexico trade associations, standards development organizations and government code councils - those who are entrusted by industry with authorization by DGN or designated by the government to write standards and codes.
We believe setting up partnerships to accomplish specific objectives has been key to establishing good will and collaborative efforts with stakeholders. These partnerships include our agreement with Alianza FiiDEM, the Alliance for Training and Research Infrastructure for the Development of Mexico, a national entity that promotes the professional development of young engineers in the fields of infrastructure building. We hold this joint effort in great esteem; the elements of the agreement give us the opportunity to take ASTM technologies and training to schools of engineering and to industry trade associations and chambers. We also have evidence that our audiences have considered our coaching valuable.
In the construction industry, we have several relationships with a diverse array of trade associations such as those involved with cement, concrete, steel, paints, plastics and others. These include providing translations, training, webinars, being the contact point for sale of standards and other services.
ASTM International standards are key to many import/export companies and thus we are members of a national association of importers and exporters known as COMCE, the Consejo Empresarial Mexicano de Comercio Exterior, Inversión y Tecnología, so we are able to approach the exporter community with our expert resources.
Our most comprehensive signed agreement is with the umbrella association of all Mexico standards developing organizations, Consejo Mexicano de Normalización y Evaluación de la Conformidad, or COMENOR. This covers the sale of standards and an assent to a collaborative effort to facilitate the participation of new members in committees of ASTM. This entity has been entrusted by all SDOs under the leadership of DGN to form a new association of all SDOs as a single publisher of all standards of Mexico. As there is recognition that Mexico relies extensively on existing standards, creating a thorough understanding by this new association of ASTM's intellectual property policy will be central to our strategy moving forward.Luis Ordoñez, director, ASTM International Mexico Office
For several years, ASTM International has worked to raise greater awareness of its standards and other offerings by engaging in outreach activities with the European Parliament, European Commission, business and trade associations, and other European stakeholders such as consumer and environmental groups.
After early success in its outreach efforts, ASTM sought a more permanent presence in Europe, and in January 2013 opened its European office in Brussels, Belgium. In the year since, I have been conducting outreach meetings and events with European stakeholders aimed at educating the Brussels community about ASTM International. These meetings have been held on three different levels:
- At the institutional level, with officials in the EC Directorate-Generals for Enterprise and Industry; Environment; and Communications Networks, Content and Technology, among others; the Joint Research Centre; members of the European Parliament and certain staff of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which involves most industrialized countries worldwide;
- With trade associations and stakeholders groups representing different industrial sectors and other social interests (e.g., BusinessEurope; the Nickel Institute; the Toy Industry Association; the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; ANEC, the European Consumer Voice in Standardization; and BEUC, the European Consumer Organization); and
- With ASTM International member companies, in particular the Brussels offices of large multinationals with numerous employees active in ASTM committees, such as BASF, Johnson & Johnson, Boeing, Siemens, Mattel, etc.
The main themes emerging from these meetings varies depending on the interlocutors: EU institutions seem to be interested in the technical content of ASTM standards as they seek to understand our standards development process and whether and how we can help support new and existing European policies.
For instance, the European Commission has recently launched the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials with an action plan that includes standardization activities. The European Union is currently implementing measures to remove mercury from instruments, and they have shown interest in the work carried out by ASTM International in this matter. On the other side, industry and stakeholder groups often want to know more about ASTM's relationship with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and European standardization bodies.
Seeking to engage more directly with ASTM's European members, the Brussels office has established a European Members Group comprising active members from key sectors recommended by ASTM staff managers. The group's first conference call took place in October 2013 and was a good start to a platform that will help us better engage with policies and stakeholders. While I initially reached out to a small number of ASTM's European members, I would welcome the opportunity to hear from others regarding their engagement with and interests in ASTM.
2013 also saw the relaunch of the ASTM International eBulletin, an electronic newsletter sent to members as well as established and new contacts in Europe. The eBulletin was relaunched at the end of September 2013 and will be published on a quarterly timetable. The newsletter reports on ASTM committee meetings taking place in Europe as well as outreach activities and events and conferences at which ASTM staff and members have been invited to speak.
In constant and close coordination with the ASTM's global headquarters and Washington, D.C., office, ASTM's Brussels office has been involved in and provided input to the current discussions concerning the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, in which standards and regulatory convergence have emerged as key objectives.
To learn more about ASTM's interests and activities in Europe, to participate in our European Members Group, or to receive future editions of eBulletin, please contact the Brussels office.Sara Gobbi, director, ASTM International Europe Office
In 2006, in recognition of the enormous significance of the People's Republic of China in the global marketplace, ASTM International opened its China office in Beijing, committing to a long-term initiative to increase awareness and understanding of ASTM standards and services in China. With the support of the global cooperation staff at ASTM headquarters, the China office staff is fully devoted to expanding the acceptance of ASTM International standards and its development system. We reach out to government agencies, industries, associations and societies, and academic institutions; attend seminars/workshops and exhibitions; and give presentations and training sessions dozens of times per year.
As part of ASTM International's globalization strategy, the ASTM China office devotes its resources to goals and activities that include:
- Promoting the use of ASTM standards and technical information in China and surrounding Asian countries;
- Encouraging the participation of professionals in China and other Asian nations in ASTM's standards development process;
- Recommending the incorporation of Chinese technologies in ASTM standards development;
- Training professionals about ASTM's standards development philosophy, system and process; and
- Establishing and maintaining strong relations between Chinese and Asian government and industry organizations and ASTM International.
Through all of these activities and efforts, several issues are of interest to the people we communicate with.
- Because ASTM standards are used to support access to the global market for products made in China and other Asian countries, and also in standards developed in the region, we work to encourage the use of the latest versions.
- While ASTM's standardization system is effective and efficient for standards development and revision, it is regarded as difficult to transplant into China. Therefore, we explain how ASTM's system was established and how it works in the global marketplace so that it can be better understood and perhaps gradually applied and localized in China.
- Standards-based testing, certification and accreditation services are in great demand and are frequently inquired after, but such testing services are beyond ASTM's business model with the exception of the new certification and declaration services. We always clarify ASTM's non-involvement in testing services and show when and how businesses can self-declare conformity to ASTM standards or use third-party testing.
- Low prices for standards are often requested and piracy is a frequent problem in China. The real value of standards is not well understood, is under-valued and even ignored. We continually work to educate others that the real value of standards is rooted in the contribution of thousands of public and private sector stakeholders and show the benefits of standards to health, safety and the environment, as well as to the marketplace, pointing out the value of the intellectual property and the harms of copyright infringement.
- The ASTM China office conducts in-person and virtual training to members in Asia regarding the process and online tools to help them be active in technical committee work.
- The international relevance of ASTM standards is well-known to individuals, but it is not accepted by the Chinese government due to ASTM's private individual/organization membership. We constantly promote ASTM's international relevance by comparing different approaches and working with various partners and channels.
Thanks to these outreach activities, more than 600 Chinese experts are members of ASTM International, working in more than 110 technical committees. Over 1,000 ASTM standards have been used as the basis of Chinese national (GB) standards, with more than 3,000 ASTM standards referenced and adopted by Chinese industries such as metals, petroleum, nuclear, textiles, building materials, environment, etc.
There is no doubt that ASTM International standards have been beneficial to the Chinese and Asian economies and their industries' development and market access. Domestically, Chinese industries have benefited by applying ASTM standards as foundations for Chinese standards at the national and industry levels, which has upgraded the technology, quality and safety of products. Internationally, Chinese industries have profited from ASTM standards by gaining access to the global market and involvement in the global supply chain. Participation in ASTM technical committees has afforded Chinese experts access to international laws and regulations, industries, technologies and consumers.
With regard to capacity building in its standardization strategy and system, China has created initiatives that promote the quality of standards, optimize the standardization process and transition national standards to international ones. Therefore, the Standardization Administration of the People's Republic of China and its supporting organizations have been engaged in a standardization education and research program to seek more effective and efficient systems and processes to develop higher quality and more market-relevant standards. SAC has introduced a "comprehensive standardization" methodology and a more active interagency coordination mechanism. In association with its Chinese counterparts, ASTM International is involved in educating Chinese standards and techncal professionals on ASTM's standards development processes.
In terms of other Asian countries, China office staff, supported by ASTM International headquarters, has reached out from time to time to Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to promote the acceptance of ASTM standards and its system and to educate local industries about international standards and their role in the global marketplace.
In the future, ASTM's China office will continue to promote ASTM standards and its standards development system to attain harmonization with local standards and industry communities.Liu Fei, chief representative, ASTM International China Office
Gulf Cooperation Council
ASTM International's relationship with the member nations of the Standardization Organization of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GSO) dates back decades. More recently, the national standards bodies in the region, and the GSO itself, have formalized the relationships through memorandums of understanding. Complementing the MOUs is the increased use of ASTM International standards, products and services in the region as key informational resources that assist industry, government and academia in meeting changing needs and market demands.
The signing of MOUs with the seven members of the GSO - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen - and the regional body itself, began in 2006 and concluded in 2012. All the signatories have heartily embraced one of the key aspects of the agreements: With each MOU comes the provision of the full collection of ASTM standards and permission to adopt, reference, consult or use ASTM standards as the basis of their national standards.
As a result, the aggregate count of citations by the eight signatories totals more than 3,500 ASTM International standards. Given the extensive presence of the petroleum industry in the region, it is no surprise that the ASTM standards related to petroleum products are frequently cited. But regulatory needs and trade interests in the area are changing, and this transformation is reflected in the extensive use of ASTM standards for other sectors as well. A broad array of construction-related standards, including steel, paints, roofing, cementitious materials, piping, insulation, paving materials, building envelopes and sustainable construction are used. In addition, standards for plastics, textiles, different types of testing, and various consumer products and services, from tires and children's toys to amusement rides, are also among those applied in the region.
ASTM International's Proficiency Testing Program enables laboratories to assess their own performance in conducting ASTM test methods against the performance of other laboratories conducting the same tests worldwide. Currently, 60 laboratories in the seven member nations participate in more than 25 different proficiency test programs. Based on the units of participation, it is reasonable to say that industry in the region has embraced this quality assurance tool. This commitment continues when the first regional proficiency testing event using ASTM test methods for concrete gets under way in March this year.
The region's transition from an economy based in fossil fuels is evidenced in several events that members of the GSO have undertaken with ASTM International. Annually, GSO formulates a training calendar and invites ASTM's participation. ASTM has conducted virtual training on topics as varied as tire standards, toys and the marketing of standards. Technical experts from ASTM committees have also served as instructors in on-site classes, the most recent being training on ASTM standards for concrete.
In April 2013, leaders of the national standards bodies of Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the GSO came together to discuss sustainability in building construction. The workshop, conducted at ASTM headquarters, also included other U.S.-based code and standards developers and enabled a discussion about the role of standards and codes in planning, designing, constructing and maintaining green buildings.
Beyond industry, standards are also applied by regulators and academia. So it seems fitting that the Qatar National Library has teamed up with ASTM International in a first-of-its-kind agreement to provide online access to ASTM standards and technical information across the whole state of Qatar. Since May 2013, this countrywide license between QNL and ASTM has integrated all subscribers in the nation under a single national license, providing access not only to ASTM standards but also to related ASTM technical publications through the ASTM Standards and Engineering Digital Library. Employees of all government departments, students and the teaching staffs of all academic institutions and the staffs of all state-owned and private corporations working in Qatar have unlimited and simultaneous access. This is another indication of the value that ASTM technical information provides to this rapidly growing region, which is reinventing itself and embracing new technologies.
Other recent developments also highlight the growing partnership between ASTM and the nations of the GSO. This year, Nabil bin Ameen Molla, who serves as the secretary general of the GSO, has joined the ASTM board of directors for a three-year term.
In 2007 and 2012, standards experts from GSO and the Qatar General Organization for Standards and Metrology, respectively, participated in ASTM's Standards Expert Program, in which individuals from different MOU signatories are hosted for a monthlong program at ASTM headquarters. Based on a longstanding foundation and working in partnership, the member nations of the GSO and ASTM International are engaged in the many aspects of standards - from development and use to training, proficiency and governance. Much like the region, this collaboration is growing, evolving and building for the future.Teresa Cendrowska, vice president, ASTM International Global Cooperation