Plain Talk

Outreach

In Support of Members Around the Globe

In 2001, when the ASTM board of directors decided to change the name of this organization from the American Society for Testing and Materials to ASTM International, it was to more accurately reflect its constituency and to acknowledge the members and users of ASTM standards who lived in countries other than the United States. ASTM International has now opened offices in Beijing, China; in Brussels, Belgium, the de facto capital of the European Union; in Mexico City, Mexico; and in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The establishment of these offices has the same underlying objective as the name change of 2001: to acknowledge and support the members and users of ASTM standards outside the United States. The atmosphere today, however, is different.

The decision to establish representation abroad was made against a backdrop of global markets, trade agreements and billions of dollars in trade, all of which impact our members — in the countries mentioned, in the United States and elsewhere. The countries in which ASTM International has established satellite offices are the United States’ most important trading partners. In terms of two-way goods, Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, China is second and Mexico is third.1 The United States’ economic relationship with the European Union — in a different category altogether with 28 member states — is the largest and most complex in the world. The United States is party to a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico,2 and is currently in negotiations with the European Union for one of the most important trade agreements in history.3

ASTM International facilitates the trade between these countries (and their other trading partners) by developing standards that do not act as barriers to trade. ASTM standards, developed by an ever-increasing global array of experts, reflect the needs and goals of a global array of markets. They are of high quality and universal relevance, and a vital part of this trading community.

Through its offices, ASTM International representatives are actively interacting with resident technical experts, industry representatives and government departments in their own languages. They are monitoring local and regional politics and policies, forming business relationships with other standards organizations and trade associations, and raising awareness of ASTM and its standardization process, not only in their resident countries, but in surrounding countries as well.4 They provide support for 1,600 ASTM members in Europe,5 1,400 in Canada, some 574 in China and more than 200 in Mexico.6

There are challenges, to be sure, in these markets. Most notable are the political barriers to the use of ASTM International standards. These barriers are created by governments that specify which organizations are to be the sources of standards for their technical regulations. Exporters from Canada, China, Mexico, the 28 countries of the European Union, and the United States who want the freedom to choose the best standards available to meet entry requirements, do not always have it. At ground level, however, it is possible to be part of the day-to-day dialogue on standards and regulatory policy in each of these countries. Being there is vital. You can’t advocate for change by email.

And yes, we expect positive outcomes. ASTM International has already experienced the effects of its memorandum of understanding program, business arrangements, training programs and the many other ways it is strategically engaged in countries around the world.7 Over the years, the ASTM staff, its members and members of the ASTM board of directors have gone to extraordinary lengths and traveled thousands of miles to support our international members and spread the ASTM message. ASTM standards are used in more countries by more industries than ever before in its history. ASTM standards are referenced in more technical regulations in more countries than ever before in its history. ASTM’s outreach is working more effectively. Now more than ever before in its history.

References

1. Office of the United States Trade Representative.

2 The North American Free Trade Agreement.

3. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

4. For instance, ASTM representatives in China have expanded their outreach to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Vietnam, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore; and from Mexico, ASTM’s outreach is extended into parts of Latin America.

5. This figure includes two European members who serve on the ASTM board of directors.

6. These numbers exclude students but may include organizational, cooperative agreements and affiliate members.

7. See the ASTM International website.

James A. Thomas

President, ASTM International

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This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.