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A01 STEEL, STAINLESS STEEL AND RELATED ALLOYS A04 IRON CASTINGS A05 METALLIC-COATED IRON AND STEEL PRODUCTS B01 ELECTRICAL CONDUCTORS B05 COPPER AND COPPER ALLOYS B07 LIGHT METALS AND ALLOYS C01 CEMENT C04 VITRIFIED CLAY PIPE C07 LIME AND LIMESTONE C09 CONCRETE AND CONCRETE AGGREGATES C11 GYPSUM AND RELATED BUILDING MATERIALS AND SYSTEMS C12 MORTARS AND GROUTS FOR UNIT MASONRY C13 CONCRETE PIPE C14 GLASS AND GLASS PRODUCTS C15 MANUFACTURED MASONRY UNITS C16 THERMAL INSULATION C17 FIBER-REINFORCED CEMENT PRODUCTS C18 DIMENSION STONE C21 CERAMIC WHITEWARES AND RELATED PRODUCTS C24 BUILDING SEALS AND SEALANTS C27 PRECAST CONCRETE PRODUCTS D01 PAINT AND RELATED COATINGS, MATERIALS, AND APPLICATIONS D04 ROAD AND PAVING MATERIALS D07 WOOD D08 ROOFING AND WATERPROOFING D09 ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC INSULATING MATERIALS D11 RUBBER D14 ADHESIVES D18 SOIL AND ROCK D20 PLASTICS D35 GEOSYNTHETICS E05 FIRE STANDARDS E06 PERFORMANCE OF BUILDINGS E33 BUILDING AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACOUSTICS E36 ACCREDITATION & CERTIFICATION E57 3D IMAGING SYSTEMS E60 SUSTAINABILITY F01 ELECTRONICS F06 RESILIENT FLOOR COVERINGS F13 PEDESTRIAN/WALKWAY SAFETY AND FOOTWEAR F16 FASTENERS F17 PLASTIC PIPING SYSTEMS F33 DETENTION AND CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES F36 TECHNOLOGY AND UNDERGROUND UTILITIES G03 WEATHERING AND DURABILITY C14 GLASS AND GLASS PRODUCTS C21 CERAMIC WHITEWARES AND RELATED PRODUCTS D01 PAINT AND RELATED COATINGS, MATERIALS, AND APPLICATIONS D06 PAPER AND PAPER PRODUCTS D09 ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC INSULATING MATERIALS D10 PACKAGING D11 RUBBER D12 SOAPS AND OTHER DETERGENTS D13 TEXTILES D14 ADHESIVES D15 ENGINE COOLANTS AND RELATED FLUIDS D20 PLASTICS D21 POLISHES D31 LEATHER E12 COLOR AND APPEARANCE E18 SENSORY EVALUATION E20 TEMPERATURE MEASUREMENT E35 PESTICIDES, ANTIMICROBIALS, AND ALTERNATIVE CONTROL AGENTS E41 LABORATORY APPARATUS E53 ASSET MANAGEMENT E57 3D IMAGING SYSTEMS F02 FLEXIBLE BARRIER PACKAGING F05 BUSINESS IMAGING PRODUCTS F06 RESILIENT FLOOR COVERINGS F08 SPORTS EQUIPMENT, PLAYING SURFACES, AND FACILITIES F09 TIRES F10 LIVESTOCK, MEAT, AND POULTRY EVALUATION SYSTEMS F11 VACUUM CLEANERS F13 PEDESTRIAN/WALKWAY SAFETY AND FOOTWEAR F14 FENCES F15 CONSUMER PRODUCTS F16 FASTENERS F24 AMUSEMENT RIDES AND DEVICES F26 FOOD SERVICE EQUIPMENT F27 SNOW SKIING F37 LIGHT SPORT AIRCRAFT F43 LANGUAGE SERVICES AND PRODUCTS F44 GENERAL AVIATION AIRCRAFT A01 STEEL, STAINLESS STEEL AND RELATED ALLOYS A04 IRON CASTINGS A05 METALLIC-COATED IRON AND STEEL PRODUCTS A06 MAGNETIC PROPERTIES B01 ELECTRICAL CONDUCTORS B02 NONFERROUS METALS AND ALLOYS B05 COPPER AND COPPER ALLOYS B07 LIGHT METALS AND ALLOYS B08 METALLIC AND INORGANIC COATINGS B09 METAL POWDERS AND METAL POWDER PRODUCTS B10 REACTIVE AND REFRACTORY METALS AND ALLOYS C03 CHEMICAL-RESISTANT NONMETALLIC MATERIALS C08 REFRACTORIES C28 ADVANCED CERAMICS D01 PAINT AND RELATED COATINGS, MATERIALS, AND APPLICATIONS D20 PLASTICS D30 COMPOSITE MATERIALS E01 ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY FOR METALS, ORES, AND RELATED MATERIALS E04 METALLOGRAPHY E07 NONDESTRUCTIVE TESTING E08 FATIGUE AND FRACTURE E12 COLOR AND APPEARANCE E13 MOLECULAR SPECTROSCOPY AND SEPARATION SCIENCE E28 MECHANICAL TESTING E29 PARTICLE AND SPRAY CHARACTERIZATION E37 THERMAL MEASUREMENTS E42 SURFACE ANALYSIS F01 ELECTRONICS F34 ROLLING ELEMENT BEARINGS F40 DECLARABLE SUBSTANCES IN MATERIALS F42 ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGIES G01 CORROSION OF METALS G03 WEATHERING AND DURABILITY D21 POLISHES D26 HALOGENATED ORGANIC SOLVENTS AND FIRE EXTINGUISHING AGENTS D33 PROTECTIVE COATING AND LINING WORK FOR POWER GENERATION FACILITIES E05 FIRE STANDARDS E27 HAZARD POTENTIAL OF CHEMICALS E30 FORENSIC SCIENCES E34 OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY E35 PESTICIDES, ANTIMICROBIALS, AND ALTERNATIVE CONTROL AGENTS E52 FORENSIC PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY E54 HOMELAND SECURITY APPLICATIONS E58 FORENSIC ENGINEERING F06 RESILIENT FLOOR COVERINGS F08 SPORTS EQUIPMENT, PLAYING SURFACES, AND FACILITIES F10 LIVESTOCK, MEAT, AND POULTRY EVALUATION SYSTEMS F12 SECURITY SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT F13 PEDESTRIAN/WALKWAY SAFETY AND FOOTWEAR F15 CONSUMER PRODUCTS F18 ELECTRICAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT FOR WORKERS F23 PERSONAL PROTECTIVE CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT F26 FOOD SERVICE EQUIPMENT F32 SEARCH AND RESCUE F33 DETENTION AND CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES G04 COMPATIBILITY AND SENSITIVITY OF MATERIALS IN OXYGEN ENRICHED ATMOSPHERES D08 ROOFING AND WATERPROOFING D18 SOIL AND ROCK D19 WATER D20 PLASTICS D22 AIR QUALITY D34 WASTE MANAGEMENT D35 GEOSYNTHETICS E06 PERFORMANCE OF BUILDINGS E44 SOLAR, GEOTHERMAL AND OTHER ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES E47 E48 BIOENERGY AND INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS FROM BIOMASS E50 ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT, RISK MANAGEMENT AND CORRECTIVE ACTION E60 SUSTAINABILITY F20 HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES AND OIL SPILL RESPONSE F40 DECLARABLE SUBSTANCES IN MATERIALS G02 WEAR AND EROSION B01 ELECTRICAL CONDUCTORS C26 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE D02 PETROLEUM PRODUCTS, LIQUID FUELS, AND LUBRICANTS D03 GASEOUS FUELS D05 COAL AND COKE D19 WATER D27 ELECTRICAL INSULATING LIQUIDS AND GASES D33 PROTECTIVE COATING AND LINING WORK FOR POWER GENERATION FACILITIES E10 NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY AND APPLICATIONS E44 SOLAR, GEOTHERMAL AND OTHER ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES E48 BIOENERGY AND INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS FROM BIOMASS A01 STEEL, STAINLESS STEEL AND RELATED ALLOYS C01 CEMENT C09 CONCRETE AND CONCRETE AGGREGATES D02 PETROLEUM PRODUCTS, LIQUID FUELS, AND LUBRICANTS D03 GASEOUS FUELS D04 ROAD AND PAVING MATERIALS D15 ENGINE COOLANTS AND RELATED FLUIDS D18 SOIL AND ROCK D24 CARBON BLACK D35 GEOSYNTHETICS E12 COLOR AND APPEARANCE E17 VEHICLE - PAVEMENT SYSTEMS E21 SPACE SIMULATION AND APPLICATIONS OF SPACE TECHNOLOGY E36 ACCREDITATION & CERTIFICATION E57 3D IMAGING SYSTEMS F03 GASKETS F07 AEROSPACE AND AIRCRAFT F09 TIRES F16 FASTENERS F25 SHIPS AND MARINE TECHNOLOGY F37 LIGHT SPORT AIRCRAFT F38 UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS F39 AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS F41 UNMANNED MARITIME VEHICLE SYSTEMS (UMVS) F44 GENERAL AVIATION AIRCRAFT F45 DRIVERLESS AUTOMATIC GUIDED INDUSTRIAL VEHICLES D10 PACKAGING D11 RUBBER E31 HEALTHCARE INFORMATICS E35 PESTICIDES, ANTIMICROBIALS, AND ALTERNATIVE CONTROL AGENTS E54 HOMELAND SECURITY APPLICATIONS E55 MANUFACTURE OF PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS E56 NANOTECHNOLOGY F02 FLEXIBLE BARRIER PACKAGING F04 MEDICAL AND SURGICAL MATERIALS AND DEVICES F29 ANESTHETIC AND RESPIRATORY EQUIPMENT F30 EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES G04 COMPATIBILITY AND SENSITIVITY OF MATERIALS IN OXYGEN ENRICHED ATMOSPHERES C07 LIME AND LIMESTONE D14 ADHESIVES D16 AROMATIC HYDROCARBONS AND RELATED CHEMICALS D20 PLASTICS D26 HALOGENATED ORGANIC SOLVENTS AND FIRE EXTINGUISHING AGENTS D28 ACTIVATED CARBON D32 CATALYSTS E13 MOLECULAR SPECTROSCOPY AND SEPARATION SCIENCE E15 INDUSTRIAL AND SPECIALTY CHEMICALS E27 HAZARD POTENTIAL OF CHEMICALS E35 PESTICIDES, ANTIMICROBIALS, AND ALTERNATIVE CONTROL AGENTS F40 DECLARABLE SUBSTANCES IN MATERIALS E11 QUALITY AND STATISTICS E36 ACCREDITATION & CERTIFICATION E43 SI PRACTICE E55 MANUFACTURE OF PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS E56 NANOTECHNOLOGY F42 ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGIES
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PlainTalk

PlainTalk

Doing What It Takes

ASTM and Its Commitment to Principles for Developing International Standards

For my first column of 2013, I would like to take a moment to look back at one of ASTM International’s most basic tenets, a principle that has carried it successfully into its 115th year, a principle that will take it safely into the future. It is this: ASTM International is a standards developing organization that is dedicated to supporting the needs of its members. To understand how that works, we must first step back to view the landscape in which ASTM International resides.

In a world where national and other centralized standards bodies are the norm, the United States houses a collection of standards organizations that lend themselves to product categories or technical specialties, or, in the case of ASTM International, a scope that crosses product and technological lines. The U.S. standardization system is different, of consternation to some. But the standards produced by this outside-the-box anomaly raise the bar of excellence in many fields and give the global marketplace a vibrancy and balance it would otherwise lack.

There are rules for those who would enter this global marketplace, rules that ensure fair play and competition, rules for international standards that are codified in technical regulations. These rules are contained in the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and institutionalized in the WTO’s TBT Committee. This committee created principles for the development of international standards (see below, “WTO Principles for the Development of International Standards”). The principles are without prejudice and the agreement is nondiscriminatory; i.e., there is no list of standards bodies that are designated as preferred or “approved.” It only requires that a standards body, when developing international standards, follow its principles and thereby reduce the possibility of producing standards that will act as unnecessary barriers to trade. The United States is a member of the WTO and a signatory to that agreement. It is the only signatory with a decentralized standardization system, i.e., a country with no single national standards body. An anomaly. And this is where ASTM International resides.

ASTM International is not a signatory to the agreement, as the agreement is between governments, but ASTM complies with the WTO/TBT principles for the development of international standards. It has enshrined them in its standards developing process, even though that is not required.

Why, then, did ASTM International make this commitment? It was made when the first principle of this organization was established 115 years ago. And that principle was that ASTM would exist to meet the needs and expectations of its members. Every decision thereafter was made in accordance with this first principle. It is at this principle that all past, present and future ideas meet; it is the end to which all ASTM International activities strive. For this organization, there is no objective higher; there is no financial, administrative or political goal that takes precedence over or compromises this single mission.

ASTM International made the commitment to adopt TBT principles because our members needed to have their standards — their standards — match the realities of international trade. It was necessary to assure the WTO member countries that ASTM standards would not act as barriers to trade. ASTM International had instituted guards against that possibility long before the TBT issued its principles — guards such as openness, transparency and consensus. But ASTM International went the extra mile and instituted practices such as aid to developing nations.1 It completed the agenda set down by the TBT. It complied. Today, countries around the world adopt ASTM standards by the thousands into their technical regulations, allowing ASTM members around the world to export their goods and services, and raising the bar of quality within those countries at the same time.

Are we home yet? No. The United States and its voluntary standards bodies are still an anomaly. And anomalies, by definition, are not the norm. Nor are they easily digested. Change is difficult and slow. WTO members still notify each other when they use an ASTM standard in a technical regulation, a practice reserved for standards that emanate from bodies that are not considered “international.” But there are two facts that cannot be ignored: the first is the high rate of usage of ASTM standards by WTO member countries, and second, an ASTM standard has never been brought before the TBT committee as a technical barrier to trade. Definitions are one thing. The realities of the marketplace are another.

The realities of the marketplace are these: Standards in technical regulations are in place to ensure the health, safety and environments of WTO member countries. In use, they must also not act as barriers to trade. And member countries use ASTM standards because they lead the world in quality and relevance.

It was not our primary concern to lend dynamism and balance to a global trading system; our primary concern was to serve our members. It was not our goal to become part of an anomaly, but we became one because our members needed speed and efficiency, and the ASTM International model of direct participation gave them that. Many technical experts from delegate-based and centralized standardization systems also wanted a standards forum that would give them direct participation. They came to ASTM International. They broadened ASTM standards with their contributions and filled its halls with flags from around the world. Here, they found a space where their interests would come first.

And now, we are in our 115th year. And we will strive, and work, and do whatever is required to honor our first principle, and those who founded this organization with such wisdom and foresight.

Reference

1. See ASTM International’s MOU program.

James A. Thomas

President, ASTM International

WTO Principles for the Development of International Standards

  • Openness
  • Transparency
  • Impartiality and Consensus
  • Relevance and Effectiveness
  • Coherence
  • The Development Dimension
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This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.