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 April 2005 Feature
Jeff Grove assumed his position as ASTM International's representative in Washington, D.C., in November 2004. He has over a decade of Washington-based public policy experience, including serving as staff director of the House Committee on Science Subcommittee on Technology of the U.S. Congress.

For more information regarding ASTM International’s Washington office and
public policy program, please contact ASTM Washington Representative Jeff Grove.

ASTM International and Public Policy

As a leader in standards development and delivery, ASTM International and ASTM standards are known and respected all over the world by our customers and stakeholders for their important role in strengthening innovation, trade, public safety, and security. But while the quality and relevance of ASTM standards and technical information is widely recognized in the global standards community and in select industries, policy makers and the general public often lack sufficient understanding and awareness of their societal and economic significance. As a result, laws, regulations, and international trade agreements can be developed without taking into account the input of ASTM International and other standards development organizations. Such policy decisions can affect our ability to meet the needs of our stakeholders — whether in the United States or abroad — for high-quality, market-driven standards and technical information.

Shaping Policy Through Awareness and Partnerships

Those who know ASTM best can attest to the organization’s value and effectiveness. To build stronger government and industry awareness, recognition and support of ASTM’s work, ASTM International has established an office in Washington, D.C., staffed by the author. The new Washington office supports the mission of ASTM International by building and maintaining relationships with members of the U.S. Congress and congressional staff, U.S. trade negotiators, federal regulatory and procurement departments, independent agencies, the American National Standards Institute, other standards development and code organizations, corporations, trade associations and professional societies.

One of the objectives of the Washington office is to build a broad-based network that reaches beyond the standards community to raise awareness regarding the importance of standards and of the policy challenges that U.S.-domiciled standards development organizations such as ASTM International face today. Many private sector corporations from numerous industrial sectors utilize ASTM standards as integral components in their competitive business strategies and to facilitate commercial transactions all around the globe. By building deeper, more significant and more consistent relations with our industry partners, trade associations and policy makers, ASTM will be better positioned to shape policy and to ensure a legislative and regulatory environment in which standards development can thrive. Without enhancing such relationships and raising awareness, we would continue to be confronted by policy challenges as business leaders and policy makers would fail to make the connection between standards and future prosperity.

Reducing Global Barriers to the Use of ASTM Standards

While many ASTM standards are accepted and used throughout the world as the basis for contracts, codes, and regulations, access to global markets increasingly depends on standards being set by other countries and international organizations. For example, we have found that in some countries government policies prohibit the use of de facto international standards, including those developed by ASTM International. These countries have incorrectly determined that the term “international standards” embodied in the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement applies strictly to the standards of the International Electrotechnical Commission, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and International Telecommunications Union. While this interpretation is inconsistent with the intent of the TBT Agreement and harmful to the best interests of ASTM International, it can also be disadvantageous to the efforts of many businesses to compete in global markets.

Through direct collaboration with ASTM International staff and volunteer leadership, the Washington office is actively engaged with policy makers and trade negotiators to broaden the acceptance and use of its standards worldwide. During the implementation of existing trade agreements and the negotiation of future agreements, we seek to have all countries held to their obligations outlined in Annex 4 of the “Decision of the Committee on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations” of the Second Triennial Review of the WTO TBT Agreement. Under this reasoned and well-articulated approach, international standards are recognized based on the transparency, openness and impartiality in their development process rather than the label they bear or their source.

Building New Bridges with Government Agencies

The United States, unlike most other countries, has a very decentralized voluntary consensus standards system. Elsewhere in the world, standards are created under a government-sponsored system. While the government is a major participant in the U.S. standardization system, the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 directs federal agencies to adopt private-sector standards whenever possible, especially those developed by organizations such as ASTM International that use open, formal procedures and rely on consensus among affected parties.

Another objective of the Washington office is to monitor the utilization of the NTTAA by government agencies to ensure that ASTM standards are properly adopted or referenced where appropriate, and that government standards activities do not duplicate or conflict with the interests of ASTM International. Fortunately, ASTM International’s 138 technical committees count numerous strong, cooperative partnerships across most government organizations as evidenced by more than 2,400 citations of ASTM standards in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. While the NTTAA has been very effective in the development of private sector standards that respond to government and private sector needs, there are instances in which agencies have chosen to ignore existing ASTM standards by pursuing their own standards or have adopted ASTM standards by regulation without proper citation. The Washington office assists ASTM technical committees and staff in bringing these issues to the attention of agency officials for their positive resolution.

Finally, the Washington office supports ASTM’s efforts to initiate new technical committee activities by helping to identify opportunities as evolving federal research and development projects lead to the need for new private sector standards.

Seeking Partnerships with SDOs on U.S. Legislative and Regulatory Issues

ASTM International’s Washington office is located at the same venue as the local offices for other U.S.-domiciled standards developing organizations including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers; and the Society of Automotive Engineers. Since ASTM International and other SDOs develop product performance, health, safety, and environmental standards central to the welfare of the public, there is often a need to work together to navigate through the complex American legal, regulatory, and legislative regime.

In 2004, ASTM International worked closely with the American National Standards Institute, ASME, and the National Fire Protection Association to shepherd the Standards Developing Organizations Advancement Act of 2004 into law, providing a degree of shelter for ANSI-accredited SDOs from the treble damages liability in antitrust law. As the U.S. Congress continues to transfer responsibility for the development of standards from the public sector to the private sector, there may be the need for additional legislative protections for SDOs engaged in standards activities that are essential to the public good. As a leading SDO with over 11,000 standards, ASTM International will continue to be a leading voice for the standards community in U.S. legislative and regulatory matters.

Engaging the ASTM International Membership in Public Policy

The Washington office is intended to serve ASTM International as a two-way communications channel both to bring potentially significant public policy issues to the attention of the membership and the standards community, and to interact with policy makers and governmental organizations. ASTM International’s volunteer members have much to offer through their experience and technical expertise. As attention to the intersection of standards and public policy grows, ASTM International’s expertise will become even more valuable in helping policy makers to make sound and informed policy choices on matters that affect standards development and the worldwide acceptance and use of ASTM standards. //

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