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Plain Talk for a New Generation
Wake Up Call

Companies tell us that doing business in multiple markets is like playing tennis: you can’t take your eye off the ball. They say that if there is anything a company has to have nowadays, it’s flexibility and the ability to move quickly. ASTM standards give them both.

Governments all over the world tell us that they are using ASTM International’s standards to carry out mandates, sustain their environments, and protect the health and safety of their consumers. They say that ASTM standards are used to define their regulatory goals and are chosen for the quality and economy they bring to procurement practices.

The fact is that ASTM standards are part of the world’s infrastructure. They are embedded in standards portfolios both public and private; they are integral components of company strategies and national strategies.

Why point out the obvious? To remind us all that these standards have been chosen to perform in thousands of ways to achieve thousands of goals, and they have been chosen by their users. But there are places in the world where users are losing that right. There are places in the world where the presumption is that all the world’s standards must come from a single source.

The fact is that companies today can’t function with standards from a single source. But there is a mindset that advocates the force-feeding of standards. ASTM standards that companies and governments are using now — the standards that are part of the world’s infrastructure, that have been chosen because they guarantee success, the high-quality and relevant standards that are made better, faster, and cheaper, the right standards for the right jobs — are being challenged because they do not bear a certain label, because they do not come from a pre-determined source. This sole-source theory is finding its way into regulations, trade agreements, and industrial policies. It’s a quick fix that sounds like a good idea. And where it is appearing and where it is enforced, users are losing the right to choose.

The barriers to the use of ASTM standards will only come down when users become aware that legislation and trade agreements
are predetermining their choice of standards. They will only come down when the voices of users are heard in the halls of governments, when the message is carried to legislators and trade negotiators that standards are instruments of consensus and voluntarism, and that free trade depends on free choices. Not on dictates.

James A. Thomas
President, ASTM

We’d like to know if you’ve encountered a legislative or regulatory obstacle to the use of an ASTM standard. E-mail Jim Thomas with your story.

Copyright 2004, ASTM International