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 August 2005 Global Notebook

Standards, “Offshoring” and Air Transport Focus of 2005 World Trade Report

The application of technical standards by national governments can have both constructive and detrimental effects on international trade, according to the World Trade Organization’s 2005 World Trade Report. The report, written by economists in the WTO Secretariat, points out that such norms can deliver important benefits in terms of information for consumers, environmental protection and compatibility among related goods and services. But the report draws attention to the fact that technical standards can also be used as protectionist measures and can result in higher operating costs for developing country producers. The third in an annual series initiated by Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, the 2005 WTR also includes analytical essays on offshoring services (a particular aspect of outsourcing), air transport services and the use of quantitative economic analysis in dispute settlement. The report also reviews recent trends in global trade.

NIST World Trade Center Investigation Team Calls for Improvements

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology has called on the organizations that develop building and fire safety codes, standards and practices — and the state and local agencies that adopt them — to make specific changes to improve the safety of tall buildings, their occupants and first responders. The recommendations result from the agency’s investigation of the fires in and collapses of New York City’s World Trade Center towers following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Based on the findings of the most detailed examination of a building failure ever conducted, NIST is making 30 recommendations, which cover specific improvements to building standards, codes and practices; changes to, or the establishment of, evacuation and emergency response procedures; and research and other appropriate actions needed to help prevent future building failures. NIST will hold a conference Sept. 13–15 at its headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., to reinforce the importance of its findings and recommendations from the investigation and encourage their implementation. See the NIST World Trade Center Web site.

“The Load Guide” for the Building Industry

The Wood Truss Council of America has introduced “The Load Guide, A Guide to Good Practice for Specifying and Applying Loads to Structural Building Components.” Focusing on floor, roof and dead loads, TLG is a series of Excel spreadsheets free to the public designed to help users understand, define and specify all the loads that should be applied to the design of structural building components. In addition to allowing users to calculate loads specific to a given building project, the spreadsheet provides reference materials and commentary so that determining the applied loads is easier. Finally, the guide provides a valuable load calculation worksheet that defines all the loading criteria that have been agreed upon for loading a specific building component. This sheet can then be saved or printed out and added to the construction project documentation. A cooperative development between the Truss Plate Institute and WTCA, The Load Guide is available online.

CPSC Signs Cooperative Memorandum of Understanding With Canadian Government

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has signed an agreement with the Canadian government aimed at further improving consumer safety and making both the United States and Canadian marketplaces among the safest in the world. This agreement is also part of the “Security and Prosperity Partnership” between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton and Susan Fletcher, assistant deputy minister of the Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch of the Department of Health of Canada (Health Canada), signed the memorandum of understanding, which calls for increased harmonization of existing and prospective safety standards, and exchanging more information on safety research and other findings. The agreement also calls for both agencies to share inspection and laboratory test results, where appropriate. Another key provision to which Health Canada has agreed involves advance notification to CPSC when a product that violates a Canadian safety standard or poses a danger to Canadian consumers is intended for export to the United States.

New NIST Service Tracks Global Tech Regulations

Want to know about pending changes in technical regulations in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Korea or any of the 148 nations that are members of the World Trade Organization? Then sign up for the “Notify U.S.” service unveiled July 1 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Notify U.S. is the successor to Export Alert!, the e-mail notification system previously offered by NIST and the International Trade Administration. This new Web-based service offers a fast, comprehensive, global perspective on proposed technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures that might influence U.S. access to export markets. Notify U.S. provides users with access to notifications and full texts of regulations issued by the WTO members. In addition, users can monitor proposed changes across chosen countries and 41 fields of industrial or technical activities, or they can select a subset of fields. The new, free service is operated by NIST’s National Center for Standards and Certification Information. To learn more and to sign up, go to the Notify U.S. Web site.

ANSI Annual Conference: “From A to Veeck: Standardization and the Law”

From inception to implementation, the law in some way influences every stage in the life of a standard. The 2005 American National Standards Institute Annual Conference, “From A to Veeck: Standardization and the Law,” will provide an opportunity for anyone involved in the standards process, lawyers and non-lawyers alike, to get up to speed on the legal issues impacting their work. Speakers and panelists at the Oct. 6 event in Washington, D.C., will address such topics as antitrust issues, embedded patents and the related patent policies being used within the standards community today. A dialogue on the distinction between open source versus open standards will shed light on a topic receiving headline coverage in the high-tech industry and raise issues for consideration by other sectors. Updates on legislative initiatives will address topics such as the protection of developers during standards-setting activities; recent developments concerning tort liability in standards development will also be shared. The day will conclude with a review of copyright issues during standards-setting and bring conference attendees up to date on Veeck and its implications. For more information, visit the ANSI Web site. //

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