||More on WTO TBT and Vienna Agreements
I was happy that Dr. Lawrence D. Eicher of ISO was given an opportunity to reply (Oct. 2000) to Jim Thomas views on ISO/WTO issues (Aug. 2000). Dr. Eichers response certainly
illustrates why differences of opinion exist on these issues.
However, in my view, Dr. Eicher did not address the key questions.
This isnt an America versus the rest of the world debate; instead,
at its root, it is a debate about a questionable process (ISO)
versus a superior process (ASTM and others). The ISO process may
be useful for some, but the ASTM model can be demonstrated to
be more responsive, capable of producing a better product more
quickly, and is far more inclusive of the stakeholders. The existing
ISO process is defective in a number of respects, including: preventing
direct stakeholder membership/participation, defining a simple
majority of a few voting members as a consensus, and allowing
committee chairs excessive leeway on interpreting the requirements
of due process. (There are other fundamental ISO process defects,
but these suffice as illustration.)
What about the question of definition of an international standards
body? Again, I believe Dr. Eicher has missed the point. ISO defines
itself as an international standards body and (at least unofficially,
if not officially) states that ASTM is not. But a name or category
alone does not define reality. ISO can only be considered an international
standards body for those cases where ISO can actually claim to
represent the views of the bulk of the international stakeholders.
(By stakeholders I do not mean a few so-called national representatives,
but the many actual users of the standards.)
Dr. Eicher fails to comprehend that ASTM (as well as other non-ISO
standards development organizations) is a de facto international
standards body for many of its constituencies. This is not by
declaration alone, but on the basis of broad usage of and broad
international participation in the development of ASTM standards.
A number of ASTM committees are more international than their
counterparts in ISO. It appears to me that ASTM is also at least
generally, if not specifically, consistent with both the WTO and
ISO definitions of an international standards body. Note that
ASTM is open to membership by the national standards organizations
that are the ISO members. For ISO to declare itself, defective
process and all, to be the unilateral arbiter of what is, and
what is not, an international standards body, is simple arrogance
without basis in fact.
While an ISO organization with an ASTM-like process would eliminate
my fundamental objections to ISO, I recognize that many ISO participants
support the existing ISO model; I do not expect ISO to change
in this respect. However, ISO would do well to officially recognize
that other models for standards development, such as the one used
by ASTM, are highly effective in the development of international
standards. ISO should accept this, and help define better methods
for cooperation between itself and ASTM.
Winter Springs, Fla.
It was a pleasure to read the article on international standards. The pleasure was in reading the well-structured
exposé of the problems, not in the subject matter itself, which
continues to disgust me. ISO and the other Euro-centric standards
bodies have done an incredible job sucking in the business community
as a whole without their understanding what they are supporting.
I find these standards too often to be politically motivated or
influenced, often to the detriment of U.S. or other businesses.
The worst news comes when the U.S. government harmonizes with
these standards, often despite the fact that they are ill-suited
for use here in the states. Numerous examples exist in the aviation
industry with which I am familiar. I do not rule out such harmonization
or the creation of truly international standards, but as long
as governments effectively run the process it is essentially flawed.
I find most other standard-setting organizations outside the United
States to be arrogant, secretive, and wholly unresponsive and
I have no respect whatsoever for the standards they promulgate
for those reasons.
Editor, Equipped to Survive
Member SAE S9 Cabin Safety
Provisions Committee, and S9A Ditching and Evacuation Systems
The Appeal of Appeals
Re: In Praise of the Fat Lady, by Morris Brooke, June 2000.
The Federal Trade Commission must have been misinformed if it
concluded that ASTM has no bodies to which decisions of the technical
committees may be appealed. We in Committee A01 on Steel, Stainless
Steel, and Related Alloys have appeals in the works after almost
every letter ballot, as I am sure is the experience of other technical
Any person, whether a member or not, can enter an objection to
a ballot item at any point in the balloting process, and that
objection will be considered and voted upon by the originating
subcommittee. The subcommittee is where people knowledgeable in
the technology gravitateproducers, users, and persons with a
general interest like those from government and academia. Producers
are limited to minority voting rights. In Committee A01, the negative
voters reasons are circulated to all the subcommittee members
with the meeting agenda in advance of the meeting where the ballot
results are to be considered. At the meeting, the negative voter
is given an opportunity to state his or her case. In the event
the subcommittee finds the reason for the negative vote to be
nonpersuasive, that action must be reviewed at a meeting of the
main committee. There, the negative voters reasons are presented
to the main committee, and the negative voter again is given an
opportunity to make his or her case in person or by proxy. This
is his or her second line of appeal.
Should the main committee vote not to support the negative voter,
the opportunities for appeal are not exhausted. The item then
is submitted to letter ballot in the main committee with the negative
voters reasons attached. This action provides an appeal directly
to all the members of the main committee and constitutes a third
line of appeal. If the negative voter again votes in the negative
on the main committee ballot, the originating subcommittee reviews
the reasons stated for that second vote, and the negative voter
again is presented with an opportunity to appeal to the subcommittee
in person or by proxy. This is his or her fourth appeal. Should
the subcommittee again vote not to support the negative voter,
that action is presented to the main committee, and the negative
voter has an additional opportunity to argue the case. This is
the fifth appeal.
Should all these efforts fail to satisfy the negative voter, an
additional opportunity for appeal is provided when the item is
published in SN. A sixth appeal.
Even that does not exhaust the avenues for appeal. A negative
voter may appeal directly to the ASTM Committee on Standards,
which is in effect a supreme court of appeals. There, the negative
voter may try to convince a disinterested board of the merits
of the case. In addition, the negative voter may request an affirmative
letter ballot of the subcommittee having jurisdiction. A seventh
As anyone can see, the fat lady, whose singing Mr. Brooke would
like to have an opportunity to hear once more, sings on and on
in the appeals processes provided by the great ASTM rules.
Harry E. Lunt, P.E.
Former Chairman, Committee A01
ASTM Board of Directors
Copyright 2000, ASTM