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Standards Strategies from Around the World Discussed at Toronto Workshop
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 December 2005 Inside ASTM
Barbara Schindler is ASTM International’s director of Corporate Communications and former editor in chief of SN.

Standards Strategies from Around the World Discussed at Toronto Workshop

by Barbara Schindler

The lineup of speakers was impressive. On Oct. 26 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, five of the world’s largest trading partners were represented by executives from their respective national and regional standards bodies. What they shared with the audience was nothing short of the collective thinking of their nations in the strategic realm of standardization.

The workshop, titled “Standardization Strategies: A World View,” was cosponsored by the Canadian Standards Association and ASTM International. With the ASTM board of directors convening in Toronto that same week, and a delegation of standards executives from China in attendance, CSA and ASTM embraced the opportunity to arrange a fact-filled workshop on the subject of world standardization.

The audience of 110 comprised members of the ASTM board and staff, Canadian ASTM members, as well as the CSA board of directors, Standards Policy Board members, and staff. Speakers represented Canada, China, Europe, Japan and the United States, revealing their standardization philosophies. Simultaneous translations facilitated the flow of communication in Chinese and in English.

The Workshop Program
Pat Keindel, president of standards, Canadian Standards Association, opened the program by noting the unique and special relationship shared by CSA and ASTM International. “We value openness, transparency, and inclusiveness and the strength of both our organizations lies in our membership. Fifteen percent of ASTM members in Canada are also members of CSA.”

In his welcoming remarks, N. David Smith, 2005 chairman of the ASTM board of directors, described the audience as “like-minded individuals convinced of the positive impact of standards on safety, health and economic success.” Smith set the tone for the standards strategy presentations that followed, which he characterized as “distinct, national perspectives on industrial competitiveness, public policy, and market and societal needs.”

“The number one theme of Canada’s national standards strategy is raising awareness,” said Hugh Krentz, chairman of the Standards Council of Canada, in his overview of the Canadian standards strategy. To that end, the Future Vision Task Force has been established to identify the “value proposition” of standards. The intent is to communicate the value of standards to all those who benefit from it. Currently, Canada has identified 11 distinct benefits of standards to business, seven to consumers, and 10 to governments and regulators.

Krentz described his country’s national standards strategy as “a living document.” Now in its second version, issued January 2005, the Canadian national standards strategy has a three- to four-year update cycle. It contains six goals, three international and three domestic:

• Influence the formation, evolution and operation of standardization bodies that are important to Canada;
• Improve access to existing and new markets for Canadian goods and services;
• Build competitive advantage through technology and information transfer and global market intelligence;
• Meet the needs of an evolving regulatory and policy environment;
• Represent fully the broadening range of standardization stakeholders; and
• Communicate effectively the role and benefits of standardization and conformity assessment practices.

Krentz concluded by relaying that an implementation plan for the Canadian national standards strategy has been developed. Canada will also measure its progress in meeting the stated goals and objectives. “The world changes, so we will be looking at adapting and revising the nation’s standardization strategy,” Krentz explained.

Comprising 29 countries, the European Union is now the world’s single largest market, surpassing China and the United States in gross domestic product. Speaking at the Toronto workshop on the subject of the EU standards strategy was Lars Flink, chief executive officer of the Swedish Standards Institute, technical vice president of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), and a member of the ASTM board of directors.

Flink reported that, until the mid 1980s, CEN had fewer than 30 standards. Spurred by the New Approach, however, the total number of European standards between 1985 and 2005 has risen to 10,000, with an average of about 1,200 new standards per year. Supported mainly by industry, some 70,000 technical experts are part of CEN.

CEN is now in the process of reviewing its standards strategy, which was originally drafted in 1998. A completed update is anticipated in 2006.

Speed and efficiency lead the list of CEN’s strategic goals over the next five years, Flink reported. CEN hopes to reduce its standards development timetable to three years or less for new standards, a framework it believes is more acceptable to industry. Political, economic, social, technological, legal and international factors are taken into account in the CEN standards strategy.

In his presentation, Flink also covered CEN/ISO (International Organization for Standardization) relations, the Vienna Agreement, and the concept, developed in 2004, of CEN Partner Standardization Bodies. He noted that Romania and Bulgaria are to become new CEN members in 2007. Reference was also made to the Lisbon Agreement, whereby the EU heads of state agreed to make the Union the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010.

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