||Plain Talk on the TBT and
Bravo, Mr. Thomas, for laying out in detail the problems with
the direction the international standards organizations are
taking [Plain Talk for A New Generation by Jim Thomas, August
2000 SN]. Many people have argued for years that the purpose of
European-dominated bodies is to further the influence of Europe.
It has become increasingly apparent that recent declarations and
developments support this view. I appreciate the fact that you
have made a very strong statement defending Americas time-tested
standards development process, and I think it imperative that
ASTM become more vocal in defense of the voluntary consensus process
as embodied by ASTM. Now is the time to make our case, individually
and collectively, otherwise the system which has worked so well
for over 100 years risks being relegated to the drafting of suggestions
Las Vegas, Nev.
Your Plain Talk on TBT and the ISO/ CEN Vienna Agreement was excellent.
Ive been attending ISO meetings for only a short time and have
encountered the exact problems with the Vienna Agreement you describe.
I often have to justify my ISO involvement to upper management
and your article would give them a wider view of the dynamics
of the entire process and whats at stake.
Product Development Engineer
Your article regarding the ISO/ CEN Vienna Agreement matter, relative
to how CEN products get preferred treatment in the ISO process,
expressed the situation very well. If something is not done before
too much longer to make, as you say, the United States a full
partner, things could get much more difficult for all concerned,
including the international standards endorsement process. The
fact that, in the United States, our technical standards process
is not government-controlled and directed seems to cause no undue
amount of concern with other countries where the government element
controls subject. They do not understand us, especially since
the United States interests in standards so often do not speak
with one voice, and we do not understand how they work under
government control either, as a rule. Anyway, I hope your article
results in some positive actions via the WTO or otherwise to remedy
the situation with ISO/CEN Vienna Agreement.
NASA Technical Standards Program
I read with considerable interest your article concerning the
ISO/CEN Vienna Agreement. While I have been involved in several
discussions on the matter in my technical standards consulting
activities, I guess I have not clearly understood the basic issue
until I read your article. You have done an excellent job describing
the situation and ramifications of decisions being made.
However, as I read further into your article I was looking forward
to a statement on actions the United States should or could take
to reverse the situation, given that you have noted that the United
States seems to be speaking with one voice for a change. Unfortunately,
your remark in the end that, Its time to take stock and for
the United States to take its rightful place in Geneva as a full
member, with all respect due leaves me a bit perplexed as to
just who should do what to whom and how. If the United States
has only one vote on the WTO, ISO, etc., involved organizations,
that would not seem to be adequate to carry enough weight to override
actions relative to the ISO/CEN Vienna Agreement.
Is there an alternative? It looks like the United States against
the rest of the world because we are different, right or wrong.
However, I do recognize that in the international arena, as with
the national activities, economics and what works best prevails
insofar as to what standard is utilized, regardless of source.
ASTMs standard products and others will be used, if they fit
an international job, whether they have been endorsed as an ISO,
ESSA, or other of the Geneva organizations products I suspect.
I hope your excellent article, however, does have some influence
in getting everyone in the United States working on the same team
from international aspects relative to standards products.
William W. Vaughan
University of AlabamaHuntsville
I commend you for your tough stance in Time to Take Stock. The
Cordage Institute has been fighting the ISO closed shop on standards
for some time. In the standards setting arena, the Cordage Institute
is not large but we do feel strongly that the U.S. approach to
standards development is far more democratic and open to global
input than ISO. A new ISO WG 21 has been established for rope
and cordage and our counterpart in EuropeEurocordhas been designated
the secretariat. They are also the secretariat for CEN standards
and they are saying they may use our standards as drafts. If this
is done at the CEN level, by virtue of the Vienna Agreement, there
can be a potential end run to ISO without any input or voting
from other than EU interests. We are not clear on exactly how
this type of procedure will play out, but it does illustrate how
the ISO so-called international standards are not universally
transparent, are not open to due process, and are certainly not
representative of global equality.
To say that your article in the August 2000 SN is insightful is
doing it a great injustice. The article laid out the real issues
surrounding the attempts by the (primarily) European Community
to control world trade through the manipulative use of a puppet
standards organization which supposedly represents the interests
of the world community. Your presentation is the clearest stated
position from the United States voluntary standards community
that I have seen to date. Someone must step up to provide the
needed leadership to protect the interests of the American (and
other affected countries) public. These unfair attempts by the
European Commission for Standardization to place standards barriers
to free trade will ultimately affect the pocketbooks of all Americans
(and affected others).
I sincerely hope that ASTM will continue to speak out and provide
the much needed leadership to address this issue to its ultimate
resolution. Your article, however, left a void which I encourage
you to fill. As a member of ASTM, and other voluntary standards
organizations, I want to provide assistance to prevent this great
injustice from occurring. I suspect other ASTM members feel the
same after having read your article. Your article did not provide
any suggestions regarding grassroots support in the political
arena. I would assume there are specific politicians and public
servants to which we should voice our opinions. Names and addresses
would be of assistance.
Jim, youve got our ire up; help us direct it!
Newport News Shipbuilding
Newport News, Va.
My congratulations to Jim Thomas on a job well done in his Plain
Talk for a New Generation article in this issue. He gets right
to the point and doesnt dance around the issue. Dare we hope
for support from other nations now? Dare we hope for more open
and honest communication? In any eventjob well done. Ive shared
the article with some of my colleagues, and they feel the same.
Walter G. Baumgardt
ASTM Committee D20 on Plastics
Apparently, ASTMs leaders have finally recognized the threat
to U.S. business and standards that is represented by the European
and ISO attitudes toward international standardization. Why has
it taken so long?
Until an October 1994 meeting of ISO/TC135/SC7 in France, I had
not heard of the Vienna Agreement. However, upon learning of its
provisions, the serious threat that it posed to U.S. interests
was immediately apparent to me. I attempted, unsuccessfully, to
have SC7 complain to ISO leadership about the Agreement. On Oct.
31, 1994, I alerted ASTM and ASNT to the issue by letter. Dr.
Leonard Mordfin, chairman of ASTM E07.91, understood immediately.
He conveyed our concerns further within ASTM, wrote to ANSI objecting
to the Agreement, and early in 1995 published an article on the
issue in Standardization News.
Unfortunately, despite these efforts and further prodding, neither
ANSI, ASNT, nor ASTM took any other action until 1996. ASTM then
published Helen Delaneys article about one companys experience,
and Jim Thomas mildly reproached the U.S. government in a speech
before a Congressional committee. Nothing further was done until
minutes of an October 1996 meeting of CEN/TC138 reached me through
a European friend. These minutes reported a frontal effort by
CEN to commandeer the primary ongoing activity of ISO/TC135/ SC7,
so I again wrote to ASNT and ASTM about the pernicious potential
of that Agreement. Nevertheless, in June 1997, Standardization
News quoted the president of ANSI as claiming, The concept of
block voting in ISO
is a red herring.
However, as a result of my 1996 letter, ASNT did begin an active
effort to spur defense of U.S. interests. These efforts included
hiring a lobbyist, meetings with ANSI officers, increased attendance
at European meetings, and testimony before Congress regarding
the inimical effects of the Agreement. What is difficult to understand
is the glacial response of all affected non-European organizations,
especially ASTM and ANSI. The threat to their interests was obvious
and, beginning in 1994, was repeatedly pointed out to them, yet
they have done little or nothing to ameliorate the threat to the
I am pleased that ASTMs leaders now appear to understand the
problem. If they will join vigorously in ASNTs efforts, then
perhaps ANSI, our government, and others will come to realize
the need to replace the Vienna Agreement with a fair, even-handed
protocol on international standards development, a protocol that
allows equal voice to all interested, competent parties regardless
of their affiliation.
George C. Wheeler
Copyright 2000, ASTM