Voluntary Consensus-Based Standards Promote Competition, Economic Growth, Witnesses Say

Feb 29, 2012
Voluntary Consensus-Based Standards Promote Competition, Economic Growth, Witnesses Say

Washington D.C. – The Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation today held a hearing to examine the principles of effective domestic and international standards development processes.  Witnesses discussed how to better promote these principles internationally and how standards can sometimes be used as technical barriers to trade.

“Standards play a critical role in both the domestic and international economies,” said Subcommittee Chairman Ben Quayle (R-AZ).  “Along with providing market certainty to producers and consumers, the process by which standards are developed is also crucial to competitiveness and innovation.”

Quayle continued, stating that a market-driven, voluntary consensus approach to standards development “has proven to be effective because it allows relevant stakeholders, including small and medium-sized enterprises, to contribute in the development process, ensuring the final standards have broad market relevance.”
 

Describing how U.S. industries have adopted standards, Mr. Joe Bhatia, President and CEO of the American National Standards Institute, said “It is the market itself, through an open, consensus-based process, that determines when a standard should be developed.”

Representing the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Ms. Mary Saunders, Director of the Standards Coordination Office, said “U.S. competitiveness in technology requires leadership by U.S. industry in standards and standardization.”

However, witnesses noted that not all countries use these principles in developing standards, citing instances where countries have adopted standards that have disadvantaged U.S. exporters.  Bhatia noted that emerging markets “are creating hundreds – even thousands – of new standards and product requirements each year, and most are created by government with limited industry input.”

 

In response to countries that adopt standards which impede U.S. exports, witnesses stressed the importance of enforcing trade agreements and setting a strong example in the international arena.  Director of standards at the Intel Corporation, Mr. Philip Wennblom, said “Trade agreements and their effective enforcement are key to preventing standards from being used as barriers to trade…. The WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers contains some important provisions that, if followed, help reduce the risk of standards being used as trade barriers.”

“We need to maintain our position in the global market when it comes to setting standards, but we also need to balance that with setting these standards at the appropriate times,” said Mr. Mark Grimaldi, Owner of Equinox Chemicals.  “If we rush out to set standards just because we are worried about not keeping the lead or to just develop a ‘me too’ standard in response to another country’s attempt, we will only lose our credibility and position as the global leader.”

The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee:

Ms. Mary H. Saunders, Director, Standards Coordination Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Mr. S. Joe Bhatia, President and CEO, American National Standards Institute

Mr. Philip Wennblom, Director of Standards, Intel Corporation

Mr. Mark Grimaldi, Owner, Equinox Chemicals

Mr. James Seay, President, Premier Rides