The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Foreign Trade Council and more than a dozen industry trade associations object to a European proposal they say would restrict flexibility and choice of international standards.
A joint letter to the United States Trade Representative says the proposal, which has been made in current World Trade Organization (WTO) Non-Agricultural Market Access negotiations, designates a short list of specific organizations to develop international standards and suggests that only these standards are relevant within the context of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.
According to ASTM International, an organization that develops international voluntary consensus standards, current WTO policy encourages its 153 member countries to eliminate unnecessary barriers to trade by ensuring that standards used for trade and regulatory purposes are developed with open, impartial and transparent principles that provide an opportunity for consensus among all interested parties.
This approach allows industry and governments to choose from a range of international standards based on criteria such as technical quality, market relevance and suitability, ASTM says. It adds that the European proposal limits choices based on whether the standard was developed by a specific organization on the approved list of standardizing bodies.
"In today's globally competitive economy, industries need the flexibility to choose international standards that best match their technical needs and market-based objectives," James A. Thomas, ASTM president, says.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also has concerns about the proposal.
"We are concerned that the European proposal undermines the mutual commitment to move beyond differences over standards policy that was intended to foster more effective standards cooperation in areas of emerging regulation," says Sean Heather, executive director of Global Regulatory Cooperation at the Chamber. The Chamber supports objectives of the Transatlantic Economic Council and its U.S.-EU High Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum.