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Western Hemisphere Standards Related Activities

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The Global Standards Program under the Office of Standards Services participates in many standards related activities in the Western Hemisphere. The main goal is to coordinate many of the activities related to standardization that are taking place due to global and regional economic changes.

The following are Western Hemisphere Standards Related Activities with Global Standards Program staff participation:

Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) on Standards and Technical Barriers to Trade

The creation of the Free Trade of the Americas, a U.S. initiative, began with the first Summit of the Americas in Miami in 1994. At that meeting, the 34 democratically elected heads of state of the Americas agreed on a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action to construct a Free Trade Area of the Americas eliminating trade and investment barriers and to complete negotiations by 2005.

Since the creation of the FTAA in 1994, three Summits of the Americas have been held: in Miami in December 1994, in Chile in April 1998 and Quebec in April 2001. The heads of state define the general principles and objectives that guide the negotiations. In Quebec, it was confirmed that negotiations would complete by 2005. Please consult the ALCA-FTAA website for a detailed explanation of the guiding principles and other activities of the group, http://www.alca-ftaa.org.

Trade ministers are responsible for overseeing and managing the negotiation process and their vice ministers carry out their decisions through the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC). Trade ministers met four times during the preparatory phase of the FTAA process: in Denver, Colorado in June 1995, in Cartagena, Colombia in March 1996, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil in May 1997 and in San Jose, Costa Rica in March 1998. In Costa Rica, trade ministers recommended to the heads of state that they formally launch negotiations. Since then, two other ministerials have been held: in Toronto in November 1999 and in Buenos Aires in April 2001.

During the preparatory phase, the technical work of the FTAA was carried out by twelve working groups for the many pertinent issues relating to the integration of the Western Hemisphere. The working group (WG) that addressed standards and technical barriers to trade met twice a year in Washington, D.C. The WG compiled an inventory of standards practices that promoted transparency; organized regional seminars to promote understanding of the WTO TBT Agreement; discussed initial ideas for approaches to negotiations; and drafted a common objectives paper. The working group fulfilled its mandate with great success.

The second phase began in April 1998, with the creation of nine Negotiating Groups. Discussions on standards and technical barriers to trade were held as part of the Market Access Negotiating Group. At the end of this phase, in December 2000, a preliminary draft text compiling all the country proposals was available. However, no agreement on any text has yet been reached.

In May 2001, the negotiations commenced anew.

Technical and analytical support is provided jointly by three organizations: the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The FTAA administrative secretariat functions at the location where the negotiating groups meet, that is, Miami, FL from May 1998 until February 2001; Panama City until February 2003 and Mexico City thereafter.

NIST provides technical support to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), which leads the negotiations for the United States.

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North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Standards Related Measures (SRM) Committee

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed by the United States, Canada and Mexico in 1994. It called for a Standards Related Measures (SRM) Committee to serve as a forum for the resolution of standards and conformity assessment issues that impact trade among the three NAFTA partners. The Committee on Standards-Related Measures operates under Chapter 9 of the NAFTA Agreement and follows the 15 articles in this chapter for guidance in addressing standards and conformity assessment issues. Five subcommittees deal specifically with issues relating to telecommunications, automotive, land transportation, labeling of textiles and apparel goods and pesticides.

The United States Trade Representative leads the government-to-government discussions. As with the FTAA, NIST provides technical support as needed to resolve any technical barriers to trade that arise.

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Chile Free Trade Agreement

Negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement with Chile were launched at the end of 2000. The pace of negotiations has been very fast and it is expected that an agreement will be reached in the near future.

NIST provides technical support to US negotiators in the area of standards, conformity assessment, technical regulations and information exchange.

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ISO Committee on Developing Country Matters (DEVCO)

DEVCO is the ISO Committee on developing country matters. It was created in 1961 and currently has over 55 participating (P) countries and 25 observer (O) countries. Its main goals are to:

  • identify the needs and requirements of the developing countries in the fields of standardization and related areas (i.e.quality control, metrology and certification, etc.)
  • recommend measures to assist the developing countries in meeting these needs and requirements
  • provide a forum for the discussion of all aspects of standardization and related activities in developing countries, as well as among developing countries
  • advise the General Assembly on the above matters

NIST is responsible for helping ANSI to develop and organize a U.S. DEVCO Technical Advisory Group (TAG). The TAG coordinates the U.S. position with respect to DEVCO work and provides for participation in the DEVCO Committee. The DEVCO Committee provides all countries the opportunity to develop a greater understanding of standardization systems and policies and possible solutions to problems that may develop in this area.

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Panamerican Standards Commission (COPANT)

The Panamerican Standards Commission (COPANT), founded more than 35 years ago, is an association of the National Standards Bodies of the countries of the Americas, with twenty-six active members and five non-voting members. The Commission aims "to promote the development of technical standardization and related activities in its members' countries". NIST works closely with ANSI in COPANT activities.

COPANT was recently restructured to strengthen its efforts and make them more effective. New Statutes and Rules of Procedures were approved and a Board of Directors was created. In addition, three standing committees on technical, political and information management issues support the work of COPANT. The Board of Directors and the three committees will be working towards the implementation of the COPANT strategic plan. COPANT technical work is carried out by twelve technical committees, focusing on standards that respond to regional needs.

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Interamerican Accreditation Cooperation (IAAC)

The Interamerican Accreditation Cooperation (IAAC) is a regional agreement among accreditation bodies in the Americas, which was created with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in November 1996. IAAC currently has 19 full members and 7 associate members. One of IAAC's main goals is the development of Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRA) among bodies of the Western Hemisphere that accredit any of the following entities: quality management system registrars, environmental management system registrars, testing laboratories, calibration laboratories, product certification and/or personnel.

U.S. signatories to the IAAC MoU are the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). As an ANSI member, NIST provides technical support to the U.S. delegation and to IAAC efforts in general.

IAAC conducts its work through the following five working groups:

  • Working Group 1 (WG1) -- Guidance and General Documentation.
  • Working Group 2 (WG2) -- Technical Assistance and Training.
  • Working Group 3 (WG3) -- Multilateral Arrangements.
  • Working Group 4 (WG4) -- Public Relations and Promotional Activities.
  • Working Group 5 (WG5) -- Calibration and Testing Activities.

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American National Standards Institute Regional Standing Committee for the Americas (ANSI-RSC-A)

The ANSI RSC for the Americas is one of three ANSI Regional Standing Committees. Other committees cover Europe / Middle East and the Asia Pacific region. These committees establish and coordinate the US private sector position in the respective regional activities in standardization and conformity assessment. They also provide a framework for addressing standards-related issues. NIST is an active participant in the regional standing committees. The ANSI Regional Standing Committee for the Americas:

  • Develops a regional standards strategy to compliment the National Standards Strategy.
  • Provides positions to ANSI on Pan American Standards Commission (COPANT) matters;
  • Coordinates ANSI positions with other ISO member bodies in the hemisphere on policy matters;
  • Helps to promote American National Standards in the region;
  • Identifies volunteers to represent ANSI at meetings;
  • Interacts with U.S. Government on Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) issues, providing advice as needed;
  • Works with the Organization of American States (OAS) and NIST on the Pan American Standards Network;
  • Tracks and collects information on the IAAC;
  • Serves as an advisor to ANSI on matters relating to the U.S./Brazil and U.S./Argentina Business Development Councils, as appropriate.

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Standards Experts in International Posts and Technical Support

There are currently two standards experts located in the Western Hemisphere region, serving on limited appointments with the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service. One is located at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and the other is at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia. The standards expert residing in Mexico City also supports efforts in Central America and the Caribbean, while the standards expert in Brasilia works with all the countries in South America, especially the MERCOSUR countries of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.

The Western Hemisphere standards experts serve as in-country experts and liaison for all standards-related matters, handling a wide variety of issues in support of trade and monitoring standards and conformity assessment activities in the region. They work with governments and standards-developing organizations, trade associations, and industry technical experts of Western Hemisphere countries on standards and related issues in order to promote acceptance of U.S. standards practices, positions and product certifications procedures. The experts also support the NIST Standards in Trade Workshops by identifying candidates and issues, and providing technical support.

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For further information, please contact:

Carmiña Londoño
100 Bureau Drive, MS 2100
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-2100
Tel:  301/975-2573
Fax:  301/963-2871
E-mail: carmiña.londoño@nist.gov
Ileana Martinez
100 Bureau Drive, MS 2100
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-2100
Tel:  301-975-2766
Fax:  301-963-2871
E-mail: ileana.martinez@nist.gov

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For technical questions concerning the Global Standards and Information Group, contact us:

Global Standards and Information Group, Standards Services Division, NIST, 100 Bureau Drive, MS 2100, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-2100
Phone: (301) 975-6094, Fax: (301) 975-4715, Email: gsig@nist.gov

Date created: January 05, 1998
Last updated: June 04, 2003

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