In the national interest of all the member countries of the WTO to adopt the International Standards as their national standards


Nov 18 - 24, 2002

Human-being, inspite of being the most intelligent and complex in nature, is dependent on the services and materials from others to fulfil his un-limited physical, environmental, social and ego-istic needs and desires. In order to survive and obtain the required services and materials he has no alternative except to get advantage of available services and products and to communicate, negotiate, trade, exchange, enter into agreement with others. The most befitting services or product is considered to be of the best quality.

In order to specify characteristics of an entity some parameters are needed. Such parameters, usually mentioning the required limits, are derived in the form of standard. The standard is thus a document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context.

Standards in simple terms may be described as rules to avoid disorder and to make life simple, safe, convenient and comfortable. These rules are as old as man and have continuously been adapted by man to shape his environment in human society. The spoken words are perhaps the oldest standards established by human being and a dictionary may be considered as the first book of reference in a standardized form. We are surrounded by standards of all types covering virtually every aspect of life but we are hardly ever conscious that they exist. Today money is an example of the most effective standard in daily use. Standardization is not a one-time effort but is a dynamic concept which incorporates the latest results of research and development and help in achieving optimum utilization of available resources, streamlining production and maintenance processes, increasing productivity, efficiency in services and building-up consumers confidence and good-will.

A standard is formulated with an aim that its adoption must result in safe, quality, modular, interchangeable and compatible article at competitive price. It usually describes the permissible limits of all salient features required for an article, system, method, etc., while keeping in view all its necessary/controlling factors such as technical, scientific, analytical and economical, safety, consumer requirements, availability of raw materials, processing machines and technical know-how, etc., with the manufacturers. The availability of such limits which have been prescribed in the standard after due deliberations by panel of experts including designers, scientists, analysts, manufacturers, traders, consumers etc., provided immense help and guidance in the design, installation, operating and maintenance of any article or system.

A key must be compatible, befitting and matching to the levers and resistances of mechanical and electronics locks respectively. Very similar to that, a standard must also be compatible, befitting and matching to the fitness, needs, satisfaction and delights of the consumer. A standard fulfilling these parameters for a person is called a standard for an individual whereas standards for a manufacturing unit and a group of manufacturers are known as company and association standards, respectively. On a macro scale, standards for a nation, a region of countries and for the world made available to the public, are termed as national, regional and international standards, respectively. These standards are formulated and adopted by the respective national, regional and international standards organizations.

A standard for any individual shall invite an opening for the demand and sale of one item for that person and hence this standard may be treated as a key for the market of one specific person. The adoption of national standards has opening of the products for one nation/country. The regional standards shall allow for sale of products in the countries of respective region. International standards, as having been approved by all its member countries of the world, shall naturally allow the marketing of articles to all the countries of the world, i.e. international standards may act as a key for open markets of more than 140 countries.

The countries in general and firms and industries in particular achieve prosperity through the maximization of their profits. There exists only two methods for the profit maximization, namely maximization of profit on per unit basis through value addition etc., and increase in the sale of number of units. In other words the maximization profit can either be obtained by charging more profit on high value added monopolized items or by increasing the sales volume with moderate profit. All the progressive and challenging organizations strive for both the means. However, highly value-added monopolized items are usually commanded by the advanced, research-oriented, financially strong and multinational industrial giants, whereas the strategy of developing organizations depends more on larger sale volume of items with moderate profit. The developing countries too are also mainly dependent on the volume of their sales with moderate value addition and profit and hence have no alternative except to go for the international standards.

The worldwide or international standards are developed by International Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Electrotechnical Organization for Standardization (IEC), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Organization International de Metrologie Legale (OIML) etc., with the approval of more than 140 countries of the world. The major role of international standards organizations is to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial, service and environment standards for free trade among the countries in the world. They contribute to making the development, manufacturing and supply of products and services more efficient, safer, cleaner and value added. Throughout the world more than 50,000 experts contribute and spend millions of hours and huge amount of money in formulation of International Standards with the general consensus of their member countries. No country alone can afford to establish a standard which could be acceptable to the entire world. International Standards Organizations are thus performing a very valuable task of breaking trade barriers and making the products, with their standards, accessable/acceptable to the most of the countries of the world.

It is heartening to note that ISO encourages its member body to adopt ISO/IEC standards and other their normative publications as its own national standards. The methods to be applied for national adoption of International Standards are set out in ISO/IEC Guide-21 "Adoption of International Standards as Regional & National Standards". The valid adoption of International Standards as national standards could only be accepted if it is as per directives of Guide-21.

It is, however, amazing to note that, inspite of increased number of international standards, the standardization is still being used as instrument of protectionism through the local regulations and certifications requirements. Hence, in order to get the advantages of standardization, and to share the world's resources World Trade Organization (WTO) has been established on 1st January 1995. There are 144 Members (central governments). The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade is one of the 29 individual legal texts of the WTO Agreement which obliges Members to ensure that technical regulations, voluntary standards and conformity assessment procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. ISO, IEC and ITU have built partnership with WTO with an aim to promote a free and fair global trading system and are committed to provide technical support for its growth.

As per policy of WTO, all the products and services in conformation of ISO/IEC International Standards and their adopted national standards have the right of free access in their member countries. Whereas, all the obligatory national standards which are not in accordance to ISO/IEC International Standards are considered by WTO as Technical Barriers to Trade and need to be notified for the information of their member countries.

It is, therefore, in the national interest of all the member countries of the WTO to adopt the International Standards as their national standards in order to have free trade and acceptability of their products / services in the world market. They should not formulate their national standards for which International Standards have already been established. It shall save them from the duplication of work, i.e. re-invention of a wheel.

It is, however, not out of place to mention that the national standards body of Pakistan, i.e. Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) has recently adopted all ISO International Standards and declared them as Pakistan Standards.