ASTM President Discusses International Standards3 November 2005
US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez convened a meeting to discuss new opportunities for collaboration in international standards through ratification of the new Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). At the Secretary's invitation, ASTM International President James A Thomas, ANSI President Mark Hurwitz, and senior representatives of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic participated in the high-level standards round table. ASTM President James A Thomas discussed the importance of global participation in the development of international standards by highlighting the strategic relationships ASTM International has cultivated through memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with the national standards bodies of Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua (a similar agreement is pending with standards authorities in Honduras). These strategic working relationships with government standards authorities in Central America encourage the participation of government and industry technical experts from the region and align ASTM standards with official policies and commercial interests of their countries. 'Through our partnerships with Central American countries, ASTM standards are being utilised to bolster economic development, facilitate trade, and enhance the safety, health and environmental welfare throughout the region', stated Thomas. During a discussion of barriers and challenges to the utilisation of ASTM standards, ASTM's Thomas pledged to work closely with the Central American countries and US trade officials to implement the standards provisions of CAFTA that reaffirm internationally agreed upon principles and criteria of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement. 'As countries align their laws, regulations, and policies to reflect WTO principles and criteria for recognising and using international standards, they will bolster opportunities for collaboration with ASTM International and level the playing field to ensure the best standards in the world do not incur any unnecessary barriers to their use', concluded the ASTM President. Thomas invited technical committees of Central America to participate in the development of ASTM standards that are grounded in the basic values of quality and relevance, but that are blind to national boundaries. In addition, ASTM International provides training in Spanish for those who wish to learn how to participate in standards development activities by using the Internet and other electronic tools. ASTM can also arrange for technical experts to visit Central America to provide training in particular industry sectors. Jim Thomas concluded by pointing out that ASTM International will be sponsoring a representative of the national standards body of Costa Rica (INTECO) to participate in upcoming ASTM technical committee meetings in Dallas, Texas. Established in 1898, ASTM International is one of the largest standards development and delivery systems in the world. ASTM standards are accepted and used in R&D, product testing, quality systems, and commercial transactions around the globe.