Twenty four top executives representing 14 national standards bodies of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia regions convened at ASTM International Headquarters in West Conshohocken, Pa, and at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md, for an Open House sponsored by ASTM International, in cooperation with the American National Standards Institute and NIST. The event, held July 26-28, was an open forum for frank and stimulating discussion regarding today’s changing world of international standardisation. During the Open House, representatives from Palestine and Iraq signed memorandums of understanding with ASTM International.

James A Thomas, ASTM International president, welcomed the participants, encouraging the group to share ideas and thoughts regarding the challenges and issues that face their standards development organisations. In his remarks, Thomas noted that ASTM’s board and members ‘welcome the opportunity to work with Open House participants to enhance global participation in the development of international standards that are intended for worldwide use.’

The countries participating in the dialogue included Bahrain, India, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, the United States and Yemen. Representatives from the Standardization Organization of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf also attended.

An open discussion on the major standardisation issues facing participant countries touched on several important topics, including meeting World Trade Organization/Technical Barriers to Trade obligations; how market forces affect standards and their impact on consumers; the need for greater awareness of the standards development process of US-based standards development organizations; standards in college and university education; the definition of an international standard; and issues concerning intellectual property rights.

Participants were introduced to major US-based standards development organisations through a series of presentations given by representatives of ASME International, SAE International, the American Concrete Institute, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

During the Open House at ASTM Headquarters, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Palestine Standards Institution (PSI) and ASTM International. Mazen Abu Sharia, director general of PSI, noted in a presentation given before the signing that PSI is recognised both locally and internationally as the focal point for Palestinian participation in the global system of standardisation.

Another MOU was signed between the Iraq Central Organization for Standardization and Quality Control (COSQC) and ASTM International. In his remarks, Ghadanfar Al Rafeek, director general, COSQC, noted the importance of standardisation in the advancement of technology and expressed the hope that the MOU would enhance the ability of COSQC and ASTM International to support the needs of the Iraqi people, continue the growth of Iraq’s economy and aid in the development of Iraqi national standards for health, safety and the environment.

‘ASTM is assisting the Iraqi people in building a stable and prosperous country that will help Iraq become a partner in the global economy’, said Ben Wu, the US assistant secretary of commerce who attended the MOU signing in Gaithersburg. ‘Congratulations to ASTM on the signing of its 39th MOU with an international standards organisation. ASTM has been a leader in establishing cooperative relationships worldwide and has become a key international standards organisation. This MOU furthers President Bush’s goal of supporting Iraq’s economic potential.’

ASTM International President Thomas closed the Open House by noting that the goals of the sponsoring organisations were to bring people together, learn their needs and help them to accomplish their objectives. ‘The challenge now is to continue the dialogue and strengthen the interaction among all of our organisations so that all of those who use our standards around the world will benefit from our cooperation’, said Thomas.

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.