OECD Project  addresses  standards-related barriers in telecommunication equipment

Following its previous efforts  on technical barriers to trade, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)  Trade Committee undertook a  project in 2001/2002 addressing  the telecommunications equipment sector.  The study   examines  potential costs/benefits of international harmonisation as a means for addressing standards-related trade barriers.  The  OECD work  complements activities underway within the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee of Participants on the Expansion of Trade in Information Technology Products (ITA Committee) examining the economic and development impacts of Non tariff trade measures on trade in ITA products) 

The OECD project includes the following elements.

                        An inventory of regulatory objectives

                        Possible objectives for regulation in this sector (interoperability, avoidance of radio-interference, protection of public network, health, safety, environment, etc) are examined to help understand differences in national regulation and options for overcoming problems.


                        OECD Members' practises on use of standards in technical regulation are surveyed according to the identified regulatory objectives. This provides a factual basis for analysing the costs/benefits of international harmonisation.

                        Conformity assessment

OECD Members' practises on conformity assessment are also surveyed according to the identified regulatory objectives. The various types of procedures are analysed with a view to their effectiveness as tools for conformity assessment: Suppliers Declaration of Conformity (SDoC), Third Party Certification, accreditation, market surveillance and product liability schemes.


The OECD secretariat  requested ANSI member GTW Associates  to  contribute to the preparation of the staff  paper.  GTW Associatesí role is to  leverage contacts and relationships with government,  industry and private  sector organizations  to discover resources and information relevant to the study  objective.  GTW submitted  preliminary findings Potential for International Co-operation and Reduction of Trade Barriers arising from Technical Requirements and Conformity Assessment procedures in the Telecommunications Sector  

GTW Findings

1) The Telecommunications ITA definitional scope of the effort could be expanded to include Information and Communications Technology products with small impact on the complexity of the effort and major benefits to industry sectors not presently included but within the scope of the WTO  ITA Committee work programme Initiated November 13, 2000  on non-tariff measures 

2) Costs of meeting technical regulations and related standards in the global telecommunications market are hard to quantify but are significant. There exists significant potential  costs savings to governments; industry and consumers though any number of reform measures that reduce unnecessary differences in technical regulations in various markets and ease the burdens of multiple tests and certifications even to the same standard in different markets.  Economic savings accrue not only from the elimination of duplicative activities, but significantly in reductions in time to market for new products that need not meet different and potentially conflicting standards

3) Many government; academic and industry groups have labored on this issue. There are major common themes among the variety of groups' efforts, results and plans.  There also  exist many strong "best practice" examples implementing these themes.  At the same time  there are significant opportunities to extend   these best practice  examples to issues at hand.

a. Mutual Recognition Agreements where one country agrees to accept the results of another country's conformity assessments to the first country's technical requirements offer one means of advancing International Co-operation and Reduction of Trade Barriers arising from Technical Requirements and Conformity Assessment procedures in the Telecommunications Sector  But MRAs are resource intensive in creation  in time and professional effort. In the case of the US/EU MRA applicable to EMC and Telecommunications, some industry representatives contend the best outcome of the MRA   was not the MRA text itself, but the regulatory reform that occurred for  the RTTE in Europe and FCC part 68 requirements in the USA. In the case of the APEC MRA  significant  Implementation hurdles remain.e.g.  .For economies to fully realize the benefits that can be gained from the MRA, it may be necessary for them to consider what is an appropriate degree of regulation, taking into consideration the risk that the regulated equipment poses

FCC's recent revision of Part 68 requirements offers a best  practice model in this regard.  FCC revised its previous mandatory  requirement for a third party certification to provide the opportunity  of market choice between a third party certification and supplier Declaration of Conformity as the supplier may elect.  The action frees up FCC resources for enforcement efforts and preserves the important expert role for the testing and certification community when called for.

Another best practice model is the APEC SCSC Collective Action Plan, Whereby APEC members acting  on a voluntary basis will consider permitting information technology products (specifically, computers and computer peripherals, such as printers, monitors, and storage devices) to be marketed in their economy on the basis of supplier's declaration of conformity.

Two final best practice models for consideration  are the IEC CB scheme which might  facilitate the global acceptance of tests and certifications to telecommunications standards and the South African regulatory model where by compliance certifications are accepted from any laboratory within the IEC CB scheme or accredited by EA (if such model could be extended to a global counter part of EA such as ILAC).

In all instances, regulatory systems and reform measures should contemplate the TBT obligations of "national treatment" not only with respect to the products subject to regulation,  but also with respect to the testing and certification services that the regulatory system recognized or invokes.

b. To assist industry; regulators and consumers  in verifying information set forth in conformity declarations and certifications  global databases or Internet Web sites should be encouraged.  Initiatives underway that could serve as "best practice" models include DeclareNet; MRAMS; and the FCC data base of part 68 certified equipment  in transition to the private sector.

c. Regardless of conformity assessment system used to show compliance to its regulation, a country has to maintain a market surveillance system to protect against Illegal and unsafe products Fair market conditions should prevail. Suppliers which follow the rules and bear the administrative costs and delays due to regulations should not be disadvantaged compared to those who do not comply with the rules.   Best practice considerations in such market surveillance systems include:

∑ Costs should be viewed against the benefits for the whole economy, especially when supporting regulatory initiatives such as suppliers declaration

 ∑ Some costs can be shifted to guilty parties

∑ Market surveillance must include communication as part of its strategy

∑ Market surveillance must be backed by technical competence.  There may be considerable gains from co-operation through electronic technologies.

4) A major distinction must   be made between the Technical Regulations  and standards applicable to products and the conformity assessment requirements to be used to ensure that the products placed on the market conform to the characteristics required.  The maturity of  the regulatory objective and its implementation in various national regulatory systems dictates in any specific case whether it is the "differences" in the standards  or the "duplications" of the conformity assessments that deserves higher priority from the policy perspective.

a. In the case of "mature" regulatory objectives such as EMC and electrical safety .there are by and large reasonably well accepted International standards (see for example  list of  IEC Telecommunications Standards in references)  that can serve as a basis for technical regulations (the exception being the current US/EU controversy over low frequency  conducted emissions) .and there will be therefore greater return for investment in global solutions to the problem of multiple tests and certifications to the same standard in different markets.

Best practice models here include the IEC work of CISPR on electromagnetic compatibility and the new work underway in IEC TC 106 Methods for the assessment of electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields associated with human exposure

b. In the case of "less mature" regulatory objectives such as accessibility and environment.there do not exist international norms.and some means and strategic policy  attention to the importance  of not creating unnecessary requirements in the first place and then not creating unnecessary differences in requirements is demanded.  A prime  example of the issue  is the  treatment of accessibility requirements telecommunications products as epitomized by Dale Hatfield's statement in 1999. there are many very important standards-making efforts underway in this arena.  However, it is my understanding that there exists no single coordination point or international clearinghouse for information on these efforts.

The Conclusions of the UN/ECE WORKSHOP ON THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS AND TECHNICAL REGULATIONS IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE in November, 2000 captures what would be a  "best practice" global approach to this problem.

Calls on UN/ECE Governments and international organizations:

to show their commitment to the facilitation of international trade by wider
participation in international regulatory cooperation and international
standardization and effective implementation of the results;
to encourage effective coordination and cooperation between Governments and regulatory authorities and economic operators, and different international organizations and intergovernmental forums and to follow up on practical proposals on regulatory cooperation, in particular sectors/product areas; to involve, where appropriate, private-sector representatives in such activities thus promoting a public-private partnership approach.

5) One initial objective of this project of completing a "structured" inventory of the variety of potential regulatory objectives and their implementation in various markets  has been only partially achieved by this study. Such a comprehensive survey  remains a worth while task in defining the dimensions of the current situation since it is the foundation for concluding where priority attention may be best placed for the maximum positive results.  This project  effort could not have produced the results contained in this report were it not for the considerable support and cooperation GTW received from those parties noted in the Acknowledgments section  and in particular the  APEC Implementation Project Team

ICSCA encouragement

Members of the Industry Cooperation for Standards and Conformity Assessment (ICSCA)  reviewed the project at their February, 2001  meeting in Singapore and passed the supportive resolution below:

ICSCA VII Resolution 6.8  welcomes the OECD ongoing initiative on Potential for International Co-operation and Reduction of Trade Barriers arising from Technical Requirements and Conformity Assessment procedures and encourages OECD to expand the scope of the project to include Information Technology products in order that the OECD work  will have the greatest positive impact on the ongoing WTO ITA initiative on NTMs. ICSCA members offer their continued cooperation for further OECD efforts in this regard including potential for additional product sectors.

Interim analysis

The analysis so far has identified three areas that appear to be candidates for international harmonisation: Electrical Safety, EMC and Avoidance of Radio Interference. The research is discovering that the OECD Members covered in this study tend to use international standards in their technical regulations on Electrical Safety and EMC, while many challenges remain for achieving international harmonisation in the area of avoidance of Radio Interference, particularly reflecting the desirability of technology-neutral standards.

The difficulties found in the harmonisation approach for other possible regulatory objectives (Environment, Health, Protection of Public Network, Interoperability, etc) raise questions about whether international harmonisation would be a preferred option for addressing trade problems associated with standards.

Next Steps

The initial findings are contained in a preliminary paper:  Standards-Related Barriers and Trade Liberalisation: Telecommunications Sector Study- Interim Report

The OECD secretariat will refine the  analysis by consulting with interested parties based on the interim report  and issue a final report before the end  of 2001.  Any parties who desire further information are   invited to contact Keiya Iida  OECD staff to the project or George Willingmyre at GTW Associates.

George Willingmyre is President of GTW Associates. GTW Associates  (www.gtwassociates.com ) is an international standards and conformity assessment trade policy consultancy. GTW consults for companies, organizations and governments on the strategic impacts of standards and conformity assessment in the global market.  Mr Willingmyre was Vice President of the American National Standards Institute from 1989 through 1995.  George Willingmyre (gtw@gtwassociates.com) 301.421.4138 GTW Associates 1012 Parrs Ridge Drive, Spencerville, MD 20868

[1] Previous OECD work is available at the OECD  site  (Regulatory Reform and International Standardisation [TD/TC/WP(98)36/FINAL],  An Assessment of The Costs For International Trade In Meeting Regulatory Requirements [TD/TC/WP(99)8/FINAL] and Standardisation and Regulatory Reform:   Selected Cases  [TD/TC/WP(99)47/FINAL].  


[search] | [home] | [News and Alerts]

We welcome your comments and suggestions.
All material © Copyright 1995-2003  GTW Associates.
Please contact GTW Associates for licensing information.