The Impact of International Standardization

The Umbrella Organization of German Industry (BDI) published a
position paper (9 Theses on the Significance of Standards for German
Industry in the 21st Century) in 2004 on the meaning of standards in
the 21st century. This paper treats micro- and macroeconomic as well as
legal and political aspects of the international standardization.
– Standards make an important contribution to national and international competitiveness.
Standardization is a vital part of
practical industrial policy. Standards provide the general public with
information on important technical and organizational features. They
describe a consensus on technical and organizational solutions for
products and services as well as systems and processes. Standards help
create interoperable products, define equal requirements for production
processes, set comparable quality criteria or stipulate systems for the
management. Thus standards promote understanding, interoperability and
compatibility, contributing towards rationalization and a high level of
quality for products and services.
Standards serve as proof of quality and
support the flow of information and management along the value chain.
They are the link between the national and especially the international
division of labour. They are therefore of particular importance for the
competitiveness of an industry that is very focused on exports.
Standardization does not just facilitate the transfer of knowledge but
also the opening up of markets.
– Standards support the innovation
capability of enterprises for products, services and management by
creating objective and internationally recognized parameters, targets
and yardsticks for business activity.
Standards promote innovation and
competition. Their application is voluntary and therefore does not
block or restrict technological progress. On the contrary, they create
leeway for innovation. Experience clearly shows that new technical
standards often give a foothold to new technologies. Standardization
also helps make knowledge about technologies transparent and generally
As a result, standardization ultimately
determines the positions in competition. Everyone has the means of
participating and those who join in at an early stage are often better
able to assert their interests and technologies.
– Standards create business and political
added value as they are drawn up in cooperation with corporate
expertise and in consensus with all sectors of society.
In Germany, standards are drawn up by industry, government, scientists
and NGOs in a social consensus, thus efficiently pooling the
technological expertise our society has gathered. Standardization is
therefore in the literal sense of the word a grass roots movement. It
is supported in the main by industry, which alone in Germany sends over
26,000 honorary experts to standardization committees. All sectors of
society should be able to effectively contribute to the standardization
This broad-based social consensus means
that standardization enjoys a high level of acceptance among all
stakeholders. This in turn creates a reliable basis for their
application. The voluntary nature of the application of standards
creates an attractive mixture of flexibility and legal certainty that
also provides for standards to be regularly checked and updated, as is
common practice.
– Standards are important instruments to
achieve technical, political and managerial objectives. They greatly
contribute to deregulation and can complement legal and economic
parameters in a targeted and flexible manner.
Standards are also a great help for the legislator and the
administration. They provide assistance in the technical and practical
implementation of legal requirements, which has been used for a long
time by the ?¨New Approach?Æ in EU legislation, for example. In many
cases, standards describe the state-of-the-art technology and clearly
spell out statutory diligence requirements. With civil servants
participating in the drawing up of standards in their respective areas
of expertise, standards can improve the description and implementation
of legal requirements.
– The state also plays a central role in standardization and must create suitable framework conditions.
Fully functional standardization is a core
part of the technical and scientific infrastructure. The state relies
on standardization in many ways. The state is therefore responsible for
securing suitable framework conditions for standardization which is
supported by industry. A reversal of the original purpose of
standardization towards an increase in state influence must be
prevented. Even if the basic decisions or objectives are and should be
determined by the legislator, standardization must not be loaded with
political issues.
To safeguard the primacy of the market,
standardization must not serve as a state-controlled means of
implementing environmental and social policy objectives which failed to
find majority approval elsewhere.
– Nationally and internationally
recognized standards strengthen the international competitiveness of
products and enterprises in that they guarantee transparency, the
necessary technical preconditions and provide yardsticks for business
In the era of globalization, standards
must be international. Only internationally recognized standards can
promote free world trade. The relationship between the International
Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Electrotechnical
Commission (IEC), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the
European CEN (European Standards Organization), European Committee for
Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) and European
Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) must be clarified, as
well as their relationship to other standardizing organizations.
Competing standards should be avoided, as different standards force
companies to modify their products for different countries. This would
obstruct the export opportunities of products and endanger their
international recognition.
– Standardization creates the precondition
for economic success and innovation by standardizing the basic elements
of technology and management. Real economic success and innovation
arise from the creative combination of these elements. Standardization
thus reaches its natural limits when it begins to curtail the freedom
which fuels innovation. The original purpose and strength of
standardization is still to create preconditions for the freedom which
is the driving force of innovation.
Author: EARSC

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