Where do I find information on technical regulations in individual countries?Where can I get information on standards?How can I keep abreast of developments in the field of Standards and Technical Regulations of interest to me?
The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade requires each WTO Member to identify a national enquiry point on technical regulations and to notify its contact details to the WTO Secretariat in Geneva. The Secretariat makes this information available internationally. Each enquiry point is responsible for ensuring that any enquiry on national and even subnational technical regulations is adequately answered. Each WTO Member must inform the WTO Secretariat of the impending implementation of any new or revised technical regulation within its territory. The WTO Secretariat then makes this information available to all WTO Members. By making these requirements, the TBT Agreement tries to ensure that the whole system of technical regulations is open and transparent.A number of options are thus available:
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The first step is to contact the national standards body (NSB) in your country, which will generally have a standards information centre. NSBs keep a collection of their own standards, and they will frequently have collections of national, regional and international standards from bodies such as the British Standards Institution (BSI) and the Association française de normalisation (AFNOR, French Standards Association).At the information centres, you should be able to consult catalogues of standards from various standards bodies. An NSB will be able to sell you its own standards and it will frequently be licensed to sell the standards of other bodies. If it does not have the standard you require, you can ask it to order the standard for you from the relevant NSB, but you will have to pay for it.Copies of standards are generally not distributed free. (There are some exceptions. Codex Alimentarius standards, for example, can be downloaded for free from www.codexalimentarius.net). They are often priced in relation to their length. For instance, the new ISO quality management standard, ISO 9000:2000, is priced at CHF 104 for 29 pages; ISO 9001:2000, with 23 pages, costs CHF 92 (both are available from the ISO Central Secretariat).
If you do not have easy physical access to your NSB or if you wish to obtain foreign standards direct from the standards bodies concerned, you can use the Internet to search for and acquire standards. More and more NSBs are using this medium to sell standards and disseminate information.
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Contact your country's national standards body (NSB) for information on standards it is developing that could affect you. Your NSB may also be able to inform you about international standards being created by international standards bodies such as ISO. All WTO Members are subject to the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, which obliges them to ensure that technical regulations, voluntary standards and conformity assessment procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. Annex 3 of the Agreement contains a Code of Good Practice for the Preparation, Adoption and Application of Standards. All central government standardizing bodies in member countries must comply with this Code. WTO Members also need to take reasonable measures to ensure that their subnational and regional standardizing bodies, which may be governmental or non-governmental, accept the Code. The Code requires all standardizing bodies that have accepted its terms to publish their work programmes at least once every six months. Work programmes contain the standardizing body’s name and address, and give details of new standards that are under preparation and those that were adopted in the preceding period. A standard is considered to be ‘under preparation’ from the moment a decision is taken to develop it and until it has been adopted. The work programmes of many standardizing bodies are available at no cost from those bodies.
According to the TBT Agreement, countries must publish notifications of proposals for new technical regulations or amendments to existing regulations before the final versions are published. The purpose of a notification is to allow interested parties (usually trading partners whose trade will be affected by the regulation) to comment on the draft regulation, and for the requisite changes to be made. Members have 60 days from the date of publication of the notification to respond.Notifications are sent to the WTO Secretariat in Geneva, which circulates them to all Members and posts them on the WTO website (from which they can be downloaded freely). Notifications go to the diplomatic missions in Geneva, after which they are theoretically sent on to the countries’ national enquiry points on TBT. Individual enterprises or industry associations should contact their national enquiry point and request it to forward notifications of interest to them. They should send their comments back to the enquiry point within the required time, to allow their governments to defend their interests by responding to the notifications at WTODeveloping countries can request the WTO Secretariat to inform them of notifications on topics of particular interest to them, but very few actually use this service.