What are the differences between countries using international standards?
For decades, the United States, Western Europe and Japan have led international standard development. Representatives of these countries chaired most international standards committees and led standard making through agenda-setting and the know-how of national companies and scientific institutions. Representatives from other countries also participated in standards committees but chaired only a few technical committees. Standards takers are those countries that adopt standards but do not participate in developing those standards.
Accreditation is a valuable tool for building trust in international trade. Accreditation bodies assess and confirm the technical competence and independence of conformity assessment service providers, i.e. testing laboratories, inspection and certification bodies.
By multilateral agreements, accreditation bodies recognise the equivalence of their services. Mutual recognition prevents tests or certifications from being issued more than once and reduces transaction costs for companies.
For ten years, we, Ulrich Harmes-Liedtke and Juan José Oteiza have been working on measuring and comparing the development level of a country’s quality infrastructure (QI). This challenging task occupied not only us but also colleagues from metrology, standardisation and accreditation bodies, and other consultants. Those responsible for QI in international development cooperation asked themselves the same question.
An important information source of the demand for Quality Infrastructure services is the Survey of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The Survey provides an overview of the global dissemination of management system standards (such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001).