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What is a Standard?
A standard is a document established by consensus and approved by a recognised body that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context. It ensures that materials, products, processes/methods and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. Stakeholders’ compliance with all standards is voluntary.
Importance of standards development to trade
Standards development is extremely important to trade-related activities because standards facilitate trade and form the basis for technical regulations. The use of national standards that are harmonised with international standards facilitates the removal of technical barriers to trade between contracting parties as standards can be used as the technical basis for trade in products and services between willing parties. The Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards (The Bureau) as a signatory to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement is therefore obligated to harmonise all national standards with international standards to avoid creating technical barriers to trade.
Benefits of standards
Producers, manufacturers and service providers can operate more efficiently with the use of standards. The use of standards assists in reducing costs and waste [of materials], and ensures consistent quality of production. Other benefits include enhanced customer satisfaction and the ability to access new markets through compliance with international standards. There are also standards, which when implemented, can help to lessen the negative impact of production and manufacturing on the environment.
Consumers also reap many benefits from standards. Health and safety are key areas of concern for consumers. Adherence to standards, by producers; manufacturers and service providers, give consumers the assurance that quality as well as health and safety requirements are met. The widespread use of standards is necessary in the development of a national quality culture.
How are standards developed?
Standards can be developed, adapted or adopted. In standards development it is important not to “reinvent the wheel”, i.e. using already existing standards rather than starting from scratch.
The adaption of a standard is the process of modifying an existing standard to suit the needs of the country developing/implementing the standard. The adoption of a standard is the process of using an existing international or regional standard without making any changes. This is not to be confused with adaption.
The standards development process begins with a formal request outling the need for a particular standard. This can be initiated by government, industry, consumer groups or individuals. The challenge for a developing country is to decide whether it is more beneficial to adopt and disseminate international or a regional standards or develop purely national standards.
Consumers’ role in standards development
The consumer is an invaluable asset to the development of sound standards. . There a number of ways the consumer can contribute to the standards development process, thereby ensuring sound standards for the production of effective, high quality products and services. Some ways in which consumers and consumer organisations can participate in the standards this process include:
The consumer brings a unique perspective to the creation of voluntary standards that are used in the production of many of goods and services. Consumers have two opportunities to impact the standards development process by providing comments when standards are being developed and when existing standards are being reviewed.
When a standard is available for comment the Bureau will inform the public through press releases in the media and the Official Gazette.
Stakeholders’ role in standards development
Stakeholder organisations are also encouraged to support and contribute to the standards development process by participating in technical committees and commenting on drafts that are available for comment. These organisations support the standards development process by presenting their members’ interests, expert opinions and analysis to ensure sound and effective standards are developed.