Commerce Secretary Donald Evans announced in May that “the Department has made tangible improvements in how we tackle standards-related issues that can distort trade and undermine the competitiveness of U.S. products. And there are more improvements to come.”

Affecting an estimated 80% of world trade, standards are critical to manufacturing competitiveness in global markets, as they can facilitate international trade or impede access to foreign markets, explains the Commerce Dept. in a report titled “Standards and Competitiveness - Coordinating for Results.” The report assesses the Commerce Dept.'s activities to reduce standards-related trade barriers and recommends steps to increase the reach and effectiveness of the DOC and other federal agencies' coordination of trade-related standards and conformity assessment.

In March 2003, the Commerce Department announced an eight-point initiative in response to growing concern by U.S. industry, trade associations, and standards development organizations regarding foreign standards development and technical regulation as important trade issues. The Commerce Dept. initiative received enthusiastic support from the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM), which has been involved with this DOC initiative in the form of participation in industry roundtables, identifying priority standards issues in international markets, and commenting on training programs for commercial service officers.

The 50 recommendations contained in the report will help the Commerce Department identify new opportunities and better ways to work with the private sector and other U.S. government agencies on standards-related issues. ASTM International will follow Commerce Secretary Evans' call to review the report and advise the Department of Commerce on priorities for follow-up efforts. The full report, as well as Secretary Evans' news conference remarks, can be accessed at the U.S. Department of Commerce Web site