Standardisation influences the way nations interact, trade and live. Regulations, technical specifications and policy making within countries is underpinned by standards and the standards development process.

SABS offices in Pretoria. Image credit: SABS

SABS offices in Pretoria. Image credit: SABS

“The standards development process is critical for efficient economies and every country that interacts on a global scale needs to be active in standards setting bodies and forums, where the development of standards can influence the nature of trade and impact the use of resources. South Africa, as a mineral-rich and biodiverse country must ensure that our resources and our communities are protected, and more importantly that global standards do not restrict our access to trade in international markets,” says Garth Strachan, Acting CEO of SABS.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995 promulgated the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement to ensure that technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures are non-discriminatory and do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. The agreement encourages all WTO member to base their trade on international standards, as a means to facilitate trade.

“While standards promote understanding, interoperability and sets requirements for interactions for all levels of trade, it can also create unnecessary barriers to trade. Being an active member at standards setting platforms creates opportunities to ensure that technical specifications do not inhibit trade, discriminate against communities and restricts access to trade,” says Strachan.

SABS plays an important role in international standardisation. In addition to being the enquiry point for the WTO/TBT agreement, SABS participates in various councils and committees in the following organisations:

  • International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO),
  • African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO),
  • International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC),
  • Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC),
  • African Electrotechnical Standardisation Commission (AFSEC),
  • Southern African Development Community Cooperation in Standards (SADCSTAN).

Issues such as the influence of standards on global economic trade relations will be discussed by 114 National Standards Bodies (NSBs) when they gather at the 42nd General Assembly of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). A delegation of 600 people, from around the globe will meet from 16-20 September in Cape Town, to discuss various standards related issues.