Standards and non-standard standards
In order to facilitate international trade, China is overhauling its national technical standards to make sure they comply with domestic economic development needs.
What they are trying to do through the Standardization Administration of China is to eliminate outdated and ineffective national standards, while taking a hard look at how China’s compulsory standards conform to the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO/TBT).
As simple as standardization sounds, it is an enormous problem, both for Chinese manufacturers making and shipping goods abroad, as well as those wishing to sell into China.
We may not be aware them, but there are many different standards that have been adopted throughout the world. These standards have harmonized trade, and normalized many of the goods and products we purchase and consume.
For example, long before we purchase a drill made in Italy, that drill has been submitted to an independent laboratory for the testing of the standards it is required to meet, not only for sale within the country, but for sale in other countries. For a drill there are many safety standards, and there are electrical emission standards. If these manufacturing standards are not met, or the drill emits too much extraneous electrical interference, the drill will have to be redesigned to meet those standards. Failure to meet those standards renders the product un-importable.
China has compulsory standards for many of the goods manufactured domestically for the consumption by it citizens. Whether these standards are better or worse is not the issue: The issue is that they are different. Further, there are many items for which China has not developed standards, where such exist in the rest of the world.
The problem is seen when a container of toasters not been certified to meet the standards required to allowed entry into the US arrives on a dock in Seattle. When this occurs, the exporter claims there are trade barriers. The destination country retorts and says no barriers only standards, and these goods have not been certified to meet those standards, so no entry.
Nearly 14 percent of China’s 20,906 national standards are compulsory. They cover areas such as products, safety, hygiene, and environmental protection. The remaining national standards will be removed, modified, or merged with similar standards, depending on how they fit in with economic development and market demands. More than 2,300 new national standards that were planned before 2000 are still being drafted. China is trying to step up its adoption of advanced international standards, which are key to production efficiency and international trade. By the end of 2003, 44.2 percent of China’s national standards were based on international and foreign standards. However, many were based on foreign standards that were issued decades ago. By 2006, China expects to have 70 percent of its national standards derived from advanced international and foreign standards.
The success of China’s shipbuilding sector demonstrates the importance of following global standards practices. More than 80 percent of its technical standards are based on international standards, a fact that has helped China chalk up sales of $8.5 billion between 2000 and 2003.
In the past the Chinese believed foreign enterprises controlled an industry, and held Chinese rivals back by formulating these “standards.” The standards eventually realized that companies don’t make profits through secretive standards – the standards are published and public – but that companies prosper through use of other advantages in given markets, with products that meet or exceed accepted standards.