Special to The China Post
By Frederic Laplanche–Today, Oct. 14, is World Standards Day. This particular day may sound unremarkable, yet it has everything to do with our everyday life. Ever get frustrated because you cannot seem to find the right charger for your mobile phone? Ever fear for your safety because you might slip on unsafe tiles? These problems can be solved by introducing standards that cross international borders, so that quality, safety, interoperability, ecology, and effectiveness of products and services can be ensured.
Whether at work or at play, standards are all around us: in our homes, in our workplaces and even on the routes in between. For example, most of the electrical appliances in the home conform to one European standard or another.
Standardization is the voluntary process of developing technical specifications based on consensus among all interested parties (industry, including small- and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, consumers, trade unions, environmental non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, public authorities, etc.). It is not carried out by governments, but rather by independent standards bodies, acting at national, European and international levels. Consumer safety is usually a primary concern in many standards developed in Europe. Standards keep citizens safe and ensure that the quality of the products they use is high. Standards also enhance the competitiveness of industry by facilitating innovation and laying down common requirements upon which a particular product market can be built and a level playing field can be ensured. International standards also help interoperability of systems, especially in the field of information and communications technology (ICT). In a digitally driven society, ICT solutions are used in any economic sector as well as in our daily lives. ICT solutions, applications and services have to be able to communicate with each other; they should be interoperable. Standards are good for international trade because they help lower costs and reduce the information asymmetries between the seller and the buyer by providing an independent objective set of criteria. The economic benefit of standardization can vary significantly between different countries. For example studies show that the impact of standards on annual GDP growth could range from 0.3 to 1 percentage point in different EU member states. Standards are not only good for consumers and industry, but they can also be beneficial to the environment. For example, the recent standards for a universal phone charger, in addition to the convenience it will afford millions of mobile phone users by allowing them to use their charger on any phone, will cut waste — and costs — by enabling manufacturers to sell devices and chargers separately. There is EU-Taiwan cooperation in standardization and product certification, and through this we aim to cut red tape that is reducing obstacles for business that in the end mean extra costs for the consumers. In our EU-Taiwan cooperation we work towards simplifying procedures, such as avoiding unnecessary, hence wasteful second testing of products already tested in the country of production and lowering trade barriers to further enhance trade.