Product Standards for Internationally Integrated Goods Markets

By Alan O. Sykes | Go to book overview

Chapter
Introduction

AS TARIFFS have diminished pursuant to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and other international agreements, the significance of nontariff impediments to international trade has increased relatively and, in some instances, absolutely. Diverse standards and regulations governing the sale of products in national markets are a potential source of these nontariff impediments and, in modern parlance, may become "technical barriers to trade."

It is ironic that product standards and regulations should create trade barriers, as many of them evolved for the purpose of promoting trade.1 Familiar weights and measures were developed to facilitate the description of goods in commerce and to obviate problems of fraud. Voltage standards allow electrical products to operate satisfactorily in different geographic areas. Standardized television broadcast formats enable programs of varying origin to be viewed on receivers of varying manufacture, a similar function being performed by standard operating systems for microcomputers. Regulations governing the wholesomeness of foodstuffs serve in part to reassure consumers of their safety and thus to expand the market of willing buyers. Innumerable other examples might be offered.

Yet it is not difficult to appreciate how these same measures can diverge across national markets and become trade impediments. Standards and regulations may be deliberately crafted to impose a cost disadvantage on foreign competitors. They may also differ across

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1
For general historical accounts of standardization, see Cochrane ( 1966); Perry ( 1955); Stephens ( 1983); Verman ( 1973).

-1-

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