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Requirements for the development of standards vary among domestic, regional, international and foreign organizations. Most standards in the U.S. are developed using five internationally accepted principals.  These principals include due process, consensus, transparency, balance, and openness.  When these principals are utilized, the result is the development and implementation of widely recognized, highly technical standards that facilitate an open, fair, and competitive market.  These five principles are defined as follows:

  • Due process means that any stakeholder (organization, company, government agency, individual, etc.) has the right to participate and allows for equity and fairness among participants.  Due process ensures that no one party dominates or guides the development, all interests are represented, the process is transparent, and opportunities exist to appeal. 
  • Consensus means that all views are heard during the standards development process and the resultant standard, while not unanimously agreed upon, is generally agreed to by those involved.
  • Transparency includes advance provision of public notice of a proposed standards development activity, the scope of work to be undertaken, conditions for participation, and provisions of a public comment period before final approval and adoption.
  • Balance means that no one interest, including the government, should control the development of the standard.   Balance is not only affected by those participating in the development of the standard, but also by those providing the funding.
  • Openness means the standards development process is to be to open to all stakeholders directly or indirectly affected by the standard that is to be developed.

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Committee of Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) has recognized the five principles listed above and has recommended the following additional principles to support the development of international standards:

  • Impartiality ensures all countries should be provided the opportunity to participate in the development of international standards in order to ensure impartiality and fairness in the global market.
  • Effectiveness and relevance ensures that international standards should be dictated by the regulatory, scientific, and technological needs of the global market and ensures impartiality to the resources of a particular country or region. These standards should be developed in a manner that does not adversely impact fair competition or technological and scientific advancements. The standards should show impartiality to the resources and methods of a particular country or region, ensuring that global needs can be met.
  • Coherence promotes the coordination of international standards-developing organizations in order to avoid duplication of efforts and development of conflicting international standards.
  • Development dimension refers to the expansion of methods that ensure developing countries can effectively participate in standards development processes.

These principles help to fortify the rights of stakeholders during standardization activites in the United States and around the world. When these principles are implemented, they help to reduce the probability that the standards will hinder domestic and international commerce or interfere with the introduction of new technologies.

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Unlike most foreign nations, whose standards development occurs as a centralized process, U.S. standards are developed voluntarily and primarily by private-sector organizations, with the U.S. federal government taking part in the process, but not driving the development.  The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, nonprofit organization that oversees and promotes the standards and conformity assessment system in the U.S.  The ANSI does not develop standards but facilitates the development of national standards by accrediting Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs).  This accreditation is based on international requirements and assures an open and fair process in the development of standards.

In addition, ANSI works with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to enhance and strengthen the U.S. voluntary, consensus standards system and provides the basis for ongoing cooperative efforts. The joint efforts of ANSI and NIST aid in the transition of federal agencies' activities to greater use of voluntary consensus standards.  Further, ANSI is the only U.S. representative of the International Organization for Standards (ISO).  In addition, ANSI is also a member of the U.S. National Committee of the International Electrotechnical Commission (USNC/IEC). These organizations work with foreign entities to develop international standards that support global commerce.

In 1995, the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) passed, requiring all federal agencies to use technical standards that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, when possible, to carry out policy objectives or activities.  This adoption of private standards by government agencies streamlines the standards development process, avoiding duplication of effort between the private and public sector. The NTTAA also requires agencies to consult with voluntary, private-sector consensus standards bodies and to participate in the development of technical standards, but only when participation is in the public interest and is compatible with agency missions, authorities, priorities, and budget resources. The goal of the legislation is to improve efficiency and competition, elminate the cost developing government-unique standards, and avoid duplication of effort between public and private sectors.  Other goals of the NTTAA include decreasing the costs of goods bought by the government, decreasing the burden on the private sector of complying with agency regulations, promoting efficiency, furthering reliance on the private sector to supply government needs, and enhancing collaboration to serve national needs.  Under the NTTAA, the NIST is responsible for coordinating voluntary standards activities among federal, state, and local government entities and chairs the Interagency Committee on Standards Policy.  To read more on federal consensus standards development, how standards are used throughout the federal government, and NIST’s role in standards, see

Flash Content"The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), established in 1901, works to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. NIST serves as the national metrology institute within the U.S; metrology institutes ensure world-wide uniformity of measurements and their traceability to the International System of Units (SI). Metrology focuses on the science of measurement within the fields of science and technology. NIST certifies and provides standard reference material, data, and calibration services to ensure accurate and compatible measurements. These metrological values support quality assurance and productivity within academia, industry, and government. NIST works with other international metrology institutes to facilitate global commerce through comparative studies and measurement assurance across international boundaries."

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