exhorts signatories to move toward harmonization of conformity assessment through mutual recognition of one another's procedures. Mutual recognition agreements have the potential to offer real benefits in reducing costs, inefficiencies, and barriers in international trade. Recent developments at the regional level of MRAs in conformity assessment, including early dialogue within the APEC forum, are outlined later in this chapter.
Another important way in which the TBT agreement represents progress involves the extension of rules to private standards organizations, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and European regional standards developers. Article 3 of the agreement calls for ''reasonable measures" by members of the WTO to ensure compliance by these bodies with principles of national treatment, nondiscrimination, and notification of standards preparation in advance of promulgation. The article further states that "members shall formulate and implement positive measures and mechanisms in support of observance of the provisions of Article 2 by other than central government bodies." Central government will now be responsible for good-faith implementation of the agreement and application of its principles at any level of government or within any private-sector body involved in the standards system. The TBT code of the Tokyo Round bound only central governments and, less rigidly, subnational (state and provincial) governments to these obligations.
The new "Code of Good Practice for the Preparation, Adoption and Application of Standards" contained in Annex 3 of the TBT agreement provides a foundation for extending rules to private standards bodies. The code outlines general principles for development and applications of standards by nongovernmental organizations. These include national treatment of products from a foreign country no less favorable than that accorded to domestic products or imports from any other country (national treatment and nondiscrimination); publication and dissemination of work in progress; institution of a 60-day open comment period prior to adoption of standards; and refraining from applying standards that could serve as barriers to international trade.
Adoption of the Code of Good Practice is voluntary and lacks an enforcement mechanism. It does, however, outline for the first time in a multilateral agreement a common mode of operation for private standards bodies consistent with open trade. Wide acceptance of the code among WTO members also has the potential to foster communication between national standards organizations. This could open new channels for early dialogue and informal dispute resolution, helping to support the more formal, multilateral mechanisms available through the WTO. Finally, nongovernmental standards bodies will have no standing at the WTO or access to dispute settlement on their own authority. These groups will for the first time, however, be able to publicly hold other organizations