This report offers a comprehensive analysis of these subjects and the relationships among industrial production, standards, and conformity assessment. It provides recommendations to support both domestic policy reform, and the continued success of U.S. products in global markets. The information and data presented here support the conclusion that in most instances, the U.S. standards development system serves the national interest well. There is, however, evidence to indicate that our domestic policies and procedures for assessing conformity of products and processes to standards require urgent improvement.

At the same time, we must recognize the strategic importance of standards and conformity assessment systems in supporting national trade objectives. In order to address the new international dynamics of global trade, an innovative U.S. trade policy to meet challenges of the post-Uruguay Round trading environment is required. This should involve an integrated strategy by the U.S. government to link standards, conformity assessment, and trade. Our policies should aggressively seek to reduce standards-related barriers to trade. This involves both unilateral action through U.S. trade law and a new commitment to international negotiation aimed at mutual recognition by governments of conformity assessment systems.

The following summarizes the report's conclusions and recommendations, which are outlined in detail in each chapter of the report. An extensive discussion of the implications of these recommendations is included in Chapter 5.

Conformity Assessment

The U.S. conformity assessment system has become increasingly complex, costly, and burdensome to national welfare. Unnecessary duplication and complexity at the federal, state, and local levels result in high costs for U.S. manufacturers, procurement agencies, testing laboratories, product certifiers, and consumers.

Government agencies should retain oversight responsibility for critical regulatory and procurement standards in areas of public health, safety, environment, and national security. The assessment of product conformity to those standards, however, is performed most efficiently and effectively by the private sector. Government should act only in an oversight capacity. The government should evaluate and recognize private-sector organizations that are competent to accredit testing laboratories, product certifiers, and quality system registrars.

  • RECOMMENDATION 1: Congress should provide the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with a statutory mandate to implement a government-wide policy of phasing out federally operated conformity assessment activities.

NIST should develop and implement a National Conformity Assessment

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