these levels. Federal recognition will increase the acceptability of conformity assessment procedures throughout the United States, reducing inefficiency and raising the level of competition in product testing and certification services.

Summary And Conclusions

This chapter has examined the growing size and complexity of the U.S. system for ensuring that products conform to standards. The procedures for carrying out this function are known collectively as conformity assessment. Product testing, certification, and laboratory accreditation services are key elements of the U.S. conformity assessment system. Testing and certification services provided by independent laboratories represent a $10.5 billion industry in the United States. Evaluation and registration of manufacturers' quality management systems is a new, rapidly expanding component of the system. A growing number of public and private programs independently accredit testing laboratories, certifiers, and quality system registrars.

This chapter documents serious waste and inefficiency in the U.S. conformity assessment system. The system's growing complexity, as well as the lack of coordination among federal, state, and local authorities, have serious, adverse consequences for U.S. economic performance. Measures must be taken in both the public and the private sectors to address these problems, including the gathering and analysis of additional data on the economic costs of redundant certification, registration, and accreditation, and other sources of inefficiency in the system. Raising the efficiency of the U.S. conformity assessment system will lower costs for private firms, government agencies, and consumers. It will increase the competitiveness of U.S. firms in both domestic and foreign markets. Chapter 5 presents specific recommendations to achieve these goals.

The next chapter places issues concerning standards development and conformity assessment systems into the context of international trade. It examines the increasingly close links between domestic and international standards, testing, and certification and the performance of U.S. manufacturers in global markets. Recent developments in U.S. multilateral and bilateral trade relationships are assessed, as well as U.S. policy measures that have the potential to improve U.S. export performance.

Notes

1.  

International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Certification and Related Activities, 22-23.

2.  

Breitenberg, The ABC's of Certification Activities in the United States, 15.

3.  

For internationally accepted definitions of conformity assessment terms, see International Organization for Standardization, Compendium of Conformity Assessment Documents, 153-160. See also Breitenberg, The ABC's of Certification Activities in the United States.

4.  

ISO, Certification and Related Activities, 14.



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