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Technical Standards Updated to Suit WTO
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China is overhauling its national technical standards to make sure they comply with economic development needs and facilitate international trade, the Standardization Administration of China announced Thursday.


Administration director Li Zhonghai says his agency will eliminate outdated and ineffective national standards this year, while taking a hard look at how China's compulsory standards conform with the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO/TBT).


"Any national compulsory standards that fail to conform with the legitimate objectives stated in the WTO/TBT will be either abolished or revised," Li said.


The WTO/TBT says a member's technical regulations should not be more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfill a legitimate objective, such as national security requirements, the prevention of deceptive practices, or the protection of human health or safety, animal or plant life or health or the environment.


Nearly 14 percent of China's 20,906 national standards are compulsory. They cover areas such as products, safety, hygiene and environmental protection.


The remaining national standards will be removed, modified or merged with similar standards, depending on how they fit in with economic development and market demands.


A national standard should be assessed for efficacy within five years of its issuance and revised within three years, according to the country's standardization statutes.


However, largely owing to a lack of funding, many Chinese national standards have been in use for more than 10 years without being assessed or revised, according to Li Zhonghai.


The standardization agency will eliminate those it deems obsolete and unproductive, and drastically cut the total number, he added.


Instead of holding an annual meeting to plan standards, as in the past, the agency will solicit ideas for national standards at its http://www.sac.gov.cn/ website beginning this year.


More than 2,300 national standards that were planned before 2000 are still being drafted. Experts said that by mobilizing forces from all walks of life, the standards will be written in a more timely and practical fashion.


"We encourage businesses to participate in the creation of national standards, based on the principle of transparency and fairness," said Li.


He reiterated that China will step up its adoption of advanced international standards, which are key to production efficiency and international trade.


Under the WTO/TBT, international standards must form the basis for standards being developed by members.


By the end of last year, 44.2 percent of China's national standards were based on international and foreign standards, according Li. However, many were based on foreign standards that were issued a decade ago.


By 2006, China expects to have 70 percent of its national standards derived from advanced international and foreign standards.


The success of the country's shipbuilding sector shows the importance of following global practices.


More than 80 percent of its technical standards are based on international standards, a fact that has helped it to chalk up sales of US$8.5 billion between 2000 and 2003, according to sources with the China State Shipbuilding Corp.


(China Daily April 2, 2004)

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