International standards help remove trade barriers, support regulatory convergence at international level and avoid the emergence of protectionist measures. They can bring European industry and businesses the possibility to establish worldwide partnerships and sell their products or services globally. The use of international standards helps guarantee access to global markets, fosters interoperability of products and enhances international competitiveness.
International aspects of standardisation policy
- What the Commission does - the Commission's policy aims to align European standards as much as possible with the international standards adopted by the recognised International Standardisation Organisations ISO, IEC and ITU. This process is called primacy of international standardisation, and it means that European standards should be based on International standards (COM(2011)-311, point 7).
- Competitive advantage - the European Standardisation Organisations CEN, CENELEC and ETSI are encouraged to closely link European and international standardisation. Each European standard adopted as an international standard represents a possible competitive advantage for European industry.
- Cooperative agreements - there are cooperative arrangements between the European and international standardisation organisations. The aim is to avoid European standards competing or even conflicting with international ones. The two main agreements are:
- the Vienna Agreement between the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN)
- the Dresden Agreements between the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC).
Actions supporting standardisation on the international stage
The unit, 'Standards for Growth' of the Directorate-General for Internal market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs is actively involved in all aspects concerning standardisation of the Commission dialogues with third countries and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations.
The current priority files are:
- US (TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations and TEC – Transatlantic Economic Council)
- China (regulatory, industrial policy, innovation cooperation dialogues, EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation)
- India (FTA negotiations)
- Japan (regulatory dialogue and FTA negotiations)
- the Association Agreements with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
Standardisation issues are also followed in all current negotiations related to the EU's future enlargement, the European Neighbourhood policy and the Agreements on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of industrial products (ACAAs) with third countries enjoying Association Agreements with the EU.
Current strategic actions in priority countries are:
- European standardisation experts seconded to India (SESEI – Seconded European Standardisation Expert in India) and China (SESEC – Seconded European Standardisation Expert in China). The experts raise awareness of European and international standardisation and provide information on access to these key markets. Brazil has been identified as a new candidate country to receive a Seconded European Standardisation Expert, with possible extension to the whole of the Mercosur region.
- The Europe-China Standardization Information Platform (CESIP) that maps the Chinese and European standardisation landscapes and informs users about the role of standards for market access. A similar common standardisation platform may be considered with the USA.
- Supporting the strengthening of African capacities in the area of standards in accordance with the joint EU-Africa Action Plan, notably through a technical and policy dialogue with relevant African standardisation and regional organisations (African Union Commission and Pan-African Quality Infrastructure).