Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance

Standards and conformance procedures that are harmonized across economies improve the efficiency of production and facilitate the conduct of international trade. This results in more rapid trade flows, reduced costs and a greater integration of production networks.

The Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance (SCSC) was established in 1994 to help reduce the negative effects that differing standards and conformance arrangements have on trade and investment flows in the Asia-Pacific Region. In this way, the SCSC assists the Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) to achieve APEC's trade and investment liberalization and facilitation agenda.

The main objectives of the SCSC are to:

  • Reduce technical barriers to trade and enhance market access through standards and conformance
  • Align each economy’s standards with international standards
  • Promote good regulatory practices in the preparation, adoption and application of standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures
  • Progress mutual recognition arrangements for conformity assessment within the region
  • Pursue regional cooperation in accordance with international agreements
  • Ensure greater transparency
  • Encourage participation in standards education and awareness programs to build capacity and capability to enhance the competitiveness of businesses, including micro, small and medium enterprises.

The SCSC comprises of representatives nominated by the 21 member economies who are drawn from agencies responsible for standards and conformance issues as well as trade policy matters.

Nominated representatives from specialist regional bodies such as the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC), the Asia-Pacific Legal Metrology Forum (APLMF), the Asia-Pacific Metrology Program (APMP), and the Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC) participate in SCSC meetings as expert regional bodies responsible for the development of standards and conformance infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Food Safety Cooperation Forum (FSCF) and the Joint Regulatory Advisory Committee (JRAC) report to the SCSC as its subsidiary bodies and as official groups of APEC.

Last page update: October 2021

Current Activities

Highlights of ongoing discussions, current projects and deliverables

The SCSC held its second meeting for 2021 (SCSC2) virtually on 20 and 21 August. Delegates from 18 member economies attended, along with members of special regional bodies (SRBs) as well as guests—namely, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Standard Organization (ISO).

Highlights of SCSC2 are as follows:

  • The SCSC Chair echoed the importance of sharing COVID-related information, including the policy responses and measures taken up by each member economy with regards to the pandemic.
  • The SCSC continued its work on alignment with international standards through the implementation of its Voluntary Action Plan (VAP). The 9th VAP focuses on standards of measures against COVID-19 and future pandemics. Fifty-two standards were selected for the survey, including standards on medical equipment such as ventilators, biological evaluation and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • The SCSC Chair’s team provided updates on the outcome of the 14th Good Regulatory Practice (GRP) Conference held on 17 and 18 August with over 130 participants. Participants from the SCSC, Economic Committee, the Committee on Trade and Investment and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shared their experiences in international regulatory cooperation reinforcement during the pandemic. 
  • A number of initiatives are undertaken in the SCSC, particularly in the areas of transparency, alignment of standards and conformity assessment systems, and education through capacity building, regulatory, cross-forum cooperation and promotion activities.
  • Updates on the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement Committee discussions on specific trade concerns (STCs) and the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures were shared with members.
  • The IEC reported on an upcoming general meeting and gave updates about the importance of digitalization. The commission expressed its hope that all standards will be smart standards in the future. They discussed developing an online standards development platform, which will change the way standards are developed.
  • The ISO provided updates on their recent initiatives and tools. The organization established four committees in 2021—technical committee (TC) 308 and 315; and Project Committee (PC) 335 and 336. They have adapted their process through digitalization and have developed a digital standards development platform together with the IEC.
  • The attending special regional bodies (SRBs)—namely the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC), the Asia Pacific Legal Metrology Forum (APLMF), the Asia Pacific Metrology Program (APMP) and the Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC)—reaffirmed their support to assist in the effective response and recovery from COVID-19 and to accelerating digital transformation. The SRBs informed members that they have supported a wide range of activities, including virus screening and testing, and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The 27th Joint Regulatory Advisory Committee (JRAC) convened on 19 August in the margins of SCSC2 2021, with the International Electrotechnical Commission in attendance. The JRAC is a body established by APEC member economies to be the official subgroup under the SCSC, for the purpose of:

  • Promoting and facilitating regulator-to-regulator dialogue, cooperation and information sharing
  • Administering, facilitating and reviewing the implementation of the TILF Pathfinder on APEC Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Conformity Assessment of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (the EE MRA Pathfinder)

Highlights of the 27th JRAC are as follows:

  • A JRAC member shared their challenges encountered by the government in response to COVID-19 in remote audit/sampling such as poor internet connectivity, limited view of facility, limited audit samples, and file size
  • A JRAC member confirmed the importance to keep the EE MRA updated.

The 8th Food Safety Cooperation Forum (FSCF) was convened on 28-29 May in the margins of SOM2. Delegates from 17 economies attended the meeting to discuss measures to strengthen food safety.

Highlights of the 8th FSCF are as follows:

  • FSCF members agreed on the 8th FSCF Statement which emphasized how important it is for members to reach consensus on the FSCF Terms of Reference (ToR) by SOM3. In order to urgently advance the FSCF ToR discussion, members agreed to set up an e-working group (e-WG) and reaffirmed their determination to fix the FSCF ToR by SOM3.
  • The 8th FSCF Statement also included directions and goals of FSCF work in the future, proposed future project plans, and reaffirmed the forum’s commitment to work collaboratively to strengthen food safety systems and enhance the harmonization of food standards with international standards across the APEC region.
  • A number of ideas for future projects and initiatives in the FSCF were shared, particularly in the areas of trade facilitation, enhancing knowledge and transparency of import and export food safety requirements, capacity building and so on.

Activities related to COVID-19

Given the current situation around COVID-19, the SCSC Chair 2020 circulated a COVID-related questionnaire in June 2020 to share information regarding the policy responses and measures taken up by each member economy with regards to the pandemic. The questionnaire consists of eight questions that focus on standards and conformance, including the development of new standards due to the impact of COVID-19 and the role standards and conformance plays in mitigating its impact. The result of the questionnaire showed that standards and conformance play a significant role in combating the pandemic and in mitigating its impact (results are available on the Meeting Document Data Base [MDDB] on the APEC website, accessible to APEC members).

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Achievements

Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance

The SCSC works in areas ranging from good regulatory practices, product and food safety, standards and conformance education, and environment/energy efficiency standards.