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AuthorUnited Nations Conference on Trade and Development
TitleFood Quality Standards: Definitions and Role in International Trade. Report by the UNCTAD Secretariat
Imprint Geneva, United Nations. 2001
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Descript 28 p. : tables


Trade liberalization and globalization in the world economy has intensified international competitiveness in the production of goods and services. The World Trade Organization's rules (WTO) for governing international trade brought into sharp focus the increasing importance of international standards and conformity assessment procedures in removing technical barriers. Most developing countries are signatories of the WTO Agreements and are parties to the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Many have also accepted the Code of Good Practice for the preparation, adoption and application of standards. That is to say that establishing national standards and their harmonization with international standards are now necessary conditions for the development of the economy of any country and its trade with foreign countries. However, many developing countries, at varying stages of development, are lacking adequate standards infrastructure. Most of them have not had many years of systematic integrated standardization measures in place. Now the international trading environment calls for equal treatment and a move towards removal of former concessional trading arrangements for products such as sugar, rum and bananas, which are foreign exchange earnings. In addition, the use of international standards as a basis for international trade, including those which govern trading policies such as the tying of trade to environmental protection, plays a crucial role for gaining access to markets. Being ill-equipped to face such a challenge, developing countries need continued technical assistance in the critical areas of standards infrastructure and metrology. The fact of underdevelopment is expected to be taken into account, as there is a growing concern among enemies of globalization that technical requirements are increasing and posing new barriers to market entry, even as tariff-related barriers are falling around the world. Consequently, the special and differential treatment requested for smaller economies should be expanded and should not be seen as an excuse for backing out from the "state of the art" in standards activities, but as a demand for developing countries to be exempted in the short term from the implementation of requirements. Also requested is a flexibility in the bilateral arrangements, including the needed assistance for a fair trading partners for a win-win result. In all these aspects, questioning techniques related to the adoption and the application of these standards need to be known by anyone whose activity is impacted by quality management. In most developing countries, only few people in the industry know what kind of information about voluntary standards and mandatory technical regulations is available, and where to look for it. In this respect, it is the aim of this paper to contribute to a better understanding of the debate around the internationally recognized standard for quality - International Standard Organization (ISO) 9000/9000:2000/14000 - and Hazards Analysis Control Critical Points (HACCP). In light of this, Part I attempts to provide a definition of each of the above mentioned standards. Part II raises the issue of the integrated management system certification between HACCP and ISO 9000; ISO 9000 and 14000. The linkages between WTO (with the Agreement on TBT), quality standards and world trade are highlighted in Part III, while Part IV seeks how to improve the link between international standards and regulation. [English only]

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