Accreditation: Supporting global trade - Peter S. Unger, ILAC Chair -

Peter S. Unger
ILAC Chair


Accreditation plays in facilitating trade around the world, both within and across national borders. Most of us enjoy and rely on a vast number and range of products and services supplied from overseas. International trade represents a significant share of the gross domestic product. At the same time, all countries, and all market sectors, have seen an increase in the number of voluntary and mandatory technical regulations, standards, conformity assessment procedures.  These are introduced to meet the legitimate requirements of quality and safety that consumers, businesses, regulators and other organizations demand of goods and services, where ever their country of origin. It is vital, not only for individuals and organizations but for national and international economic health, that products and services can cross borders to meet global demand without causing undue risk to the health and security of individuals or the environment.

But in these challenging economic conditions, it is vital that these same regulations and standards? which can vary from country to country? are not prohibitively costly or burdensome to businesses and that they do not represent technical barriers that prevent access to domestic markets or export opportunities.

Accredited conformity assessment is one tool to help businesses not only to comply with regulations and standards but also to gain competitive advantage from doing so and to expand into new markets, including those overseas.

Operating in the public interest across all market sectors, accreditation, using impartial assessment,   determines the technical competence, reliability and integrity of conformity assessment bodies, which are organizations that check conformity and compliance with standards and regulations through testing, inspection, and certification.

Businesses that supply or buy accredited conformity assessment results can show credible evidence of conformance with international standards which can be used to distinguish them from their competitors.  Indeed, an increasing number of organizations, in both the public and private sectors are specifying accredited testing, inspection or certification as a precondition to tendering for contracts.

In addition to increasing potential markets, accredited conformity assessment can save businesses time and money in other ways.  For example, by providing a basis on which they can make efficient and informed choices about suppliers, allowing them more time to concentrate on business development.
Furthermore, as accreditation is recognized internationally, it can open doors abroad equally as well as those in the domestic market.

The primary purpose of both IAF and ILAC is to establish multilateral mutual recognition arrangements between their member accreditation bodies based on peer evaluation and acceptance of each other’s accreditation systems.  These arrangements enhance the acceptance of products and services across national borders by removing the need for them to undergo additional tests, checks or certification at each country of entry.  This helps to reduce bureaucracy and costs to businesses and contributes to operational efficiency.

Accreditation therefore acts as catalyst to national economies in two ways--by helping domestic companies pitch for business abroad and by promoting confidence in imports from other countries.
The multilateral recognition arrangements also provide governments and regulators with an internationally recognized stamp of approval to demonstrate compliance with standards and other requirements. With confidence in the conformity assessment process underpinned by accreditation, standards can be used to support a lighter-touch approach to regulation, which in turn means that businesses spend less time tied up with bureaucracy. 

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