ASTM International has announced that it supports the assessment on standards issued by the Department of Commerce. Titled Standards and Competitiveness-Coordinating for Results, the new report assesses the department's activities to reduce standards-related trade barriers and recommends steps to increase the reach and effectiveness of the department and other federal agencies' coordination of trade-related standards and conformity assessment.

"We have good news to tell," Commerce Secretary Donald Evans said at a press conference in May. "The department has made tangible improvements in how we tackle standards-related issues that can distort trade and undermine the competitiveness of U.S. products. And there are more improvements to come."

Affecting an estimated 80% of world trade, standards are critical to manufacturing competitiveness in global markets because they can facilitate international trade or impede access to foreign markets, according to the report.

In March 2003, the Commerce Department announced an eight-point initiative in response to growing concern by U.S. industry, trade associations and standards-development organizations regarding foreign standards development and technical regulation as important trade issues. Over the past year, ASTM has been involved with this initiative in the form of participation in industry roundtables, identifying priority standards issues in international markets and commenting on training programs for commercial service officers.

The 50 recommendations contained in the report will help the Commerce Department identify new opportunities and better ways to work with the private sector and other U.S. government agencies on standards-related issues.

The full report, as well as Secretary Evans' news conference remarks, can be accessed at the Commerce Department's Web site, http://www.commerce.gov.