STANDARDS AND CONFORMANCE ACTIVITIES IN ASEAN
The standards and conformance activities in ASEAN encompass the reduction of transaction costs and the elimination of technical barriers to trade (TBT) through harmonization of standards, mutual recognition arrangements and harmonization of regulatory regimes. Having recognized this important role of standards and conformance in facilitating the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), the ASEAN Economic Ministers at their 24th Meeting in 1992 decided to establish the ASEAN Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality (ACCSQ) to undertake all necessary measures to eliminate technical barriers to trade.
The ACCSQ expanded the scope of eliminating TBT in response to the goal of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. Priority integration sectors have been identified and had been the focus of ACCSQ on TBT elimination, as follows: Electrical and Electronic Equipment, Automotive, Rubber-based products, Agro-based products (prepared foodstuff), Healthcare products (Cosmetics, Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices, Traditional Medicines and Health Supplements), Wood based products and Building and construction materials.
The current achievements and developments in the standards and conformance activities are based on three core activities, that are, harmonization of standards with relevant international standards and practices, development of mutual recognition arrangement (MRA) for conformity assessment procedures and development of harmonized regulatory regimes for priority sectors.
Harmonization of standards and technical regulations in ASEAN is governed by the ASEAN Policy Guidelines on Standards, Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessment Procedures which made reference to ISO/IEC Guide 21 Parts 1 and 2 as one of the guiding principles. ASEAN has harmonized approximately 240 standards and technical requirements in many sectors including electrical and electronic equipment, rubber-based products and automotive products.
To further achieve free movement of goods in ASEAN, ACCSQ adopts the mutual recognition of test results and certificates among Member States which not only simplifies procedures but also reduces transaction costs. This is in recognition that more than standards itself, it is often the duplicative testing procedures arising from different systems of conformity assessment in various Member States that may pose as barriers to trade. ASEAN has implemented the sectoral MRAs on Electrical and Electronic Equipment and Good Manufacturing Practice for Inspection of Manufacturers for Medicinal Products. Additional MRAs on prepared foodstuff, automotive and building and construction materials are being negotiated.
While MRA facilitates the trading of good through recognition of conformity assessment results, ASEAN is committed to unify the regulations of ASEAN Member States to fully integrate ASEAN and addressing TBT. ASEAN have also agreed to work toward harmonization of regulatory regime to ensure that there will be only one regulatory regime or single regime in ASEAN. Three regulatory regimes have been harmonized in ASEAN namely, ASEAN Harmonized Cosmetic Regulatory Scheme, ASEAN Harmonized Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulatory Regime and ASEAN Medical Device Directive.
To enable ACCSQ to complete its tasks, ACCSQ has formed its Working Groups (WGs) and Product Working Groups (PWGs) to undertake specific missions. The current structure of ACCSQ is as follows:
1. Working Group 1 on Standards and MRA
2. Working Group 2 on Conformity Assessment
3. Working Group 3 on Legal Metrology
4. Joint Sectoral Committee for Electrical and Electronic Equipment
5. Automotive Product Working Group
6. Rubber-Based Product Working Group
7. Prepared Foodstuff Product Working Group
8. ASEAN Cosmetic Committee
9. Pharmaceutical Product Working Group
10. Medical Device Product Working Group
11. Traditional Medicine and Health Supplement Product Working Group