Adoption of IEC International Standards

Workshop provides training course for IEC Members and Affiliates

By Claire Marchand

Adoption of International Standards as national standards is an important topic for developing countries. It helps them comply with the WTO (World Trade Organization) TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) Agreement. To assist IEC NCs (National Committees) and Affiliates in their endeavour to meet these WTO requirements, the workshop for industrializing countries, held in Oslo during the General Meeting, presented an abridged course on *Adopting and referencing IEC International Standards for use in technical regulations for IEC Members and Affiliates”.

From left: Graham Holloway, course instructor, Dennis Chew, IEC-APRC Regional Director, and Amaury Santos, IEC-LARC Regional Manager

Broad attendance

The course attracted 54 delegates from 28 Member and Affiliate countries. Also present on the IEC side were Affiliate Leader Phuntsho Wangdi and Affiliate Coordinator for Africa Evah Oduor, IEC-LARC (Latin America Regional Centre) Regional Manager Amaury Santos and IEC-APRC (Asia-Pacific Regional Centre) Regional Director Dennis Chew. They were joined by AFSEC (African Electrotechnical Standardization Commission) President Claude Koutoua and Executive Secretary Paul Johnson, as well as COPANT (Pan American Standards Commission) Executive Secretary Kory Eguino. The course instructor was Graham Holloway, an Independent consultant in standardization and quality infrastructure.


This is the first time the IEC organizes such training. Based on previous ISO/IEC joint courses on adopting and referencing International Standards – the first one was in Singapore in 2011, the second in Burkina Faso in 2012 – this short version of the training was specifically developed and adapted to meet the needs of the IEC community.

Detailing WTO recommendations

Holloway explained how IEC International Standards can be the basis for technical regulations. He pointed out that in some countries, International Standards can be used as such, while in others, they cannot be used unless they have first been adopted as national standards.

He spent time on WTO requirements and how the use of International Standards, or national standards based on those, and conformity assessment are instrumental in reducing or even eliminating technical barriers to trade.

Holloway also addressed the health and safety issue. In many countries, consumers are not well informed and have little control over what is on the market. International Standards and conformity assessment, to assess compliance with standards, are part of the solution but need to be supplemented by laws and regulations that can prevent sub-standard products from being sold.

He offered as an example the model of a WTO-compliant technical regulatory system, explaining in detail what the WTO recommendations are, and how best they can be applied in each country.

Benefits of adopting International Standards

The presentation also included information on ISO/IEC Guide 21Regional or national adoption of International Standards and other International Deliverables, rules and procedures for adopting international standards and addressed interactions with regulators.

Participants asked numerous questions, some very basic on the procedures for adoptions, the numbering of adopted standards and so forth. Some were more complex and concerned for example the harmonization of standards at the regional level, be it Latin America, Africa or the Gulf countries.

In any case, the workshop proved to be extremely useful for all participants. In future, the IEC intends to use parts of this course in presentations to explain the adoption process and why it is beneficial for countries to adopt International Standards as national ones.

DSC_5499 From left: Graham Holloway, course instructor, Dennis Chew, IEC-APRC Regional Director, and Amaury Santos, IEC-LARC Regional Manager
DSC_5619 Claude Koutoua (left) and Paul Johnson, respectively President and Executive Secretary of AFSEC
DSC_5596 Participants asked many questions on the procedures for adoption of IEC International Standards