Representatives from accrediting bodies in 44 nations have elected a standards and conformity assessment official from the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology as the vice chair of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation. Belinda L. Collins, director of the NIST Office of Standards Services, was unanimously elected to this international leadership position September 1996 at the 14th international meeting of ILAC in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Collins led the U.S. delegation to the international meeting on "World Trade and Accreditation" that was attended by 250 delegates from 50 countries and hosted by the Dutch Council for Accreditation. The new vice chair also is the chair-elect of ILAC, and she will assume that position when the group meets in Australia in 1998. John A. Gilmour of the National Association of Testing Authority of Australia was elected ILAC chair for 1997.
ILAC has played a key role in the development of international accreditation standards and guides, and in harmonized national approaches to conformity assessment since the original International Laboratory Accreditation Conference was established in 1977. The "C" in the name was changed to "cooperation" at this year's meeting. The organization also adopted a more formal structure in recognition of the importance of laboratory accreditation worldwide.
Under the World Trade Organization and provisions of the agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, conformity assessment practitioners are required to create an efficient, transparent, fair and harmonized means for the international acceptance of traded goods. The laboratory accreditation community has been cited as a critical element in a worldwide system needed to facilitate trade.
Collins says, "The credibility of laboratories and the recognition of data are critical in the acceptance of commodities in the international marketplace."
She adds that ILAC will continue work to help develop and promote the use of international standards and guides and to establish mutual confidence among national and regional organizations and among participating accreditation bodies.
According to Collins, ILAC offers the United States an opportunity to keep the international community informed of U.S. efforts to build a more workable system for laboratory accreditation that will accommodate the nation's desegregated, sector-specific approach to conformity assessment. Collins adds that worldwide recognition of U.S. standards and conformity assessment procedures is critical for the acceptance of this nation's products and services in the global marketplace.
Participation in ILAC and other standards and conformity assessment activities is part of the broad leadership role assigned by NIST under the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995. The overall U.S. goal is to coordinate activities among all affected parties and develop national strategies for implementing integrated systems for conformity assessment.
As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.