Two U.S. Department of Commerce agencies, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and International Trade Administration, today launched Export Alert!, a free Internet-based service that automatically notifies interested businesses when foreign governments propose regulations that might influence the treatment of U.S. exports.
Available from NIST, with support from ITA, Export Alert! can spare businesses and other organizations from unwanted surprises sometimes caused by unanticipated changes in technical requirements that dictate terms of market entry.
"This new export tool is part of our ongoing commitment to giving U.S. businesses the latest know-how for exporting," said Stephen P. Jacobs, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for agreements compliance. "Export Alert! can provide key information to help keep American exports competitive in the global marketplace."
Export Alert! will gather, organize and disseminate notifications of proposed regulatory changes issued by any of 142 nations that are members of the World Trade Organization. Under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, WTO members are required to report proposed central government regulations that may have an impact on trade.
These TBT notifications are submitted to the WTO Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland. In turn, notifications are made available to designated TBT inquiry points in member nations. The U.S. inquiry point is NIST's National Center for Standards and Certification Information, or NCSCI, which manages the new service.
By electronic mail, Export Alert! automatically sends WTO-distributed notifications to subscribing organizations and individuals. Notifications are sorted among 41 fields of activity that range from health-care technology to agriculture to construction materials. Subscribers can specify the fields of activity that they wish to track. They also can monitor developments in selected countries or regions, such as Japan or the European Union.
In addition to describing the proposed regulation, notifications list the country of origin, the product covered and the deadline for comments. Interested subscribers can contact NCSCI to receive full-text copies of the proposals. The center also will distribute comments from U.S. organizations to the notifying country.
Export Alert! is expected to make it easier for U.S. companies to stay on top of foreign technical regulations that affect their overseas business. Early warning should help to ensure that U.S. organizations have adequate lead time to review and comment on proposed regulations—and perhaps head off regulations judged to pose a barrier to trade.
Last year, WTO members issued more than 600 TBT-related notifications. The greatest numbers were issued in the areas of telecommunications, appliances, beverages, chemicals, food products, electrical equipment, motor vehicles and construction products.
The Export Alert! service was inaugurated during World Standards Week, an annual event intended to recognize the ubiquitous, but often invisible, roles that standards play in society, especially commerce and industry. Standards are agreed-upon specifications designed to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. Examples are common formats for exchanging information between computers, performance requirements for building materials and "plug and play" specifications for electronic appliances.
Organizations and individuals interested in subscribing to the Export Alert! service can sign up online at http://ts.nist.gov/ncsci. For additional information, contact NCSCI at (301) 975-4040 or ncsci [at] nist.gov.
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST develops and promotes measurements, standards, and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade, and improve the quality of life.
For more information on NIST, see our web site at www.nist.gov. To explore a century of NIST partnerships with U.S. industry, benefits to the public and impacts on economic growth, go to the NIST centennial (1901-2001) web site at www.100.nist.gov.