Accreditation: Facilitates Trade
By: Lloyd Orellano, Standards Officer, Belize Bureau of Standards

International trade is the exchange of goods and services across international borders or territories. However, with the rapid increase in globalization the demand for a vast number and range of quality products and services is becoming more available to the consumer. Most of us would find it impossible to imagine a world where the choice of goods and services was limited to only those we can produce in our country. Despite all the varieties of products available, we still demand that the goods and services be of acceptable quality. How do we assure that the goods and services provided are safe and of acceptable quality?

International trade represents a large share of our gross domestic product which means that we must have the systems in place to ensure that these goods meet specified requirements of acceptable quality. In the same fashion, our exports must also meet the specified requirements in those exporting markets that we are involved in. In other words, as international trade has grown, so too has the number of national and international voluntary and mandatory technical regulations, standards, testing, inspection and certification procedures across all market sectors which apply to samples, products, services, management systems or personnel. The overarching system that ensures efficient and effective trade facilitation has to do with the existence of a national quality infrastructure which incorporates important pillars such as testing, standards, metrology, certification and accreditation. Generally, these pillars are introduced to meet the legitimate requirements of quality and safety that consumers, businesses, regulators and other organizations demand of goods and services, whatever their country of origin. Although we need to increase the movement of goods and services across borders, these legitimate requirements come along with the increase in global demands without causing undue risk to the health and security of individuals or the environment. Acknowledging challenging economic conditions, it is also vital that these requirements which can vary from country to country are not burdensome to businesses and that they do not represent technical barriers either to domestic markets or to export opportunities. Therefore one way of addressing technical barriers to trade would be via Accreditation. Accreditation works through a process of transparent and impartial evaluation of conformity assessment bodies (inspection, testing laboratories, etc) against internationally recognized standards and other requirements. Accredited conformity assessment is one tool that is helping businesses not only to comply efficiently and effectively with regulations and standards around the world but also to gain competitive advantage in the market and to expand into new markets. Gaining an Accreditation shows credible evidence of conformance with national and international standards and regulations which can differentiate a business from its competitors. Accreditation is recognized internationally and constantly markets are demanding more of this service therefore this can open doors overseas as well as those in the domestic market. Given the fact that the public and private sectors in domestic markets and trading partners are specifying accredited testing, inspection or certification as a precondition to conduct business, accreditation is necessary to facilitate trade.

Therefore it is imminent that we address these important pillars to support the continued movement of goods and services which is of huge importance not only to the health and wellbeing of consumers but also to the economic health of this country.