SAARC eyes uniform quality standards

Kathmandu, November 24:

Senior government officials from South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have started preparing a homogeneous quality standard for products in the region to expedite trade and business to cope up with global market competition.

The first SAARC joint secretary level meeting that concluded at SAARC secretariat in Kathmandu yesterday has prepared a ‘plan of action’ in which representatives from all countries’ took part. The first coordination board meeting was chaired by Nepal to discuss issues related to harmonisation of standards, conformity assessments and procedures in the SAARC region, Shree Krishna Shrestha informed The Himalayan Times, who headed the Nepali delegation. Shrestha is the director general of the Nepal Bureau of Standard and Metrology (NBSM) that comes under the ministry of industry, commerce and supplies.

The first meeting of SAARC Standards Coordination Board has decided to take up four sectors namely food and agriculture, electrical and electronics, jute-textiles and leather, according to Shrestha. Under the standardisation procedures, issues such as system certification on products and services requiring harmonisation will be taken up, according to NBSM officials. As per the criteria set by standards bodies, testing procedures will also receive priority.

The formulation of standard procedures at the SAARC level would ultimately boost trade at the global level, as manufacturers will concentrate more on quality maintenance to compete globally, say entrepreneurs.

Talking about problems Nepal is likely to face, Chandi Raj Dhakal, president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) said, “We would not have problems in quality maintenance as we already have received recognition at the global level for quality products.”

However, due to high cost involved, Nepal might face difficulties in quality maintenance on ‘food and agriculture products’, said Dhakal. The initiative taken by SAARC to formulate uniform quality standards would pave the way to clear confusion in the market, said Dhakal. It will certainly help in enhancing SAARC trade.

Giving further details on the procedures required to formalise the understanding reached, Shrestha said, “To give a full shape to SAARC Standards Coordination Board, SAARC heads of state later on have to approve it. It can then be converted into a board or council.”

The standardisation of quality will address the problems of non-tariff barriers in the regional trade, Shrestha hoped. All countries in SAARC, however, do not have standards board. Bhutan and Maldives are yet to create standard boards in their countries.

The next meeting of SAARC Standards Coordination Board will be held in April 2007.