The increased importance of environmental protection led to the introduction of sustainability-related criteria in standard-setting practices. A discomfort with the functioning, working methods and certain rigidities of the global standardizing bodies such as the International Standardization Organization (ISO) led to a mushrooming of a new generation of private standard-setters at the transnational level that wanted to have a more direct influence over global production and supply chains. Many of these initiatives started as coalitions of relatively powerful downstream retailers or as domestic hybrid initiatives that went global, due to their good reputation in setting standards for business conduct. Against this background, this chapter reviews the current landscape of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) globally as a means to organize, coordinate and manage efforts for corporate responsibility, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation. As these schemes grow in prominence, their effects on trade flows also become more visible and sometimes even worrisome. The chapter analyses in particular whether the rules set out in the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the Code of Good Practice can tame this increasingly important form of transnational rule-making.
Edited by Panagiotis Delimatsis
Due to legislative and judicial developments, standard-setting has come to the forefront of public policy debates. Long considered as a ‘no go area’ for everyone but engineers and technical experts, standard-setting organizations (SSOs) have produced a growing and solid body of standards that affect and facilitate our everyday life, from wireless communications to household appliances. However, SSOs also draw the attention of many because of allegations about exclusion, undue increase of rivals’ costs, strategic behavior, or unnecessary trade barriers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that standard-setting procedures may not always be aligned to contemporary demands for due process. If standardization in goods is vague, standard-setting in services is uncharted territory. This comes as no surprise; due to their tailor-made nature, services are harder to standardize. However, interest in this area is growing and the European Union (EU) has paved the way. In the controversial EU Services Directive, and, more recently, in the Single Market Act, the European Commission is called upon to lead the development of voluntary European standards to facilitate compatibility among services, whereas Regulation 1025/2012 provides the legal basis for a new era in service standard-setting in the EU. Based on these developments, this chapter maps this new and promising area of rule-making in services. Standard-setting procedures and institutions will be analyzed with a view to identifying how successful this new endeavor can be in promoting trade in services. The chapter revisits the groundwork already laid in certain service sectors, putting an emphasis on financial and business (including professional) services.
The emergence of blockchain may transform the way we work, operate and interact. Through the use of distributed ledger technology, blockchain challenges the fundamental of any business model built around middlemen and centralization, while ensuring anonymity, market confidence and trust. Depending on the manner they are structured, blockchains have the advantage of lowering entry barriers; transaction costs and information asymmetries. While the jury is not out yet as to the really disruptive features of the new technology, it is quite clear that blockchain has the traits necessary to alter the way sectors such as health, business and financial services or government services operate. For that to occur, a common vernacular would need to be created. Standardization can successfully offer such vernacular, which could constitute the foundations for enhancing market confidence around the new technology. Against this background, this chapter offers an analysis of recent developments on standardizing blockchain at the international level. More specifically, it discusses the focus areas on which international standardization within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) can be meaningful and indeed crucial if this technology is to benefit from rapid expansion. These notably include security, privacy and overall resilience.