UNFSS participation in the Standards Conclave – New Delhi, India

Standards Conclave – Role of Standards in International Trade: Challenges, Opportunities & Issues. 16-17 April, 2014, Hotel Shangri-La, New Delhi

Arpit Bhutani atttended the event as an observer for the UN Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS). The meeting was a joint initiative of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), partnering with the Bureau of Indian Standards, the Centre for WTO Studies and the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB) and drawing on some knowledge partners, such as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the Agriculture Processing and Development Authority (APEDA), the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) and the Export Inspection Council (EIC).

One of the panellists in the inaugural session, Mr. Harsha V.Singh, Senior Associate, Strategic Research and Policy Analysis, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and former Deputy Director-General of the WTO spoke about The  National Plaform for Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) being proposed by UNFSS for India. Mr. Singh underlined the importance VSS play for market access and the achievement of sustainability goals. He also emphasised the need for an informed multi-stakeholder policy dialogue on VSS through a demand-driven national forum.

Session 3 of the event focussed on Private Standards, drawing on presentations from the following panelists: Mr. S. Dave , Chairman, Codex Alimentarius  Commission (CAC) & Advisor, FSSAI, Mr. Anil Jauhri, CEO, NABCB, Ms. Melanie Landthaler, Consultant on Standards Research, ITC Switzerland, Mr. Suneel Pandey, ITC & R.A Venkatchalam, Vice President- Global Public Safety, UL Indian Pvt Ltd. Panellists and meeting participants voiced concern that quite a number of private sustainability standards create acute problems for dometic producers in India due to lack of infrastructure. The presentation of Mr. Jauhri emphasized the need to explore options and arrive at optimal solutions for overcoming challenges posed by market-driven private standards to improve export opportunities. He pointed to the fact that for the time being there was really no organization at national level that systematically and strategically dealt with private sustainability standards. At this point, Arpit Bhutani made a short intervention on the objectives of and planned activities by the UN Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) and the support the Forum was prepared to provide to a future national platform on voluntary sustainability standards, which was currently under consideration by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The Standards Conclave discussed a roadmap of activities on dealing pro-actively with private standards in the future. It was also agreed that future events on standards should happen timely and that a coherent policy on private standards should be developed by India.

Summaries by the Confederation of Indian Industry:

Commerce Secretary calls for the formulation of a National Strategy on Standards and Technical Regulations

Cabinet Secretary: Indian Industry must play an important role to play in developing standards


Agenda – Standards Conclave

The United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) is a joint initiative of 5 UN Agencies (FAO, ITC, UNCTAD, UN Environment and UNIDO) that seeks to address these challenges. It is a demand-driven forum for intergovernmental actors to communicate among each other and engage with key target groups (producers, traders, consumers, standard-setters, certification-bodies, trade diplomats, relevant NGOs and researchers) to address their information needs and influence concerned stakeholders. It aims to provide impartial information, analysis, and discussions on VSS and their potential contribution to facilitate market access, strengthen public goods and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most importantly, the UNFSS focuses on potential trade or development obstacles VSS may create, with particular emphasis on their impact on SMEs and less developed countries.

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