Written by Anil Gohary
Now that the prime minister has revealed Man Ki Pat that India should adopt global standards, it must put an end to the unnecessary debate that has been going on in many forums, whether in government or industry, for the sake of the state – specific standards for a variety of the reasons.
As our industry is preparing to Global reach Markets, they face two types of challenges in terms of standards and the area of conformity assessment. First, importing country regulations on grounds such as health, safety, environment, deceptive trade practices and national security enshrined in the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (Barriers to Trade Agreement) Second, buyers demand for voluntary standards and certification, be it in a regulated sector like food or an unregulated sector like textiles.
The Barriers to Trade Agreement, which sets the rules for technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment, as well as the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Agreement (SPS Agreement) governing agricultural food trade of great importance to India, encourages member states to adopt it, and not binds them to international standards in their systems, considering them not Obstacles to trade. Most of the developed and many developing countries have done exactly that, so the prime minister’s call for global standards is very important.
The WTO agreements not only encourage the adoption of international standards, but also stipulate that member states adopt more stringent standards if there is a valid justification, a condition that many developed countries have used especially in the agri-food sector, which makes it a major challenge for the Indian industry. .
How then does the industry reach the global market?
All countries that have established regulations for any product also specify procedures for demonstrating compliance with these regulations. Thus, any individual manufacturer can approach the foreign regulator, fulfill its requirements, and gain acceptance of its product. The pharmaceutical sector is a good example to indicate the success of the Indian industry in using this approach. The challenge here is access to the correct information (imagine regulations in Japanese or Chinese languages), the ability to understand and meet stipulated requirements (for example, ability to test), and the cost that may be incurred in the entire exercise, which can be prohibitive but with A wisely designed financial assistance plan can be supported for MSMEs.
Ideally, it would be beneficial if the regulations for India were based on international standards, which means that all manufacturers would be able to meet the regulations of importing countries. This is what the prime minister’s call should lead to.
In fact, this is the number one obstacle to our export ambitions – either we do not have regulations in place or are unable to adopt international standards in our regulations. We are just starting to regulate telecom products or move to comprehensive medical device regulation. And in sectors like machinery and chemical safety, we’re still in the process of developing regulations. Therefore, imports and even domestic manufacturers are enjoying free operation in the Indian market, both at the expense of the users and consumers, as well as a quality conscious industry subject to unfair competition. This explains the many stories of poor quality PPE in the media in recent months. It is hoped that the Commerce Department exercise currently underway in the coming months, should fill the deficit in technical regulations plaguing India.
Another problem we face is that if regulations are in place, we still need to fully adopt international standards – for example, adopting WHO Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in medicines that the AYUSH industry is still resisting, or including HACCP in Food industry, due to the unregulated nature of our industry.
Therefore, there is an urgent need for individual regulators to review their regulations and adopt international standards in a time-bound manner, taking into account industry readiness and availability of quality infrastructure. However, this is easier said than done – it is as challenging as it is for our micro and small industrial sectors to modernize themselves. It is tougher in the unregulated sector as the government recently found out about toys and has set out to exempt craftsmen from the recently reported regulations based on international safety standards. There is a need to provide manual support to the industry by establishing a suitable framework for consulting and training, and even financially supporting it through an appropriate scheme by the Ministry of MSMEs that covers the compliance required in the market rather than focusing on newer models such as ZED (Zero Defect Zero Effect ).
Even if we upgrade our regulations to international standards, while providing more stringent standards allowed in the WTO system, there will still be a problem if importing countries adopt stricter standards which may not be suitable for India and thus there may not be a need for adoption in our region regulations. This may require an institutional mechanism in place to test and certify our products for such more stringent regulations which are, for example, available through the Seafood Export Examination Board (EIC), AYUSH Premium Mark, or ICMED schemes of the Quality Board of India (QCI)) based on international standards Like WHO GMP or ISO 13485, the latter has the advantage that it can be operated for the domestic and foreign markets while the former is only authorized to deal with exports but it has the advantage of being able to regulate exports, if needed.
As the above narration will reveal, India needs to reform its domestic regulatory system and the philosophy that it can have differential standards for the domestic market and exports have to be buried. Moreover, it should also highlight that standards and conformity assessment are tools of international trade that are becoming increasingly complex and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the myriad challenges that India faces in meeting importing country regulations to access global markets. This calls for an integrated and coherent approach, and if it fails, India will not only struggle in overseas markets, but many government initiatives such as made in India Or the ease of doing business or the Atmanirbhar Bharat or ZED approach outlined by the Prime Minister himself will not really deliver the desired benefits.
The author is the former CEO of the National Accreditation Board of Certification Bodies (NABCB)