Accreditation is the “third-party attestation related to a conformity assessment body conveying formal demonstration of its competence to carry out specific conformity assessment tasks” (ISO/IEC 17000). The achievement of results through accreditation is dependent on the peer assessment of technically competent facilities that consistently apply the appropriate technical requirements as well as underpinning management principles contained within international standards and guides i.e. international standards and guides developed by ISO/CASCO. This increasingly helps provide the necessary confidence among users of conformity assessment, including business and government, and accounts for the growth of mutually recognized conformity assessment activities throughout the world.
Lack of acceptance of laboratory test data, and inspection and certification results across national borders has been identified as a significant barrier to trade. Establishing accreditation systems based on international standards and guides and linked with signatory status to the ILAC and / or IAF mutual recognition arrangements can help provide assurance to trading partners that suppliers of tests and certificates are competent. At the same time it helps in overcoming trade barriers and in complying with the requirements of the WTO/TBT Agreement.
The use of an internationally recognized accreditation regime by a country signatory to the WTO/TBT Agreement allows a country to rely on the terms of the agreement to establish the competence of their conformity assessment system. Section 6.1.1 of the TBT Agreement states that, "…verified compliance, for instance through accreditation, with relevant guides or recommendations issued by international standardizing bodies shall be taken into account as an indication of adequate technical competence." In other words, the use of an accreditation system in this situation reduces the possibility of goods being denied access on the basis of inadequate conformity assessment.
The www.publicsectorassurance.org website illustrates the value of accredited conformity assessment including cases studies and independent research on how accredited conformity assessment is used around the world by governments and regulators to deliver positive benefit in policy areas such as economic development, healthcare, environmental protection, energy, food safety, construction, crime and security.
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