IOS says that SL can take local benchmarks to the world to grow exports
By Uditha Jayasinghe
Sri Lanka’s attempt to broaden its presence in international markets must be led with its adherence to international standards and best practices, says an international expert.
The International Organisation for Standardisation (IOS) Secretary General Rob Steele told the Daily FT during an interview recently that the country has great potential to not only follow international standards but also take its standards to the rest of the world.
“If you take a product like tea or garments, Sri Lanka has managed to reap significant economic benefits through maintaining high standards.
The next step would be to get these standards ratified by a global body, such as ours, and promote them to the rest of the world,” he said, pointing out that this was how countries had become specialised at one product.
For this to take place, all stakeholder bodies including chambers of commerce and professional organisations must come together to promote standards within industry. He also called on the standards bodies of Sri Lanka to be legally empowered.
“Organisations such as the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce must work to reinforce international standards within local companies because that gives them a better chance of having their products and services sought after by external buyers,” he said.
Small and medium enterprises must also be given extra assistance to implement standards within their organisations and encouraged to apply for certification, thus giving them a chance to compete in the world markets.
Insisting that this was the best way to open up access to world trade, Steele nonetheless urged Sri Lanka “to get on with it” as the process to get IOS approval could take anywhere from one to three years. Proving conformity to standards would give Sri Lanka access to 160 countries that follow IOS standardisation and would come at a time when local exports are experiencing strong growth.
Synergising with IOS would be part of a larger process of consensus where stakeholders would have to come together to decide on common definitions for standards and which industries they should apply to. Promoting competitiveness would also help Sri Lanka have better corporate responsibility as well.
“Studies have shown that adherence to international standards can add as much as 1% to GDP. Clearly there is huge potential for countries such as Sri Lanka to look at ways to take local standards regional or even international. Conversely adapting IOS standards would gain increased trust in the world market. It’s a win-win deal for everyone,” he said.