Behind all efforts made to remove trade barriers and obstacles and behind every action aimed at the creation of large markets and the achievement of economic integration, stands the basic factor of standardization. The standardization of terms, definitions and units of measurement, apart from its importance for the exchange of culture and scientific knowledge, plays an important role in facilitating trade, for it is impossible to conclude commercial transactions unless the terms used are standardized.
The standardization of technical symbols facilitates the understanding of industrial blue prints and designs. The standardization of sampling, testing and experimentation procedure further facilitates the process of delivery, receipt and arbitration in the exchange of commodities and products. The standardization of materials, ingredients and products assists in overcoming technical barriers and facilitates free movement across frontiers.
Advance towards international standardization is normally slow, although in some industries, such as chemicals, rapid progress may be expected. In other industries, such as those producing capital goods, international standardization may take longer than twenty or thirty years. The situation varies from industry to industry and from country to country.
The task of adjusting national standards to conform with international recommendations is a complicated one. First, adoption of international standards sometimes implies a large capital outlay for the necessary change-over in equipment, and intensifies the natural reluctance of producers who have built their plants and equipment on the basis of national standards. Second, the advantages of international standardization are found largely in the field of international trade, and the incentive to change is therefore often weak in industries and in countries whose domestic market constitutes the predominant element in total production.
One of the most important factors inhibiting the effort towards international standardization is the presence of two major systems of measurement: the metric system or SystÃ¨me International (SI) and the foot-pound system. Although metrication with its base-ten has proven its utility, the base-twelve foot-pound system is not alone as a relic of another age. The twelve month year, the seven day week, the twenty-four hour day, the sixty-minute hour and the sixty-second minute remain to be metricized into a scientific standard of time measurement.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Telegraph and Telephone Consultative Committee (CCITT) conflict in authority for standards applying to computer telecommunications equipment. At the same time, standards may also be proposed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, or by computer manufacturing trade associations in the USA and Europe. The standards debate in the computer-telecommunications area has delayed the development of electronic mail, local area and metropolitan area networks.