Wednesday, February 06, 2008

U.S. Testing Rules Upset Korean Exporters

U.S. Testing Rules Upset Korean Exporters
(Korea Times – Cho Jin-seo)

Korean companies spend about 900 billion won ($950 million) every year in additional costs in conducting quality and safety tests to meet U.S. industrial standards, according to a government study.

The KSO (Korean Standards Association) reported Sunday that it received 1,069 complaints from firms, laboratories and institutions last year about unreasonable and arbitrary industrial standards of the United States.

The United States is the largest export market of South Korea, and goods exported to the country are often required to meet the standards and guidelines set up by private associations or interest groups of its industries, rather than official guidelines of international organizations such as the ISO (International Organization for Standardization).

In the case of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists, the agency required that some tests to check for shrinkage of clothes be conducted using U.S.-made detergent. The report insisted that the price of standard U.S. detergent is 100 won per gram, which is 20 times more expensive than Korean detergent. So Korean firms are spending 10 billion won in buying the U.S. detergent to conduct 1 million fabric tests every year, it estimated.

“In the past, the government did not care about U.S. industrial standard issues, because it thought this was a market issue that should be dealt with by companies,'' said a KSO spokesman.

Many countries take advantage of local industrial standards as a non-tariff barrier to protect local industries from foreign goods and services. Moreover, many U.S industrial standards are considered as de facto global standards because of the size of the country's market and its influence on the global economy.

In another example, in testing the tensile strength of some plastic materials, the American Society for Testing and Materials enforces firms to use a specially designed metal mold and a cutter, the report said. It takes about 30 million won to make a mold and another 20 million won for cutters for the test of one product, and some 30 companies and agencies in Korea are conducting the test as many as 50 times a year. The total cost of the plastic testing is 46 billion won, it insisted.

The Korean Standards Association, which is under the wing of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, has been operating a Web site,, to receive complaints from firms and institutions,

Of the total of 1,069 complaints, 504 cases involved U.S. agencies requesting the use of specific U.S.-made testing equipment and materials in quality and safety experiments. This was followed by 179 instances of long, drawn-out tests. Other complaints that were voiced included lack of consideration for South Korean environmental conditions and climate, and generally poor or outdated technology used in tests.

The standards agency said it found at least 10 testing standards that were arbitrary or ineffective.

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