Global Relevance

ISO's Ross Wraight explained in 2003

Global Relevance. It's a topic that has been discussed by the ISO Council and has been referred to the TMB for advice. It seems self-evident that any document called an International Standard must possess, as a fundamental attribute, global relevance. Equally, it must be free of regional or sectorial bias. The challenge is to have an unambiguous and consistent definition of global relevance.

Background of Global Relevance

Standards can be non-tariff barriers to trade. The WTO Technical Barriers to Trade
Agreement (WTO/TBT), placed an obligation on ISO to ensure that the International Standards it develops, adopts and publishes are globally relevant.
The following criteria (In Annex 4, paragraph 10 of the Second Triennial Review of the Agreement,) state that a globally relevant standard should:
• Effectively respond to regulatory and market needs (in the global marketplace)
• Respond to scientific and technical developments in various countries
• Not distort the market
• Have no adverse effects on fair competition
• Not stifle innovation and technological development
• Not give preference to characteristics or requirements of specific countries or regions when
different needs or interests exist in other countries or regions
• Be performance based as opposed to design prescriptive


ISO implementation guidance:

The ISO/TMB Policy and Principles Statement defines global relevance as "the required characteristic of an International Standard that it can be used/implemented as broadly as possible by affected industries and other stakeholders around the world".

Example of regional bias of OOXML

Trade Secrets

  • Only a single American company is able to implement OOXML or aid implementation thereof. Essential parts of the standard are undisclosed and protected by trade secrets or obscurity.
  • OOXML is designed to be "backwards compatible" to undisclosed formats of a single American vendor which give it an unfair advantage.



Members shall ensure that technical regulations are not prepared, adopted or applied with a view to or with the effect of creating unnecessary obstacles to international trade.