A Framework for the Development of Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) for Telecommunications Equipment
The Purpose of a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA)
The purpose of a MRA is to facilitate trade. Each economy has its own regulations and administrative procedures. In order to market or use the telecommunications equipment in its economy, the manufacturer or supplier will have to meet the regulations and conformity assessment procedures of that economy. The conformity assessment procedures of the economies may vary. One way to promote market access is to simplify the process a manufacturer or supplier has to follow when exporting from one economy to another, the other is for the economies to mutually recognize each others' conformity assessment procedures. Therefore the mutual recognition arrangement is the arrangement for the mutual recognition of conformity assessment procedures. The framework document addresses mutual recognition in the context of current testing and certification arrangements. Mutual recognition can be seen not just as an end in itself, but also as a confidence building measure towards future work. That future work could deliver one-time testing against international standards and the use of suppliers' declarations as the mechanism for increased market access across the region.
This Framework document is not intended to be a legally binding document. It should be used as a blue print for member economies to develop and implement specific MRAs which when signed would be legally binding. If the principles, conditions and steps of the Framework are met in the development of specific MRAs, it is anticipated that a minimum set of bilateral/multilateral MRAs would be developed meeting the APEC objective and member economies' requirements.
The Framework has the following elements:
1. The Principles
There are two basic principles. The first principle is to attain the minimum number of technical regulations and administrative procedures. The second principle is the mutual recognition of conformity assessment.
The aim of the first principle is to reduce non-tariff barriers in order to facilitate trade. The goal is to attain the minimum number of regulations among all economies. The September 1997 APEC Guidelines for Equipment Certification serve as a target for the economies to simplify their regulatory requirements.
The second principle could apply in parallel with the process to implement the first principle. This principle seeks to limit the number of conformity assessment modules. The aim of this second principle is to reduce the costs and the time for conformity assessment such as testing and certification by mutual recognition.
2. The Conditions
There are two conditions which the economies should meet in order to develop an APEC MRA. The first condition is that the economies should subscribe to the APEC guidelines for equipment certification. This will ensure a level playing field for the purpose of promoting trade. Since member economies have different technical infrastructures, their time schedules to simplify their regulatory requirements according to the guidelines will be different. Each economy is requested to indicate its own time schedule.
The second condition is that the economies should use the conformity assessment modules developed within this framework in the development of MRAs. By referencing or adopting the conformity assessment modules, the economies can benefit from the multilateral arrangements which minimize the effort and time in MRA development and provide wider and focused coverage.
3. The Steps
A number of steps should be followed in the development of the MRA. The first one is to exchange information on regulations and administrative procedures among economies so that each economy would have a good understanding and knowledge of the other economies' regulations. The series of seminars initiated by TEL have begun the process to exchange information among economies.
The second step is the discussion and consultation to develop a set of guidelines for these regulations so that a level playing field is created for the purpose of trade.
The September 1997 "APEC Guidelines for Regional Harmonization of Equipment Certification" represents an effort by APEC to develop such guidelines. Each economy should develop an action plan to simplify its regulations based on these guidelines.
The third step, which could be carried out in parallel with the second step, is the development of the mutual recognition of conformity assessment modules. This step can be taken concurrently with the second step. Due to differences in policies, regulations and administrative processes, each economy has its own conformity assessment procedures. The purpose of this step is to develop a set of conformity assessment modules which meet the requirements of all APEC economies.
The fourth step is the development of specific MRAs. Once the conformity assessment modules have been agreed upon by APEC, the economies, providing that they meet the conditions above, can develop among themselves (bilaterally or multilaterally) different MRAs based on their requirements. These consultations could be done inside or outside of APEC. Once the MRAs are developed and implemented, equipment can flow from one economy to the other with the mutual benefits realized by that particular MRA.
4. Conformity Assessment Modules
Depending on their regulatory requirements the economies should have their own conformity assessment procedures which can be grouped into different modules of conformity assessment procedures. In order to reduce the costs and effort required to meet these conformity assessment procedures the economies should attempt to develop a set of conformity assessment modules.
One module is the mutual recognition of the test results:
mutual recognition of test results from exporting economies based on importing economies' established procedures while working toward a common basis for recognizing testing laboratories.
Another module is the mutual recognition of certification:
mutual recognition of certification by authorized bodies in the other economies, so that the designated conformity assessment bodies from each economy can certify products to the other economies' requirements.
It is anticipated that these two modules will cover the needs of the APEC economies.
5. Scope of a MRA
A MRA should cover any equipment that is subject to member economies' regulatory requirements for terminal attachment (wired and wireless) or other telecommunication regulation. For such equipment, an MRA should cover member economies' regulatory requirements for EMC and product safety.
6. Elements of an MRA
The "Model" Mutual Recognition Agreement on Conformity Assessment adopted by the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment contains key elements which could be used as articles for an MRA for telecommunication equipment. At a minimum, an MRA should contain the following articles: objective; scope of coverage; conformity assessment module; joint committee for the implementation of the MRA; problems and dispute resolution and entry into force and duration.