Mutual Recognition Agreements

Now that the markets are globalized, it is a must that the structure of every country´s conformity assessment be recognized by the due international forums. Without such "tool", companies that wish to concentrate on the foreign market will find difficulties, since they will likely face different demands from different markets.

For exporters at developing countries, where many times such recognition is denied, these demands become sort of a technical barrier. These exporters have to face high extra costs, linked to multiple tests and multiple certifications that lead to a decrease on their competitiveness margins.

According to OCDE, the adjustment of goods, session tests and acquisition of certificates for each country, increase the total cost of production for the exporting companies by between 2% to 10%.

The Mutual Recognition Agreements - MRA of the conformity assessment procedures are made aiming to avoid such additional costs, based on the following philosophy: "once tested, accepted everywhere".

However, to be granted with such recognition is a very hard task for developing countries. To accomplish it, it is important to promote technical cooperation programs that make feasible the change of technology and the experience of developed countries. Only through such programs on technical cooperation, it is possible to supply the infrastructure for accreditation of developing countries -- like Brazil -- of the required level of trust in their processes, allowing them to pursue such international recognition.

Aiming to facilitate the exports from Brazil, Inmetro has continuously pursued recognition of its accreditations at several international forums. Currently, some important recognition was accomplished towards the following forums:

IAF - International Accreditation Forum

The IAF is an international forum that assembles accredited bodies of several countries, in the scope of certification of management systems of quality (ISO 9000). It was created on June 9, 1995, when the Agreement Memorandum was officially signed, with Brazil being one of the ten under signers.

Structuring of the IAF resulted on the need detected by the market to rationalize the multilateral recognition process of the bodies responsible for the accreditation of certification systems of quality, goods and services. Inmetro is a regular member of IAF and operates on its working groups with a vote, having obtained multilateral recognition in the ISO 9000 management systems of quality in August, 1999. In the Americas, only the United States, Canada and Brazil have claimed such recognition.

In short, this means that the certificates conferred by certifying bodies accredited by Inmetro to the management of quality systems of Brazilian companies, following the rules of the ISO-9000 series, were accepted worldwide by companies based in countries that have signed the agreement.

EA - European Accreditation

The EA is the cooperation for the accreditation of laboratories and bodies responsible for the certification and inspection that involves the European Union member nations. Inmetro retains a cooperation contract with the EA since 1998. Only accreditation bodies that are members of the European Union are part of the EA multilateral agreement.

In 1998, Inmetro introduced a petition to sign a bilateral agreement with the EA. On January 30, 2001, at the Inmetro Campus in Xerem, the bilateral agreement of mutual recognition with the EA was signed, effective immediately. That way, from then on the bodies that had under signed the EA started to accept the certificates and reports issued by the laboratories accredited by Inmetro.

Such feat, only accomplished by a few industrialized countries, granted a "safe conduct" for the Brazilian exports to European Union member countries. EA´s mutual recognition confers a differentiated value to calibration certificates and test reports issued by all calibration labs already accredited by Inmetro. This implies in acceptance reciprocity, once the products tested in a country must benefit from the easy access to the overseas market of the countries that signed the agreement.

In addition, such recognition eliminates barriers for Brazilian goods, since many importers demand calibration services that own certificates issued by accredited labs, whose results are accompanied by declarations of unreliable measurement, and also that they be regarded by national standards that secure its availability.

ILAC - International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation

ILAC is the international forum that assembles bodies for accreditation of laboratories from all over the world. Inmetro has been a member of ILAC since its creation, including as part of its Executive Committee. Since 1996, ILAC has developed the mechanisms for the implementation of its international agreement regarding accreditation of laboratories, whose base documentation was defined during its General Assembly, organized by Inmetro, in Rio de Janeiro, in October, 1999.

On November 2, 2000, in Washington, D.C., during ILAC´s Conference 2000, the ILAC Arrangement was signed by 34 bodies for accreditation of laboratories from 26 different countries of the five Continents, including Inmetro, Latin America´s sole representative.

The agreement became effective as of January 31, 2001, with its under signers recognizing the equivalence of their systems of accreditation of laboratories, while committing themselves to foster the agreement as well as the acceptance of calibration certificates and test reports issued by laboratories accredited by them. That procedure scrapped the need for a repeat or for a second analysis by the importing countries, thus reducing costs, increasing competitiveness, which resulted into one more important support Inmetro provides to Brazilian exporters.

It is equally relevant to observe that, even though Inmetro has not signed a bilateral agreement with Asia-Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation - APLAC, a cooperation that assembles laboratory accreditation bodies from the Economic Community of Asia-Pacific (APEC), all member bodies of APLAC are under signers of the ILAC agreement, therefore, they all accept the certificates issued by the labs accredited by Inmetro.

Interamerican Accreditation Cooperation - IAAC

The IAAC is a regional forum that assembles the creditor bodies of the three Americas, found in November, 1996, by Inmetro´s initiative in the areas of test labs, calibration, bodies of system certification, products, personnel and of inspection bodies. Its major target is the achievement of the Mutual Recognition among the under signing countries, regarding the aforementioned structures.

In October, 2002, IAAC promoted the signing of the first Recognition Agreements, with the participation of Brazil, the United States, Canada and Mexico, in the activity of laboratory accreditation.

Bureau International des Poids et Mesures - BIPM

International Agency of Weights and Measures It is a forum that assembles the national bodies of scientific and industrial metrology. In case an exporting country lacks a recognized system of measurement and tests, it may lose markets, since, more and more, in developed countries, imports are banned if they are not accompanied by recognized certificates of measurement and tests. Such is a serious problem for developing countries and those going through a transition.

Inmetro claimed recognition of the national standards of measurement by the International Committee of Weights and Measures in October, 1999, an something also claimed for the measurement and calibration certificates issued by the entire Brazilian Calibration Chain. Brazil, thus, joined the select group of countries worthy of such worldwide recognition, along with the other 38 members of the Metrology Convention.