America's Voluntary Standards System: A 'Best Practice' Model for Asian Innovation Policies?

East-West Center Policy Studies Series, No. 66, 2013

86 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2014

See all articles by Dieter Ernst

Dieter Ernst

East-West Center; Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)

Date Written: May 24, 2013

Abstract

There is a keen interest across Asia in the potential advantages of America’s market-led system of voluntary standards and its contribution to the country’s superior innovation capacity. For its proponents, America’s decentralized, flexible, and bottom-up approach to standard-setting is a ‘best practice’ model for innovation policy. Observers in Asia however are concerned about possible drawbacks of a standards system that is largely driven by the private sector. The study reviews the historical roots of the American voluntary standards system, examines its current defining characteristics, and highlights its strengths and weaknesses. A tradition of decentralized local self-government has given voice to diverse stakeholders in innovation. However, a lack of effective coordination of multiple stakeholder strategies constrains effective and open standardization processes. To correct these drawbacks, the government needs to act as an enabler, coordinator, and, if necessary, an enforcer of the rules of the game in order to prevent abuse of market power. Asian countries that seek to improve their standards systems should study the strengths and weaknesses of the American system. Attempts to replicate the American standards system will face clear limitations — persistent differences in Asia’s economic institutions, levels of development, and growth models are bound to limit convergence to a US-style market-led voluntary standards system

Keywords: Standardization, US Standards System, Innovation Policy, Asia

JEL Classification: O31, O32, O38, O53

Suggested Citation

Ernst, Dieter, America's Voluntary Standards System: A 'Best Practice' Model for Asian Innovation Policies? (May 24, 2013). East-West Center Policy Studies Series, No. 66, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2400849

Dieter Ernst (Contact Author)

East-West Center ( email )

1601 East-West Road
Honolulu, HI 96848-1601
United States

Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) ( email )

57 Erb Street West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 6C2
Canada

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