Mutual recognition - recognition of what?

TradeNATA is a signatory to Mutual Recognition Arrangements between accreditation bodies around the world. The Australian Government is a party to a number of government-to-government Mutual Recognition Agreements/Arrangements. Usually just called MRAs, the purpose of both types is to facilitate trade.

What is actually being recognised? The short answer is the output from a conformity assessment activity - that is a test, measurement or inspection report. The longer answer - which is not self-evident from the three letter acronym - is not always understood and causes confusion in industry.

The expectation of any of the MRAs mentioned is that recognition by the purchaser, regulator or industry sector is conditional upon any conformity assessment activities being conducted against the requirements of the destination country or economy.

MRAs to which NATA is a signatory do not mean there is mutual recognition of standards, codes, specifications, technical regulations and the like that apply in another country or economy. Similarly, government to government MRAs do not facilitate such recognition unless this is specifically agreed. Rather, MRAs allow for the conformity assessment to be conducted in the exporting country against the requirements of the importing country.

Hence, it is important that exporters understand that (for example), just because their product meets an Australian Standard, (and this has been demonstrated via testing in a laboratory accredited by NATA for that specific Australian Standard), neither NATA’s MRAs, nor any Government to Government MRA, means that the product will be acceptable to an importing country/economy. No matter how technically “correct” the results are with regard to the Australian Standard, they are wrong if they do not meet the needs of the importer.

It is, therefore, important for exporters to gain clarity around the importer’s expectations in regard to the product they are importing. They should also clarify what tests/inspections are required and to what standards, codes and/or specifications. Any retesting on receipt in the importing country should also be clarified and agreed, as well as any relevant sampling regime.

Once equipped with this knowledge, Australian exporters then need to seek out NATA facilities that are appropriately accredited to perform the tests, measurements and inspections required of the destination country/economy. 

The very first point that needs to be made with the accredited facility is that the product is for export and that the conformity assessment must be to the standard, code, specification and/or technical regulation applicable for the destination. Doing so will save much angst and maximise the likelihood of ongoing trade success.