Asian nations urged to speed up actions in standards, trade
Members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group are not moving fast enough to achieve their deadlines for free and open trade and investment. That warning comes in a report by the group's business advisory council, which feels APEC has at times lost sight of its own goals. APEC members represent the various economies of Asian nations. They have committed to align domestic standards with international standards by 2005 in four priority sectors: machinery, electrical and electronic appliances, selected rubber products, and food labeling. APEC estimates that conflicting standards in those industries add between 5 and 10% to exporters' costs. The report, however, doubts that APEC at its present pace can achieve that target or its goal for free trade and investment by 2010 for developed economies and 2020 for developing economies. You can get copies of the APEC report from Asia 2000, Level 7, AMP House, 109 Featherston Street, Wellington, New Zealand. Phone: 04 471 2320.
Electronics consortium backs small plastic optical fiber interface
An electronics consortium of Japanese- owned firms plans to support a new miniature interface for plastic optical fiber (POF). The common specifications will cover the connector, transceiver, and cabling. The consortium consists of Hitachi Cable, Ltd., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., Sony Corporation, Toshiba Corporation, and connector makers Molex Incorporated, SMK Electronics Corporation, and Taiko Denki Co, Ltd. The group already is promoting the concept to various POF-related firms. Some high- speed digital interfaces such as ATM and IEEE 1394 employ POF. Its advantages include flexibility, high bandwidth, and low cost. However, those interfaces use comparatively larger PN-type POF connectors. The need for a smaller standard quickly became apparent. The interface that the consortium proposes includes optical fiber connectors about half the size of the current PN-type. Consortium officials say the smaller overall interface will help meet the miniaturization needs of future digital home applications and enable more devices to be connected to one unit. The consortium plans to introduce the new POF interface to industry standard organizations inside and outside Japan, hoping to establish it as a future global standard. For information, e-mail kenichi. email@example.com.
Standards Australia restructures, becomes commercial organization
Standards Australia (SA), a leading standards institution in the Pacific area, has gone commercial. The decision to make a profit from all of its 78-year-old "business" is part of a sweeping restructure of SA's operations. In November a council of representatives from various standards-related organizations picked a board of 11 members to manage the new corporation. Aiming to deliver higher quality service, SA has formed four business divisions: a Standards Writing and Technical Division, Standards Australia Publishing, Standards Professional Services, and Quality Assurance Services. To complement its new corporate strategy, SA this year will move to new headquarters in the heart of Sydney's business district. SA's new official name will be Standards Australia International Limited. Phone Lila Jabbour at (02) 9746 4826.
Countries in Far East to swap information on safety of toys
In lieu of trying to set more regional standards for toys, APEC members are creating a unique system for exchanging in- formation on toys that might be hazardous to children. Each participating country will appoint an agency to be its "focal point" in the exchanges. When a member suspects a safety problem in a toy, it notifies the focal point for the country in which the toy originates. A consultation takes place between the two parties within 30 days of the notification with a view to a mutually satisfactory solution. The member identifying a safety issue may immediately advise all other participants of its concerns, even if the toy comes from a non-participating country. The hope is that the arrangement, though not legally binding, will put economic pressure on those who make or sell dangerous toys. E-mail Cecilia Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Program synchronizes time checks among Pacific metrology labs
Asian countries are participating in a regional program to harmonize their time and frequency standards. The National Measurement Laboratory (NML) of Australia coordinates the program in which Asian metrology institutes are participants. The program, due to conclude in February, is checking the effectiveness of a GPS time transformation network developed by NML. It also is establishing and improving integration of frequency, time, and time interval measurements among the labs. Staff training also is part of the program. For details e-mail email@example.com.