Standards, Innovation and their Role in the Context of the World Trade Organization
This think piece discusses the role of standards in the WTO context, including their impact on innovation. It argues that the WTO concept of standards as captured in the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement was established in a pre-globalisation and pre-digital era and does not take into account the open standards that have been developed by globally open communities outside the traditional nation-centric system. The development and evolution of technologies on which the Internet is based exemplifies the success of this bottom-up, globally open, market-driven system of standardisation. There is a need, therefore, for the WTO to update its concepts and definitions of standards, and the underlying processes, to the 21st century reality so as to encompass more inclusiveness and openness in an era of global challenges that require increased innovation. This can be realised through an explicit acknowledgement of the value of the standards-setting and developing bodies that follow a globally open, market-driven paradigm.