BMWi Foreign Trade & Investment Promotion Days 2021: Reducing technical barriers to trade together with the business community
With the motto “Germany Works. - Global agieren, vorwärts denken”, the Foreign Trade & Investment Promotion Days of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) were held digitally this year for the first time. They offered companies the opportunity to exchange information on international markets, focus sectors and innovative funding concepts. On 19 April, BMWi presented the Global Project Quality Infrastructure in an online expert forum. Experts involved in the project contributed their perspectives on the cooperation - the German Commission for Electrotechnical, Electronic & Information Technologies in DIN and VDE (DKE), the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI), Siemens AG, Drägerwerk AG & Co KGaA and the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA). Over 90 participants took part in the forum virtually.
GPQI is an international multi-stakeholder initiative. Public authorities, business associations and companies as well as specialist organisations from Germany and the partner countries discuss quality infrastructure topics. This way, the business community can contribute its concerns and expertise directly to the bilateral dialogue between the participating governments at any time. At the beginning of the event, Stefan Schnorr, Director General of Digital and Innovation Policy at the BMWi, emphasised the outstanding role of the participating companies for the project’s success: “You are sitting in the cockpit with us. Only through your commitment our dialogues on quality infrastructure can be successful. Your concerns and expertise are fundamental to our activities.” In this way, economically sensible approaches for coordinated QI are jointly developed in the project.
Dr Thomas Zielke and Gerhild Roth from the Division Technology transfer via standardisation and patents, general issues of standardisation and patent policy of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy guided the audience through the event. Dr Zielke presented the project’s working methods and emphasised its relevance for foreign trade: “Cross-border value chains require a global perspective. The Global Project Quality Infrastructure enables Germany to engage in international cooperation on quality infrastructure with important trading partners.”
International examples and achievements of the project
GPQI then went on a virtual world tour to selected cooperations with Brazil, China, India and Mexico. BMWi has commissioned GIZ to implement the Global Project Quality Infrastructure in these countries. Since 2021, the project also works in Indonesia. All participants are working to reduce technical barriers to trade, strengthen product safety and improve consumer protection. Together with experts from the business community, the GPQI country teams presented how the cooperation works and what they have jointly achieved. In addition, the importance of BMWi's international activities was highlighted using the example of standardisation.
Since 1 October 2020, the CCC certification requirement for electrical products in the field of explosion protection ("CCC Ex") is mandatory in China. Many products from German manufacturers are affected by this. For manufacturers, the new regulations mean considerable additional work and costs. At the industry’s request, GPQI organised a direct exchange with the Chinese Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People's Republic of China (CNCA) at short notice and clarified the most urgent questions. Furthermore, the project and ZVEI organised a series of virtual seminars for German companies on CCC and CCC Ex to improve transparency and knowledge of the rules among the business community. Silke Sichter, ZVEI Senior Manager Innovation Policy and China Affairs, gave an insight into the cooperation in an interview. As a result of the engagement, companies now have more planning security to ensure the conformity of their products with the new requirements.
Through the project in India, the business community played a crucial role in the adoption of the IEC 62443 series of standards for cyber security in industrial automation by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). IEC 62443 provides a central international set of standards for cyber security and forms the basis for corresponding certifications. Matthias Gommel from Siemens AG, Technical Regulation and Standardisation, explained the benefits of this internationally harmonised standard: “Cyber security does not stop at national borders. Together with our Indian partners, we aimed to promote secure production processes and trade via cyber-physical systems between Germany and India - as well as worldwide - by adopting IEC 62443. GPQI enabled constructive and close collaboration with numerous experts and stakeholders.” Following the official adoption of IEC 62443, an online event was organised with BIS in August 2020 to support the application of the standards series in India.
Matthias Marzinko from Drägerwerk also shared his experiences from the cooperation. In Brazil, placing electromedical devices on the market is subject to the regulation Portaria 54, which sets mandatory requirements for the conformity assessment of these devices by the National Institute of Metrology, Quality and Technology (Instituto Nacional de Metrologia, Qualidade e Tecnologia - Inmetro). Currently, the regulation makes it difficult for companies to access the market. After intensive consultations with Inmetro and the Brazilian Ministry of Economy, the regulation was updated. German manufacturers were significantly involved in this process. Mr Marzinko emphasised: “The most important success factor of the project is the consistent implementation of issues at the different levels of institutions, industry and politics. For us as an SME, the political backing was important on the one hand, but on the other hand the direct line to the countries was crucial to solve technical challenges. In this way, we were able to discuss our concerns at any time, both from the perspective of our company in Germany - but also directly in Brazil with the GIZ contact persons and our colleagues on site.” The result: The regulation is to come into force in June 2021 after a transitional period of six months. It reflects central demands of the German manufacturers.
In Mexico, the project is intensively involved in the field of machinery safety. “For global market access, our companies have to solve various technical challenges. Direct access to relevant government agencies or other affected companies helps enormously” explained association representative Hermann Wegner, VDMA expert for machinery safety, electrical safety and non-EU countries. Through the project, German experts were significantly involved in developing the new draft of technical regulation NOM-004-STPS-1999, which relates to occupational safety in the use of machinery. Through GPQI, the experts worked directly with the Mexican Ministry of Labour. As the regulation had not been revised for 22 years, it was based on outdated definitions. The new NOM-004 is expected to be finalised and adopted by May 2021.
Standards developed in networks create trust
After insights from GPQI’s partner countries, the discussion focused on international standardisation. Gerhild Roth interviewed Florian Spiteller, Head of External Relations & Support at DKE: “For us, it is about building a resilient network in which there is mutual understanding and trust - a network through which we can discuss the German positions with other countries at an early stage, but also get to know their positions. In this way, we strengthen international standardisation together.” Internationally developed standards are very important for globally active companies. They are invested with the knowledge and broad acceptance of experts. In this way, they reduce non-tariff barriers to trade and facilitate global trade. BMWi works closely with the national standards organisations and accompanies national delegations in bilateral talks with international partners, for example at ISO and IEC level. The cooperation extends beyond the aforementioned partner countries to the Eurasian Economic Union, the USA and Canada, among others.
An internationally harmonised quality infrastructure promotes sustainable economic development. It facilitates trade, strengthens competition and promotes innovation. Companies and QI institutions know where concrete challenges to the harmonisation of quality infrastructures lie and how they can be overcome. Contact us if you are facing market access barriers in your target market and would like to bring your needs into the bilateral QI dialogues: firstname.lastname@example.org