Let us begin 2023 with a consideration that, while it might seem obvious at first reading, nevertheless is not, quite the contrary.
Is legal metrology important to a nation? Or is it an entirely secondary topic?
Is it important for a state to be active in legal metrology both at international tables, where regulatory/interpretative issues are discussed and decided, and in promoting innovation initiatives in this area?
Does the higher or lesser attention a nation devotes to legal metrology have an impact on trade, business, and the free market?
In this article we try to offer an overview of the topic, by presenting some objective data that will help us to reflect.
First, let us clearly delineate the thematic area.
“Legal metrology,” which we deal with here specifically, is that which is concerned with ensuring that measuring instruments and systems arrive in the market complying with characteristics and requirements established at the international, European and national levels so as to ensure fairness and transparency in trade transactions both between companies and with consumers, as well as in fiscal matters (taxes, administrative sanctions).
The focus is on the phase prior to and concurrent with placing measuring instruments on the market, and not on the phase of market surveillance (periodic verification and calibration), which takes place during the “field” life of the instruments themselves.
This is the phase that starts from the involvement in the creation and development of standards/regulations that establish the requirements, the characteristics that measuring instruments for fiscal and commercial use must have in order to be placed, then accepted, in the markets of the various states, and ends with the certification of the possession of these requirements by the certification bodies in charge and accredited by each state. This is the stage where each state reconciles the peculiarities of its own measuring system, its economic culture, with those of other states, and at the same time implements its vision, its economic political goals.
Here we now start to outline some of the purposes and benefits of the importance of this phase of legal metrology for a nation:
- to be part of an international system in which its own companies can easily sell measuring instruments abroad for fiscal and trade use with mutually recognised certificates;
- to actively contribute to the implementation of standards/regulations that further the national economic policy goals set forth;
- to be promoters of innovation in legal metrology, so as to support the certification of new measuring technologies developed by its own national companies;
- be a reference point, and thus have an authoritative voice, in international working groups;
- to facilitate the successful outcome of any suitable industrial policy action/measure to foster greater efficiency/effectiveness of national economic policy actions*.
If to these specific purposes and benefits, we also add the more general ones of protection, transparency, fairness of trade within and outside the nation, as well as consumer protection, we can indeed say that even “all this leads to the inclusion of legal metrology among the instruments of macro-industrial policy” (Italian Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy).
Now we move on to the objective data.
Looking to observe the degree of involvement of nations in this phase of legal metrology, we cross-referenced the data by first considering the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML, which is fundamental to the development of international, European and national standards, as well as mutual recognition), then WELMEC (a body that promotes European cooperation in legal metrology), finally the European notified bodies for MID 2014/32/EU and NAWID 2014/31/EU, and the European states that have the digital, well-structured and accessible archive of MID certificates issued by its own nation.
Scrutinising the table many interesting, thought-provoking data emerge.
We report only a few of them considering first the international, and then the European perspective.
At the international perspective, there are now 63 OIML member states (32% of those worldwide, which number 195). Only 12 of them can issue Certificates of Conformity to OIML Recommendations, which are useful for international market access (7 of 12 are European states). There are 45 states actively participating in at least one of the 18 OIML Technical Committees (71,5%). Of the latter, those actively participating in all eighteen Technical Committees are four (6,4%): India, Iran, Russia, and the United States. Other very active states are: Czech Republic and Germany (in 17 committees), Japan (in 16), China and South Africa (in 14).
At the European perspective, considering the 27 states of the European Union:
- 22 are members of OIML;
- 7 can issue Certificates of Conformity to OIML Recommendations;
- 20 are members of at least one of OIML’s 18 Technical Committees. Among them, the most active are: Czech Republic and Germany (in 17 committees), France (in 13), Poland (in 12), Austria, the Netherlands and Slovakia (in 11);
- 23 have notified bodies for the MID Directive 2014/32/EU, and 22 have them for the NAWID Directive 2014/31/EU;
- 15 have the digital, well-structured and accessible archive of MID certificates issued by its own state.
All 27 European states are active members of WELMEC (a body that promotes European cooperation in legal metrology), and however, some non-European nations, including Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey, are also active members.
By this time, surely, many and various considerations will have arisen spontaneously among you, dear readers, just as many will also be the subjective conclusions that this article has stimulated.
Two aspects definitely seem clear: the importance of legal metrology for each nation, and the fact that there are still many steps to be taken for a wider involvement of many states in order to improve the mutual interests of all invloved stakeholders.
- Organisation Internationale de Métrologie Légale (OIML).
- WELMEC, the European Cooperation in Legal Metrology.
- European Union official website.
- NANDO database (New Approach Notified and Designated Organizations).
- Italian Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy.