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A standard is a document that contains technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as a rule, guideline, or definition of characteristics, to ensure that materials, products, processes, personnel or services are competent and/or fit for their intended purpose(s).
Standardization has had, and continues to have, a major impact on our lives. Yet most people know little about its effects. We are influenced by standards on a daily basis, including our method of communication, the products we use, how we travel to work, and what we eat.
Standards permit society to make more efficient use of its resources and allow more effective communication among all parties to particular activities, transactions, or processes. Indeed, standards are crucial to every form of scientific and industrial process. Without standards, the quality of life would be significantly reduced.
Standards are also increasingly important for global commerce as an effective communications tool to facilitate commercial transactions. In fact, standards are of such great importance to commerce that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has codified some fundamental principles to ensure that the standardization activities of all WTO members support, not hinder, the expansion of trade. Specifically, the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) states that all member countries shall apply standards on a non-discriminatory basis.
Note: the information in this section pertains to documentary standards, not to physical standards of measurement, such as the standard meter, kilogram, etc.