We Have Come to Trust

December 11, 2016

Exporters will be released from double tests of their products in 2017


As early as 2017, some exporters will be released from double tests of their products – both in Russia and abroad.

It will be much easier for them to obtain a foreign certificate - that is admission to the foreign market. This is important for small-size companies for which the cost of certification can be comparable with the cost of the export batch. Now, the share of small and medium-sized enterprises in exports is only 6 percent and for a healthy economy with a prosperous population it needs to be twice as much.

Other countries recognize test reports of Russian laboratories assessing safety of various products - from children's toys to complex equipment. The laws of physics, chemistry and biology are the same everywhere, it is important only that the measurements are done according to comparable methods and the laboratory's activities meet the quality standards. Accreditation bodies check whether the laboratory fulfills all requirements.

To build trust to our accreditation system and, therefore, our laboratories in other countries, we must join the Mutual Recognition Arrangement within the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). This is preceded by an international assessment. In November, the Russian accreditation system was audited by APLAC which is a regional organization of laboratory accreditation bodies. They recognized the compliance of our system with international standards. This was a topic of the conversation between the journalist of "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" and the Head of the Federal Service for Accreditation Alexey Khersontsev.

Aleksey Igorevich, is this the first step to ensure that exporters do not have to receive a certificate twice?

Alexey Khersontsev: The first and the main one. In many cases, exporters will have to receive certificates abroad, but provided our laboratories are recognized, this will be a much simpler procedure. In most countries, authorities recognize only certificates issued by their certification bodies because they confirm not just some abstract security but compliance with local requirements - for example, in the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union - with the technical regulations of the EAEU, in the European Union - with the relevant directives. Although there is an association for certification bodies - the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), obtaining a full member status in it will not completely remove all restrictions.

When exporting, for example, to the EU will it be sufficient to provide only test reports?

Alexey Khersontsev: It won’t be necessary to carry samples or to send specialists who must accompany them. Sometimes the most important thing is timing for entering the markets. For example, tests are carried for several years in the railway transport. Sometimes fairly simple and inexpensive tests are required, but in the foreign testing laboratory the exporter may find himself at the end of the queue and be asked to wait for a few months.

What did the experts say?

Alexey Khersontsev: According to the assessment of normative acts, rules, and procedures, there were practically no remarks. Experts highly assessed our employees and organization of work and noted that other countries achieve such results within 10 years and it took us only 5. These words are very important to us considering the professional level of the team that visited us.

We have passed a serious test. The head of the delegation that assessed us was the Head of the National Association of Testing Bodies of Australia. Also, two experts from the United States, representatives of Canada, Mongolia and Singapore performed the assessment. They are not just some foreign functionaries, everyone was ready for careful work. They went to Kazan, St. Petersburg, Orel and Tula regions where they watched how we accredited laboratories.

Were these some special laboratories?

Alexey Khersontsev: Do you mean that we have two "exhibition" laboratories in the country? No, the experts themselves chose them from the list of dozens of laboratories which was made up from those laboratories that had sent us requests for accreditation.

We have been preparing for this visit for a long time. When the decision to create RusAccreditation was made, both the government and the first head of the agency (Savva Shipov, now Deputy Minister of Economic Development, - editor's note) defined the task: the law and all rules must be developed in accordance with the world standards. We have always been preparing to the international assessment. That is, this visit de facto was a result of the five-year work.

Naturally, there were some fundamental observations or so-called inconsistencies. But they relate to calibration laboratories. The base of the Soviet system of metrology involved the so-called gaging. The international metrology is based on the calibration – that is a different approach to making the same, may metrologists forgive me for such a rough explanation. Not all our calibration laboratories have shaped this new system yet, but these problems can be solved. In the preliminary report there are only three inconsistencies, although it is believed that for the first time 7-8 is normal. There are a set of "concerns" and "comments". This makes up one page of text and we understand where to move further. Within a month we will get the final report, and then we will have another three months for corrective actions.

So can we congratulate you?

Alexey Khersontsev: Not yet, there may be a discussion in APLAC working bodies while writing the analysis report by the group of auditors. But we hope that the report will be approved by APLAC General Assembly which is scheduled for June 2017. Then RusAccreditation without additional assessments may join a global Arrangement on the recognition under ILAC auspices.

What about the political problems? APLAC includes the United States and other countries that have imposed sanctions.

Alexey Khersontsev: The scope of accreditation is an international family of professionals. As a rule, politics does not play a decisive role. The attitude towards us in these organizations is professional, and we have not encounter any political moments. We discuss technologies, standards, procedures.

After we become a full member of ILAC, our laboratories will have the right to put on their protocols the mark of this organization. And this will allow us to start negotiations on the recognition of test results in specific countries. Some countries that are less actively protecting their domestic market recognize them automatically. As a rule, the countries of Latin America, Africa do this. By the way, we ourselves, in the Eurasian Economic Union, can meet the requirements of our technical regulations only in the laboratories accredited in the member countries of EAEU.

It should also be noted that in addition to the mandatory areas where the state establishes requirements, buyers can establish more rules and set their requirements in business, usually in the framework of voluntary certification. They have priority over the mandatory systems in serious trade relations. And often our producers have to test their products in laboratories recognized by ILAC to participate in international tenders and overseas procurements.

So, once again, our test reports will be engaged in international traffic before the conclusion of intergovernmental agreements. For business it is very important.

In the post-Soviet countries there is no regional organization for laboratories, so why not create it now?

Alexey Khersontsev: We also believe that if the economies were integrated within the framework of the EAEU, then the accreditation bodies should logically pursue a coordinated policy and carry out mutual assessments of each other within the framework of the regional organization. Moreover, legally we already recognize the results of each other's work; this is recorded in the Treaty on the establishment of the EAEU. We suggested to our colleagues organizing a council of heads of the EAEU bodies for accreditation and then discuss the establishment of a regional organization. In this respect, there are different points of view. Although, in my opinion, this should not be hampered by the fact that our partners in the union chose different trajectories of movement for global recognition - Belarus is going through the European accreditation organization, we joined APLAC. I think the creation of a regional organization between our neighbor countries is inevitable.

Friends on Recognition

Which countries will we sign intergovernmental agreements with first?

Alexey Khersontsev: Intergovernmental agreements are always trade talks, the most complicated issues. Maintenance of such negotiations and in general the question about their appropriateness is the competence of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Now we are actively planning to develop another trend: dual accreditation. Within this project we would like to perform a simultaneous assessment for compliance with our requirements and the requirements of other bodies with the assistance of the national authorities in the countries of accreditation - Russia's largest trading partners. The existence of foreign accreditation is not a know-how - some private and government laboratories can make boast of applying this method - for example, some laboratories of Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing), Rosselkhoznadzor (Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance), other departments. There are few of them, but they are.

We want to introduce the procedure of simultaneous accreditation that would save labs resources and time, so that we would work more closely with international partners and identify our leaders.

Do we need any agreement for that too?

Alexey Khersontsev: We want to do it on the basis of cooperation memoranda. This year a memorandum was signed with German colleagues, now we initiate negotiations with them on the possible scheme of this double assessment. This is a serious project. It provides an alternative way to the international recognition of our laboratories and this way may be more reliable for the exporters themselves.

Certificates will still have to be obtained abroad, but in case of laboratories recognition it will become much easier.

And how many laboratories will take advantage of this possibility?

Alexey Khersontsev: I think - hundreds. There will be a selection of those laboratories that do provide the highest possible quality. The example of our laboratories that proved to meet the requirements of GLP (Good Laboratory Practices for OECD - editor's note) shows that reputation is worth investing in expensive equipment and training. If our industry increasingly relies on exports, there will also be more such laboratories. Moreover, many enterprises will seek to accredit their production laboratories, so that the results of their tests are automatically recognized abroad.

In the framework of memoranda about which I spoke before, we will also seek recognition of our inspecting organizations competence, so that producers have the opportunity to involve them. In any case, it will be much easier to negotiate with foreign counterparts.

In fact, in the international practice the implementation of so-called pre-shipment or acceptance inspections within supply contracts for a variety of goods is a usual practice. A certain organization is always involved in quality control. This organization regularly takes samples, conducts inspections of products. As for laboratories, it is necessary that they work in accordance with the established procedure, as well as they should be impartial, competent, and independent.

Now, as a rule, large foreign companies impose the involvement of global foreign players in such activities. It is clear that for our country, first of all for economic security reasons, it is very important to have our universally recognized players. After all these organizations know what is really supplied, know the technological processes and if it comes to complex deliveries, they examine the design documentation.

Igor Zubkov

// Rossiyskaya Gazeta