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Business and Politics

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Volume 16, Issue 1 (Apr 2014)


Beyond the transatlantic divide: the multiple authorities of standards in the global political economy of services

Jean-Christophe Graz
  • Corresponding author
  • Institut d’Etudes Politiques et Internationales, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
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/ Christophe Hauert
  • Institut d’Etudes Politiques et Internationales, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, and Department of International Politics, City University London, London, UK
  • Other articles by this author:
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Published Online: 2013-12-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bap-2012-0009


This paper explores the plurality of institutional environments in which standards for the service sector are expected to support the rise of a global knowledge-based economy. A wide range of international bodies is able to define standards affecting the internationalization of services. Relying on global political economy approaches, the analysis uncovers the power relations underpinning the various forms of standards supporting a deeper integration of the market for services. Service standards are conceived as heterogeneous forms of transnational hybrid authority. The empirical study focuses on recent developments in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the European Union, and the US. In contrast to conventional views opposing the American system to the ISO/European framework, the paper argues that institutional developments of service standards are likely to face trade-offs and compromises reflecting contrasting models of standardization, not only between, but also across, those systems. While this undermines the conventional analysis of a transatlantic divide in standardization, it also shows that the variance between product and service standards is much greater in the European context and the ISO system than in the US, where it is hardly debated.


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About the article

Corresponding author: Jean-Christophe Graz, Institut d’Etudes Politiques et Internationales, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, e-mail:

Published Online: 2013-12-05

Published in Print: 2014-04-01

Dossani and Kenney (2007); du Tertre (2013).

Blind (2003); ISO (2006); Graz and Niang (2013).

Authors’ interview with Alan Bryden, Secretary General of the ISO, Geneva, 8 June 2007.

Czaya and Hesser (2001); Tate (2001); Werle (2001); Mattli and Büthe (2003); Winn (2009).

DiMaggio and Powell (1983); Schmidt and Werle (1998: p. 58).

Egyedi (2005).

Egan (2001).

Statistics, available from http://unctadstat.unctad.org/. Accessed 26 November 2013.


Bryson and Daniels (2007); World Trade Organization (2012); du Tertre (2013).

Boden and Miles (2000: p. 258).

Blind (2004: p. 167).

Callon, Méadel, and Rabeharisoa (2002: pp. 197–207).

World Trade Organization (2012: p. 186).

The three European standardization bodies are: the CEN, the Comité Européen de Normalisation Electrotechnique (CENELEC) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). The ETSI differs significantly from the CEN and CENELEC in that it accepts corporate as well as national members. For further analysis of the European context, see: Egan (2001); Schoechle (2009: p. 24).

See for instance: Egan (2001); Schepel (2005); Büthe and Mattli (2011).

Zuckerman (1999: p. 40); Czaya and Hesser (2001: p. 32).

Tate (2001); Mattli and Büthe (2003); Winn (2009).

Small (2009).

High-ranking officials interviewed belong to all the major bodies concerned in the international, American and European context of standardization: the American National Standard Institute (ANSI); the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM international), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CPSA), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN), the Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR), the British Standards Institution (BSI), and the Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN).

Taylor (2001: pp. 8–9); Van Dijk (2001); Chiapello and Fairclough (2002).

Toth (1984); Cargill (1989); Drèze (1989); OECD (1999); Vries (1999); Swann (2000); Blind (2004).

Temple and Williams (2002); Blind and Jungmittag (2005); ISO (2010); Prakash and Potoski (2010).

Tether, Hipp, and Miles (2001); Sundbo (2002); Sako (2009); Djellal and Gallouj (2010).

Loya and Boli (1999); Brunsson, Jacobsson, and Associates (2000); Tamm Hallström (2004); Higgins and Tamm Hallström (2007); Ruwet (2009); Loconto and Busch (2010); Timmermans and Epstein (2010); Busch (2011); Brunsson, Rasche, and Seidl (2012); Dobusch and Quack (2012).

Timmermans and Epstein (2010: p. 83).

Abbott and Snidal (2001); Spruyt (2001); Vogel (2009).

Schmidt and Werle (1998); Mattli and Büthe (2003); Büthe and Mattli (2011).

Egan (2001); Nicolaïdis and Egan (2001); Tate (2001).

Egan (2001: p. 37).

See respectively: Czaya and Hesser (2001); Werle (2001).

Tate (2001: p. 472).

Winn (2009: p. 21).

Egyedi (2005).

Dudouet, Mercier, and Vion (2006: p. 389).

Schepel (2005: p. 4).

Cox (1992).

Murphy (1994); Murphy and Yates (2009).

See in particular: Cutler, Haufler, and Porter (1999); Higgott, Underhill, and Bieler (1999); Hall and Bierstecker (2002); Schirm (2004); Grande and Pauly (2005); Djelic and Sahlin-Andersson (2006); Graz and Nölke (2008); Krause Hansen (2008); Büthe (2010).

Radu, Chenou, and Weber (2013).

Graz and Nölke (2008: p. 12).

Sassen (2003); Sassen (2006).

Tamm Hallström and Boström (2010).

Graz (2006a,b).

The regime includes standards-setting, accreditation, and certification – three processes that “traverse and integrate public and private spheres both within and across nations” (Loconto and Busch 2010; p. 508).

ISO Bulletin, January 1995.

In 2011, the 25 ISO technical committees setting standards considered to belong to the service classification were extremely diverse as the following list indicates: TC 17 Steel; TC 28 Petroleum products and lubricants; TC 43 Food products; TC 68 Financial services; TC 69 Applications of statistical methods; TC 96 Cranes; TC 108 Mechanical vibration, shock and condition monitoring; TC 127 Earth-moving machinery; TC 135 Non-destructive testing; TC 138 Plastics pipes, fittings and valves for the transport of fluids; TC 176 Quality management and quality assurance; TC 182 Geotechnics; TC 204 Intelligent transport system; TC 210 Quality management and corresponding general aspects for medical devices; TC 212 Clinical laboratory testing and in vitro diagnostic test systems; TC 214 Elevating work platforms; TC 222 Personal Financial Planning; TC 223 Societal Security; TC 224 Service activities relating to drinking water supply system and wastewater systems; TC 225 Market, opinion and social research; TC 228 Tourism and related services; TC 232 Educational Services. There are also some so-called “project committees” with a mandate to establish only one document; see for instance: TC 235 Project Committee: Rating services; TC 236 Project Committee: Project Management; TC 237 Project committee: Exhibition terminology; TC 239 Project committee: Network services billing; TC 250 Project committee: Sustainability in event management.

Prakash and Potoski (2006); Guler, Guillén, and Macpherson (2002); Lalonde and Boiral (2012).

See ISO/TMB Resolution 18/2012, available from: <http://isotc.iso.org/livelink/livelink/fetch/-15620806/15620808/15623592/15788626/TMB_Communiqué_Issue_Nr._40_%28March_2012%29.pdf?nodeid=15787295&vernum=-2>. Accessed 18 October 2013.

The recent revision of the «ISO/IEC Directives, Part 1, Consolidated ISO Supplement – Procedures specific to ISO» was precisely intended to rule and harmonize the development of management system standards with the introduction in the annex SL of a “High level structure, identical core text and common terms and core definitions for use in Management Systems Standards.”

See ISO/TMB Resolution 17/2012, “Management Systems Standards in tourism and related services” available from: <http://www.iso.org/iso/copolco_priority-programme_annual-report_2012.pdf>. Accessed 18 October 2013.

There are regional standardization bodies, most notably in the Americas (Pan American Standards Commission, COPANT and Asociación Mercosur de Normalización, AMN) and in Asia-Pacific (Pacific Area Standards Congress, PASC) and in Africa (African Regional Organization for Standardization, ARSO). As compared to the European system, however, their influence is still weak.

For a discussion of the increasing reliance on standardization in European law making and public policy from a legal pluralism approach, see: Joerges, Ladeur, and Ellen (1999).

Vogel (1995); Egan (2001).

CHESSS (2009a).

CHESSS (2009b: p. 109).

CHESSS (2009c: p. 223).

A guidance document for drafting service standards was published by CEN in 2012, “CEN Guide 15, guidance document for the development of service standards.” Available from: <ftp://ftp.cen.eu/BOSS/Reference_Documents/Guides/CEN/CEN_15.pdf>. Accessed 16 October 2013.

CEN/CEN Management Centre, Summary, Background and Proposals related to European Commission Programming Mandate M/371 in the Field of Services n.d. April 2009. According to the report, standardization work should be initiated in the following areas: accessibility of transport and tourist services, project management services in the field of engineering consultancy, services for residential homes and older persons, reception services, IT- and non-IT service outsourcing, and smart house services.

Author’s interview with Pascal Gautier, Head of the Management and Services Unit, Afnor, Paris, 18 April 2007.

See for instance COM 2011(311) Final: “Progress in the development of European standards for services has, however, been slow and recent years have seen the rapid growth in service standards at the national rather than the European level, (453 new national standards in 2005–2009, as opposed to only 24 European).”

In particular, the standardization package integrates Directive 98/34/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding the “procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations and of rules on Information Society services” (22 June 1998) and the Decision 1673/2006/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council on the financing of European standardization (24 October 2006).

See: <http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/european-standards/standardisation-policy/policy-review/results-public-consultation_en.htm>. Accessed 12 April 2012. Documents adopted in June 2011 by the European Commission are the following: Communication on a strategic vision for European standards – COM (2011) 311; Proposal for a Regulation on European Standardization – COM(2011)315.

Mattli (2001: p. 330).

Author’s interview with Gary Kushnier, Vice-President for international policy, ANSI, Washington D.C., 7 August 2009.

NIST (2010).

NIST (2009).

Represented governmental agencies include among others: Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Defense; industry members include among others: Motorola, IBM, Rockwell Automation, and Boeing; SDOs include among others: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, ASTM International, ASME, Underwriters Laboratories; civil society representatives include among others the National Consumer League and Consumers Union.

Authors’ interview with William Berger, Managing Director, ASME, and Bernard E. Hrubala, Sr. Vice President, ASME, and Division Manager of the Industrial Services Unit, TÜV Rheinland, New-York, 18 August 2009.

Authors’ interview with Bernard E. Hrubala, Sr. Vice President, ASME, and Division Manager of unit ‘Industrial Services’, TÜV Rheinland, New-York, 18 August 2009.

Authors’ interview with Katharine E. Morgan, Vice President, Technical Committee Operations, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, 19 August 2009.

Authors’ interview with Belinda Lowenhaupt Collins, Director for Technology Services, NIST, Gaithersburg, 3 August 2009.

Authors’ interview with Gary Kushnier, Vice-President for International Policy, ANSI, interview with the authors, Washington D.C., 7 August 2009.

Authors’ interview with Katharine E. Morgan, Vice President, Technical Committee Operations, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, 19 August 2009.


Authors’ interview with William Berger, Managing Director, Asme, and Bernard E. Hrubala, Sr. Vice President, ASME, and Division Manager of the Industrial Services Unit, TÜV Rheinland, New-York, 18 August 2009.

Authors’ interview with Gary Kushnier, Vice-President for International Policy, ANSI, Washington D.C., 7 August 2009.



Egan (2001: pp. 33–38).

Authors’ interview with Ziva Patir, former ISO Vice President, Geneva, 8 June 2007.

Citation Information: Business and Politics, ISSN (Online) 1469-3569, ISSN (Print) 1369-5258, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bap-2012-0009.

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