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 July 10, 2000
ICC Calls For Common Standards For New Technologies

 The International Chamber of Commerce has called on G8 governments to adopt a common approach to health and safety standards in order to encourage the worldwide spread of new technologies in agriculture, biotechnology and life sciences.

In a statement handed to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) said business was "seriously concerned" at what it saw as growing public fear of some leading-edge technologies.

The statement said the new technologies held out the promise of dramatic improvements in human nutrition, especially in developing countries with rapid population growth, and in health care.

"Business recognizes the need for an informed dialogue to ensure that genuine public concerns are addressed," the ICC statement said. "We urge governments to play their roles in ensuring a balanced public debate, and particularly to underline the importance of risk assessment based on sound scientific enquiry.

"We also believe that it is vital for governments to cooperate closely in developing a common approach to health and safety standards and regulatory requirements in order to accelerate the global diffusion of new technologies and reduce the potential for further trade conflicts."

An ICC business delegation headed by ICC President Adnan Kassar, Chairman of the Fransabank Group, Lebanon, handed the statement to Mr Mori as host of the Okinawa summit later this month of the Group of Eight leading industrial countries. ICC national committees in each of the other G8 nations conveyed the statement to their respective governments.

The statement noted that major advances in communications and information technologies were opening up a huge potential for improving economic efficiency through electronic commercial transactions. However, the legal and regulatory framework needed to enable business and consumers to take full advantage of these technologies was not yet in place.

"The development of this framework requires a new partnership between business and governments, since each has distinct roles to play. Because of the rapidly-changing technology in this area, technical and regulatory standards and solutions should be flexible and be primarily developed by the private sector."

The essential role of governments was to establish a flexible and internationally consistent legislative and institutional framework that encouraged business to develop standards and push forward with technological innovation.

Governments were urged to focus on their key role of ensuring a level playing field on which firms could compete, as well as law and order and the protection of physical and intellectual property rights.