Once again, as is done every two years, hundreds of hours of valuable time have been expended to solicit, respond, collate, and distribute a report on the status of the adoption of IEC standards by the 21 member economies of APEC, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. Everyone in the private sector involved in this years’ effort, one that covered 168 targeted IEC standards, has remarked to anyone who would listen that the effort has contributed not one iota of additional electrical safety to the millions of consumers in these economies nor to the commercial success of manufacturers who provide the products. One wonders, why are we doing this?Sorry – what is VAP, you ask. Voluntary Action Plan, which outlines each member economy’s alignment of their standards with “international” standards. So, what’s the goal here – safe electrical installations or high VAP alignment scores? Ask the millions of parents, administrators, fire officials, etc. who see the big picture and they will tell you safety trumps alignment hands down. The APEC bureaucrats, on the other hand, take great delight in reporting their high alignment numbers, and equal delight questioning the not-so-stellar alignment of USA.To understand what is going on, and the distortions that are reflected in the VAP report, one has to have some understanding of the requirements of a safe electrical system, namely an installation code, product standards, testing and certification, and inspection. Omit any one of these and the safety of the system is suspect. Every safe and reliable electrical installation requires dozens of different types of products to function, from wires and switches, to protection devices and outlets, to conduits and junction boxes, to…you get the point. So we look at the compilation of the statistics and see that some economies only need 16 different standards to do all of this (!) and get a 100% alignment score, while others require dozens of standards (and effective product certification and effective inspection) but get low marks because many of their standards do not reference IEC standards. As if they are the only international electrical standards in play. What else are the statistics failing to disclose? That manufacturers of a number of products that seek IEC inclusion are being denied it because of antiquated IEC rules that permit an entrenched network of standards gurus to refuse to take action to include all the world’s safe products in IEC standards, or regularly stymie the efforts of those dedicated individuals who sincerely think their products should be available to consumers world-wide based on their history of safe, reliable performance. Of course this provides obvious commercial benefits to those who can maintain the status quo.

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