There are many advantages. By referencing standards in regulation, regulators satisfy domestic requirements, such as the Government of Canada Cabinet Directive on Regulation, and international commitments and trade requirements, such as the ones in the World Trade Organization Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. Standards are consensus-based, they are developed transparently, and they represent the state-of-the-art requirements for processes, organizations, and technologies. Moreover, they are continually updated as part of the normal standards lifecycle.
But the most important benefit to regulators is that standards are forward-looking. What I see in my work is that regulators must set requirements that protect Canadians without obstructing innovation and economic development. The challenge for regulators is that innovative technologies emerge and change faster than one can estimate the potential risks. When we work with regulators, we hear a lot about the need for agile and anticipatory regulations. The challenge is well-understood, but the ability to keep pace with innovation remains difficult. The good news is that within the innovation cycle, we often see standards development happening early. Technical committees, driven by innovators themselves, will often form out of an interest in standardizing and harmonizing technical approaches. This means that the standardization system is at the leading edge of the innovation curve.
Regulators can join the standards development process to gain insight into emerging risks, and, with proper regulatory impact analysis, the standards can form part of a regulator’s anticipatory rule-making process. In this way, the standardization system can give regulators an edge.