Monday, March 27, 2017

FCC expands AB accreditation of labs in non-MRA countries

On March 23, 2017, the Federal Communication Commission daily digest published the expansion of scope to include accreditation of labs in non-MRA countries for two United States based laboratory accreditation bodies (AB), the National Voluntary Accreditation Program (NVLAP) administered by NIST and the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA).

The term MRA stands for Mutual Recognition Agreement. This reciprocal agreement between nations in its simplest form is an agreement to accept one another’s local conformity assessment body’s assessment of local laboratories and inspection bodies for testing and certification to the other country’s requirements. 

In an over-simplified sense, “You accept my test results, we’ll accept yours”. You can find a more thorough explanation and a list of countries with which the United States has an MRA in place on this FCC page.

For non-MRA countries there is no established government to government agreement to accept the other’s compliance assessment, many of these non-MRA countries require an inspection to be carried out by their own domestic labs or by an appointed government department making it far more expensive and time consuming to import into such economies. 

Some non-MRA countries follow other MRA programs such as the ILAC MRA that help to lower the time and costs associated with testing/inspection and facilitate trade.

The largest example, by population, of countries that do not have an MRA with the US, is commonly referred to as “BRICS” which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. 

With the expansion of scope for the two US accreditation bodies to include non-MRA countries the FCC opens a path for laboratories in non-MRA countries to test products for import to the US and provides a mechanism for quality control. 

Some have suggested that this may disincentivize non-MRA countries from pursuing a future MRA, which ultimately may have a negative impact on domestic test laboratories and small to medium scale domestic manufacturers.

What are some other considerations, good or bad, on the acceptance of non-MRA country assessments to US requirements?