ASTM International has announced its support of the assessment on standards issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC). Titled "Standards and Competitiveness - Coordinating for Results," the new report assesses the Commerce Department's activities to reduce standards-related trade barriers and recommends steps to increase the reach and effectiveness of the DOC and other federal agencies' coordination of trade-related standards and conformity assessment. In a press conference on May 18, Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans said, "We have good news to tell. The Department has made tangible improvements in how we tackle standards-related issues that can distort trade and undermine the competitiveness of U.S. products. And there are more improvements to come." Affecting an estimated 80% of world trade, standards are critical to manufacturing competitiveness in global markets, as they can facilitate international trade or impede access to foreign markets, the report explains. In March 2003, the Commerce Department announced an eight-point initiative in response to growing concern by U.S. industry, trade associations, and standards development organizations regarding foreign standards development and technical regulation as important trade issues. Over the past year, ASTM International has been involved with this DOC initiative in the form of participation in industry roundtables, identifying priority standard issues in international markets, and commenting on training programs for commercial service officers. James A. Thomas, president of ASTM International, says, "We are pleased that the level of standards awareness has been raised through this initiative. We look forward to implementation of the recommendations in the report."