Increasing globalization of medicine and worldwide migration of physicians call for urgent definition of a set of global standards and requirements to guide medical education curricula. This article reviews the definition of standards in general, and proposes a definition of standards and global minimum essential requirements for use in medical education. They may serve as a tool for the improvement of quality and international comparisons of basic medical programs. Reviewing the use of medical standards worldwide, the China Medical Board established the Institute for International Medical Education (IIME). The IIME project is aimed at defining 'global minimum essential requirements' comprising sciences basic to medicine, clinical knowledge and skills, professional values, behavior and ethics of universal value. They represent only a portion of requirements since the curriculum of each country and medical school has to address its unique health and social needs. Finally, existing impediments and hesitation in use of international standards in medical education are presented.