10 October 2017

CROSQ on Good Path

The following is an edited version of the speech by Outgoing Chairman of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality, Mr. Jose Trejo at the Opening of the 31st Meeting of the Council of CROSQ, held at Marriott Resort, Frigate Bay, St. Kitts & Nevis on October 5, 2017.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the 31st Council Meeting of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality. A special welcome to the Acting Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Weekes, we are glad that you could be here with us this morning to share a little bit of your time, surely enough we welcome you to stay for our seminar that will follow immediately after, to learn about the strides we are making in energy standards etc.  Let me also extend our sincerest gratitude to our host, Mr. Hiram Williams, Director of the St. Kitts Bureau of Standards for receiving us so graciously during our short stay. To the Directors, friends and colleagues present, I extend a warm welcome.

Before I address you, in my last capacity as Chairman of the Council, I would like to take this time to express our deepest sympathies to all the Caribbean Islands – CARICOM and non-CARICOM – that have been devastated by the passing of two successive and powerful hurricanes in the likes of Irma and Maria. As I watched the images light up on the television screen, I admittedly was jaded, as I am sure most of us were, in disbelief that this could be happening and that it did. The images that you no doubt have seen are a stark reminder that Mother Nature unleashes her fury at will and that the only thing that we can be thankful for in the aftermath, is life itself. Anything outside of this can be replaced. Anything outside of this can be rebuilt; but more so it speaks to the resolve of the unbreakable human spirit to carry on despite the heartbreaking devastation. I am positive that the strength and courage of the peoples of the Caribbean will prevail and that life as we know it will return to some sense of normalcy. We wish for a speedy recovery with the hope that the rhythmic sounds of steel pan and salsa will soon reverberate, flowing from the comfort of homes into the streets, fast restoring what we have come to recognise as truly Caribbean.

Colleagues, now to the order of business. As we gather here today at this 31st meeting, there is an enormous sense of pride felt as I reflect on what we collectively have achieved. It is without question that the Regional Quality Infrastructure (RQI) that we have been tirelessly focusing on over the past decade, is now bearing fruit.  In no special order, the region boasts its first ever Regional Quality Policy; a 5-year regional standards development priority plan; laboratories accredited with some as I speak in the pipeline; establishment of two Caribbean Reference Laboratories in Volume and Temperature; Quality Awards schemes developed, marketing and communication plans that in principle are packaged to promote and sell QI services; a Secretariat that has developed an on-demand skill-set that can now confidently extend itself to the wider region.  Fair to say that the majority of this was accomplished under the 10th EDF-TBT project executed by the PTB with CROSQ and INDOCAL serving as sub-executing agencies.

To this end, it is important to recognise the technical and financial support that the region has received from its regional and international partners and donor agencies. Arms outstretched, it also serves as given testimony that the region has slowly gained the trust and confidence of it partners and agencies as evidenced in the scaling up of recent initiatives, namely CDB, Tradecom and the PTB to mention a few.  As this pool widens so will the benefits flow towards the continued advancement of the RQI.

Colleagues, as we push towards a new frontier we are bound to encounter challenges. I therefore urge you to be ever so mindful that we must in collective fashion, continue to rally as a group to overcome these challenges. Please allow me to say, that no one institution should bear the burden and struggle of solving institutional challenges on its own especially when among you is a repository of experiences that can be draw upon to provide the lift that we more than often need.

With this, I ask those of you who have spent a great portion of your professional careers in quality systems to continue to provide your support and to continue to be the stalwarts for QI. To the new comers – and once upon a time I would consider myself in this group but my grey hair now tells me otherwise – I want to encourage you to be open and willing to bring fresh and innovative ideas to a dynamic field that could  never be short of it.

If you will allow me, I would now like to personally thank the Council for giving me this opportunity to serve as the Chairman. It was indeed an honour and privilege to serve in this capacity for the past two years. It was quite an experience, as I have candidly echoed to some of you, much of the credit is due to the work of the CEO and the staff of the Secretariat. Under his sound leadership and support CROSQ is gradually distinguishing itself from the pack, elevating itself as a premier CARICOM Organisation on this platform for RQI.

The CEO continues to thread the needle to ensure that the internal environment at the level of the Secretariat continues to evolve to meet the multidimensional and multidisciplinary needs of the external environment in our region. This has brought to bear a Branding Strategy that is tightly knit to meet the region’s needs in an efficient and effective manner. It should come as no surprise then that we are indeed turning heads. The CEO’s efforts to draw the attention of regional and international organisations to the unfolding of an RQI in the Caribbean has been nothing short of relentless.

This pivoted on the successes that the region has been experiencing despite the multiplicity of needs across an economic and geographical space that may at times, appear far and wide. The push for the RQI in the Caribbean to stand its own, is an opportunity to explore new frontiers across other regional organisations that not only can assist and support our region but that can also equally learn from us. The CEO has ensured that this plays out to the tune of a region that is outward looking; fully embracing of new alliances that will undoubtedly propel the growth and development of the RQI further into the foreseeable future.  To the CEO and his staff, I extend my deepest and sincerest gratitude for all the support that they have given me during this time. 

I think it is most appropriate to close with a bold declaration that the RQI is on an unprecedented path of development and as it continues to gather momentum, I remain ever so excited and positive about its future. It is my sincerest hope that we continue to support the Secretariat and the incoming Chair as they carry us into what I consider a promising future.

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, let not our hearts be troubled, the RQI is in a good place.  I welcome you and thank you once again.

(Mr. Trejo is also the Director of the Belize Bureau of Standards.)

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The following is an edited version of the speech delivered by Acting Executive Director of the St. Kitts & Nevis Bureau of Standards (SKNBS), Mr. Hiram Williams at the Opening of the 31st Meeting of the Council of CROSQ, held at the Marriott Resort, Frigate Bay, St. Kitts & Nevis on Thursday, October 5, 2017. 

"Being part of the global market, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is signatory to trade agreements such as the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement, implemented within the World Trade Organisation (WTO), for which the Bureau of Standards is designated as the Enquiry Point. Under the TBT agreement, states parties are obligated to base their national technical regulations on international standards and to participate in conformity assessments systems.

The World Trade Organization Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO/TBT) recognises the importance and the role of international standards and conformity assessment systems in improving efficiency in production and facilitating global trade. The process of developing National Standards requires significant technical and financial resources. Member States have to use the limited technical and financial resources well.

Developing and effectively implementing standards is not only a lengthy exercise but also costly. A lot of people from these organizations take personal loans to cover such costly expenses! It is important that we make good use of these limited resources to develop our Quality Infrastructure as it relates to Standardisation, Metrology, Certification, Accreditation and Conformity Assessment. Our membership in CROSQ provides us with access to standards developed and harmonised through the coordinated effort of the organisation's Technical Management Committee (TMC). Hence, the Government will continue to support  the  Bureau’s  participation in our own regional organisation CARICOM Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), and also support our strategic alliance with International Organisations such as the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), the Inter-American Metrology System (SIM), Codex Alimentarius (the world’s  most recognised food standards body), Pan-American Standards Commission (COPANT), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and ASTM International.

The SKNBS is happy to participate in CROSQ's programme to harmonise regional standards and promote their awareness to improve competiveness and facilitate regional and international trade.  In this regard, we commend CROSQ for developing a regional standardisation strategy and also for assisting the Member States in developing their own National Standardisation Strategies.

We are pleased with our partnership with CROSQ and the other Member States as we work together as a region to influence the content of International Standards.  And indeed, this was demonstrated recently under the SKNBS's project – “Enhancing the National Quality Infrastructure of ST. Kitts and Nevis”, where we received valuable technical assistance from CROSQ in providing the Technical Officer for Standards from the Secretariat and the Chief Technical Officer for Standards at the Barbados National Standards Institute (BNSI), Mr St. Prix and Mr Scott respectively, to assist us in the implementation of the National Standardisation Strategy. Similarly, we are grateful to the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) and Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS) for facilitating training attachments for SKNBS technical staff.

Standards and Conformity Assessment procedures are critical and essential to our national quality infrastructure as it relates to health and safety, industry and commerce and to the nation's economic performance. It is estimated that about 80% of global trade in goods and services is affected by standards and technical regulations based on standards.  For this and other economic reasons, it is essential for countries to develop and implement national standardisation strategies that will facilitate the development and adoption of standards to meet market needs and requirements to effectively compete and trade globally.

Our membership in regional and international organisations permits us to influence the development and content of regional and international standards and conformity assessment programmes that enhance our position in the global marketplace.

So in addition to our involvement in CROSQ and being the enquiry point for the WTO - TBT agreement, the Bureau is also:

  • Contact point for Codex Alimentarius, the leading international food standard organisation,
  • one of the contact points for International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN),
  • focal point for the Stockholm Convention that deals with the reduction and eventual elimination of persistent organic pollutants, and also,
  • the focal point for the Minamata Convention.

And I am pleased to inform you that on the advice of the Bureau of Standards, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis ratified the Minamata convention in May 2017.  The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.

In keeping with the Bureau’s responsibilities and the Federation's obligations under international trade agreements, such as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the Bureau has embarked on the development of training programmes and projects specifically geared towards building our Quality Infrastructure. And, as mentioned earlier, we requested and received technical assistance from CROSQ for development and implementation of a process to adopt and develop standards according to best practices. One of the main outcomes was the establishment of six (6) technical committees to address issues and matters that are relevant and important to the Federation. The committees established were:

  • National Committee on Environmental Management;
  • Committee on Labelling;
  • Committee on Tourism and Related Services;
  • National Committee on Codex, to deal with Food Safety and Standards;
  • National Committee on Information and Communication Technology, and
  • The Energy, Electrical and Mechanical Technical Committee

And these six committees are in addition to the existing National Committee of Conformity Assessment Bodies, which is chaired by Dr Marcus Natta, SKNBS’ Science and Research Manager, who is also the National Accreditation Focal Point and presently in Geneva attending  one of ISO's -  Committee on Conformity Assessment (CASCO) working group meetings.

Another programme that the SKNBS benefited from was also supported by CDB under the 10th EDF standby facility project “Enhancing the National Quality infrastructure of St. Kitts and Nevis”. This project provided assistance to the Bureau (SKNBS) to undertake development plans to ensure accuracy and reliability of its test results. Hence a major milestone in this plan is to be accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 standard and upgrade and acquiring key pieces of equipment. During the last 12 months, the SKNBS staff has worked extremely hard in developing and receiving training for the implementation of a Quality Management System as per the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025. And as I said, our aim is to be accredited by 2018 starting with selected microbiology tests.

I want to take this opportunity to commend the CEO and staff of CROSQ, particularly over the last year where there has been a drive with success to develop and establish new partnerships and cooperation with relevant regional and international organisations of interest to Member States. We have to adapt to a changing world and this type of partnership and cooperation will help CROSQ to demonstrate and establish itself as a significant and relevant regional standards organisation that can prepare Member States to have an impact on the content of international standards.

Therefore, on behalf of the Minister and the Ministry of International trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, we express our appreciation for having the opportunity to host the 31st Council of CROSQ meeting and Energy Awareness Seminar and wish that we have a fruitful and successful two days of deliberations.

Thank you."

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