New avenues for expanding intra-African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) trade are being explored, using quality as the basis for strengthening partnerships with CARICOM Member States.
This development comes with the launch of a second component of a joint TradeCom II Programme/ CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) initiative, funded by the ACP-European Union. The Kick-off meeting on the 11 March 2019 featured the start of this 2nd component of the TradeCom II programme. The overall aim of this TradeCom II intervention is to provide assistance to develop the quality services in the region, thereby allowing for increased trade capacity, competitiveness, diversification and economic performance. CARICOM’s National Bureaux of Standards (NSBs) are the main focus for the activities.
The project aims to:
o contribute to the activation of intra-regional quality infrastructure agreements in support of market access and improved trade performance through improved capacity in standards and technical regulations development and implementation in CARICOM. This will be facilitated through a feasibility study for developing trade capacity, enabling sustainability Standards and associated conformity assessment modalities, modelling the success of the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) and a comparability study with European Standards Organisation/European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CEN/CENELEC).
o support the development of an optimized quality infrastructure in the Pacific Region for enhanced trade competitiveness. This entails enhancing the understanding and capacity for developing Quality Infrastructure (QI) in the Pacific Islands Forum States (PIFS) through sharing the experiences of CROSQ, ARSO and CEN/CENELEC.
To achieve these goals, CROSQ will be working with the Quality Institute consultants to improve the capacity in standards and technical regulations development, and to reinforce the quality infrastructure cooperation between CROSQ, ARSO and the PIF. ARSO and PIFS are intergovernmental organisations like CROSQ that attempt to foster greater cooperation with and amongst members towards the development of the respective regions.
In his welcoming remarks on behalf of CROSQ, manager, Mr. Mohan Nandwani, pointed out that it was heartening that within the framework of activating intra-regional quality infrastructure agreements to support market access and improved trade, that this phase of the entire intervention would also see greater cooperation amongst the partners involved.
“This initiative will also include a feasibility study for developing trade capacity, enabling sustainability standards and associated conformity assessment modalities by CROSQ. This will be achieved through collaboration with ARSO. CROSQ will also be providing support to the development of an optimised quality infrastructure in the Pacific region to enhance their trade competitiveness and understanding of QI,” he said.
The European Union (EU) Delegation’s Programme Manager, Mr. Sheldon Jackman echoed the sentiments on the importance of such collaborations.
“We at the EU were heartened by the fact that cooperation was the underlying factor in making the project under the 10th EDF [European Development Fund] a successful one, and we also see that cooperation is one of the key pillars under the EPA,” he said, noting the necessity of collaborations between national and regional authorities in the area of quality towards facilitating both intra- and inter-regional trade.
He added that the EU was also encouraged by the fact that this project demonstrated a bridge between the 10th and 11th EDF Technical Barriers to Trade programmes, demonstrating the significance of collaboration, enthusiasm and cooperation, “to ensure that the commitments under the EPA by the CARIFORUM states are still being well implemented and are still top of mind”.
“Finally, I would like to stress the importance of the work being done that needs to be centred, not only on the protection of consumers but also on the private sector in the Caribbean, with practices that respond to its needs, that focus on the value chain, that build on the potential of the Caribbean economies, and concretely help businesses to export more and to achieve market penetration, not only in the EU but in other countries,” Mr. Jackman added.
CROSQ Project coordinator, Mr. Stephen Farquharson, who is also the Technical Officer – Accreditation and Conformity Assessment, noted that jointly, these initiatives revealed synergies in their objectives. Whilst the first phase focussed on the creation of a regional guide for Good Regulatory Practices, he stated that the current project was developed against the background of new and emerging practices to meet international requirements. He further noted that the initiatives also highlighted the need for interventions that would assist bureaux with coping with their changing roles in new environments; the growing need for inter-operability and the need for awareness of the economic benefits of standards.
The Lead Key Expert, Mr. Sibbesen was keen about analysing some of the factors contributing to the RQI not being fully successful and to use this opportunity to recommend strategies for its’ strengthening. There needs to be a proper balance between the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) and the Regional Quality Infrastructure (RQI) with proper involvement of the end-users (producers, manufacturers – who are mostly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)).
Mr. Fulgence St. Prix noted that the “Quality Culture” of CARICOM is generally developing through increasing awareness of the importance of quality, hence the need to continue to build capacity via quality promotions. Endorsing the importance of the project, Mr. St. Prix further indicated that through the successful implementation of this project we will see the strengthening of relations between CROSQ and CEN/CENELEC; CROSQ and ARSO, which fits with the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) established between CROSQ and the EU standards body; and which redounds to increase maturity of the CROSQ network.
National Standards Bureaux (NSBs) and other quality improvement and control-related institutions in Caribbean are to receive assistance in implementing technical barriers to trade (TBT) provisions to better comply with trade requirements as laid out by the World Trade Organisation agreements.
The initiative is funded by the TradeCom II Programme, which is an African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) – European Union (EU) funded project. It targets NSBs and related institutions to also help them prepare for the trade provisions of the CARIFOUM EU Economic Partnership Agreement. It is being managed by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ), as part of the ACP/EU’s TradeCom II Programme.
At the kick-off meeting held recently in Barbados at the CROSQ’s Headquarters in Baobab Towers, Warrens, St. Michael, representatives of the European Union, CROSQ, the Barbados National Standards Institution, TradeCom II, Quarein – the technical assistance consultants, and the CROSQ Secretariat spoke about the varying benefits of the project.
CROSQ CEO, Mr. Deryck Omar noted that the activities under the project would allow quality institutions to better create a regional Good Regulatory Practices (GRP) guide “to gather and harmonize the disparate GRP knowledge across the Caribbean and also to enable Member States to cascade this guide into national GRP Codes of Practice (CoP)”.
“This ultimately will help countries in CARICOM by the adoption of a common approach to the development and implementation of technical regulations, as well as provide the grounds for a platform for formalized capacity development through training and awareness programmes,” he said. Furthermore, it is a natural complement to the CROSQ led CARICOM Regional Quality Policy (RQP) approved by the CARICOM Council of Ministers for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in November 2017.
A new CROSQ regional TBT, Information Management Systems and Enquiry Point (TIE) Committee has also been formed to serve as technical support to the key expert of the project. Representatives are drawn from Barbados, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and St. Lucia, to name a few, along with Observer representatives from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Secretariat, and the Dominican Institute for Quality, the NSB of the Dominican Republic.
Cooperation Trade Policy Manager with the EU Delegation to Barbados, CARIFORUM and the Eastern Caribbean States, Mr Adam Wisniewski expressed his pleasure at seeing yet another trade initiative forged from the TradeCom II Programme, noting that such efforts would help to bridge the gaps between the recently concluded EU-funded 10th EDF-TBT development programme, and the upcoming 11th EDF iteration.
Mr Wisniewski expressed interest in seeing the advancement of areas specifically dealing with GRPs in the preparation, adoption and application of technical regulations across the region as a means of both consumer protection and raising the standard of quality of goods produced or used within the region.
Project manager, Mr. Stephen Farquharson of CROSQ pointed out that there were many potential opportunities to be had for both governments and businesses that upheld the rules of international commitments made to the World Trade Organisation’s TBT and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Trade Facilitation Agreements, which includes reflective articles of engagement in the EPA.
Under this TradeCom II project, there will be support for developing guides for legislation; harmonised forms of documentation and the supply of data; training programmes for individuals in the TBT and regulatory areas and promotion of the activities through monitoring and support for the TIE Committee.
Mr. Farquharson also noted that this project would help governments improve their efficiency and compliance with market requirements; reduce costs of providing services; enhance communication with trade-related entities; protect consumers and aid the economic wellbeing of stakeholders. Businesses, he said, would also benefit through the simplification of procedures and legal requirements; reduction of ambiguity and dissent and the development of better communication between the border/regulatory agencies and the stakeholders.
Quarein expressed their appreciation for being given the opportunity to work on this project to further aid the development of trade and quality infrastructure projects, noting that the team looked forward to a regionally inclusive, consensus based and collaborative approach on delivering the regional GRP Guide and a sample national COP derived through the same process. There is also to be an information and educational campaign to encourage use of the documents.
Two regional partners regaled the importance of cooperation in achieving beneficial objectives, as a new project was launched recently to help improve quality systems in the Caribbean.
The “Strengthening of the Regional Quality Infrastructure Programme”, a joint initiative between the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), is funded by the CDB to the tune of US$750,000.
The three main objectives of the 18-months project are:
- Development of National Quality Policies (NQPs) using the Regional Quality Policy (RQP) in at least five countries with associated Implementation Roadmaps in order to strengthen the policy and regulatory framework to support national quality infrastructure (NQI) development;
- Technical assistance to at least two testing laboratories for International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 17025 accreditation; and,
- Design and implementation of a comprehensive information and awareness campaign to promote and sensitise stakeholders on matters relating to the operationalisation of the quality policies and to improve knowledge and use of accredited testing services.
At the launch, held at the CDB’s Conference Room, Wildey, St. Michael, Barbados, one of the Directors of CROSQ, Mrs. Anthea Ishmael noted that this project was coming at a time when the organisation was ever expanding its partnerships regionally and internationally.
She noted that projects, including with the European Union, the Federal Republic of Germany through the German National Metrology Institute, the CARICOM Energy Unit, the African Regional Standards Organisation (ARSO); the European Committee for Standardization, ASTM International, United Nations Industrial and Development Organisation, the ACP Secretariat and several others were all partnerships that were bringing value to the region by expanding the expertise of quality professionals and institutions here.
This new project, would continue adding value to what currently exists, said Mrs. Ishmael, who is also Acting Director of the Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI).
“Our region has always had tremendous potential, but challenges have existed and continue to exist in accessing opportunities and technical assistance to push our industries further; to make our sectors more competitive beyond our shores. This is where the CROSQ and CDB can be more effective in our relationship – bringing that kind of value to those who need it,” she noted.
In remarking on the Bank’s commitment to development and integration, Coordinator of Regional Cooperation and Integration, Ms. Andrea Power stated: “The project is indicative of the Bank’s belief in and commitment to regional integration as the basis on which our economies can achieve global competitiveness. It is for this reason that the Bank has given priority to partnering with technically competent regional institutions to facilitate the implementation of regional decisions and policies at the national level. All this with the ultimate goal of increasing intra-regional trade.”
CROSQ is the network of 15 national bureaux of standards of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Its partnerships with the CDB date back to 2012 when the two entities first began cooperating towards creating regional standards and quality systems in specific sectors.
Following the launch, the Project Steering Committee for the Strengthening of the Regional Quality Infrastructure Programme, met to discuss a number of issues pertinent to the success of the project. The Committee is comprised of representatives of the CDB, CROSQ, the Caribbean Export and Development Agency (CEDA) and a regional QI institution and accreditation body.
The CARICOM Region now has its first accredited citrus plant pathology laboratory, located in Belize.
The Belize Citrus Growers Association’s (CGA) was awarded the ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation certificate by the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) at the 32nd Meeting of the Council of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) held in Barbados recently.
The CGA’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Henry Anderson noted that this accreditation was proof that the laboratory was competent to perform tests to the “General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories” ISO / IEC 17025 Standard.
“Continuous analysis of the regional and global marketplace led us to the realization that we were competing not in a traditional citrus industry but in a juice industry. While we must redouble our efforts to expand our citrus production, we must do so while complementing our citrus production with the production of other fruit varieties and vegetables that can be processed to formulate the juice blends that are now being demanded by the regional and global marketplace,” he said.
To do this, he noted that the association set out to achieve management system certification of its Plant World Nursery with assistance from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which should happen by the end of this year; accreditation of its laboratories operated by the association’s research arm, the Citrus Research and Education Institute (CREI); improvement of its commercial services and scaling up operations within its production and processing company. All these elements, he maintained, would strengthen the overall citrus value chain operated by CGA.
“Our vision was in the first instance to improve customer service and then to attract resources to get ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for the lab and ISO 9001:2015 certification for Plant World Nursery. These would be leveraged to submit a proposal and get exclusive access to two patented HLB Valencia citrus varieties that were being released in Florida.”
The CDB has played a crucial role in financing the technical assistance to get the laboratory and nursery towards certification and then accreditation status. CROSQ provided the technical assistance for the accreditation through its Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme.. In this case, JANAAC was the accreditation body that conducted the assessments to verify the lab’s conformance to the standard.
The CEO also praised his team for their commitment. “We have a very small team, but they set sail down the river of uncertainty and worked seven days per week, twelve to fifteen hours per day to get accredited for five test methods - HLB, Citrus Psorosis, Citrus Tristeza, pH water and pH soil. All tests that are critical to the production of citrus nursery plants that must comply with the Belize Agricultural Health Authority’s Belize Citrus Certification Program regulations.
“CDB relied on CROSQ to provide technical oversight for the project and both organizations allowed us to synchronize the work of their respective consultants - Mrs. Maxine Campbell for CROSQ project and Dr. Raymond Reid for CDB project. This collaboration by two regional organizations is a model to be replicated,” stated Mr. Anderson.
Coordinator, Regional Cooperation and Integration in the Regional Cooperation Division of the CDB, Ms. Andrea Power stated: “CDB’s support for the accreditation of the CGA Lab both through the EU EPA Standby Facility and the CDB’s Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services (CTCS) is part of an overall effort by the Bank to support regional cooperation and integration in general and to facilitate increased intra-regional trade in particular. The Bank remains committed to supporting enhanced quality infrastructure so that more regionally produced goods can meet market access requirements.”
CROSQ’s CEO, Mr. Deryck Omar, who praised all the partners involved said it was a proud moment for the organisation and the collaborative mechanisms within the CARICOM Region which saw this accreditation come to pass.
“When the CROSQ Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme was established, it was envisioned as a way to not only bring the cost of accreditation down across the region, but as a way to pool our knowledge and skills as a region, so those with the expertise could assist, through a cooperative arrangement, those who needed support to accreditation and did not have all the requisite resources. Since the scheme started under the 10th EDF-TBT (European Development Fund-Technical Barriers to Trade) Programme, we’ve seen more and more labs being accredited under the CCA.
“All this also comes together because of donor agencies who are willing to also put their contributions behind the process, and that’s where organisations like the Caribbean Development Bank, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the European Union (EU) and others, who have played a part, because it is a serious financial undertaking when labs decide to take this step toward accreditation. The wonderful thing about it though is that we have been proving throughout the CARICOM chain that the benefits are worth it, for the lives, health and safety of our Caribbean populations.”
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.)
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.
The hard work of developing Quality Infrastructure in the Caribbean is just starting to pay off.
That’s the view of quality expert, Mr. Pat Paladino, as he addressed a meeting of National Accreditation Focal Points (NAFP) officials from eight CARICOM countries in Barbados this week. The workshop is an initiative under the 10th EDF-TBT Programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ), the German Metrology Institute (PTB) and the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL). It ends on Friday, February 17.
Mr. Paladino is one of the trainers at the workshop, which is led by Mrs. Claudette Brown – Accreditation consultant and trainer.
Mr. Paladino noted that the global market was moving ahead in areas requiring product tested by labs accredited by an accreditation body that is a signatory to international accreditation agreements. Failure to meet the international requirements could result in a close out for products of the Caribbean, he noted.
“Developed markets set the rules and they’ve embraced the international accreditation system. If the Caribbean can’t meet these rules, our businesses and exporters are not going to be able to do business in these markets. Also, if the region is unable to provide recognized accreditation and conformity assessment services, then businesses and manufacturers will have to look outside the region to be able to have their products tested.
“Typically, businesses would have to go to the US, Canada or Europe and the cost of testing in these countries is probably 10 or 20 times the cost of doing it here, if we had the capabilities. That’s pretty significant for these manufacturers,” he remarked.
The expert, who is a former President of the InterAmerican Accreditation Cooperation, the internationally recognised association of accreditation bodies in the Americas and other organisations interested in conformity assessment, said this was why the work of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and the National Standards Bodies (NSBs) of the region was so important to mitigating some of the international risks.
“All the hard work is finally starting to pay off. There was a slow start getting people on board, knowledgeable and trained, but today we have an accreditation body that is already recognised internationally. We are also seeing a number of labs, both in the medical and testing area, come forward and attain accreditation. So, we are taking small steps, but the question is, are we moving fast enough,” he said.
Governments, he pointed out, must be made to understand why these processes are so important to national and regional development. Standards development organisation must adopt or adapt international standards as national standards to support businesses and export.
Mrs Brown’s indicated that participants would be reviewing the requirements of the ISO/IEC 17025 standard. She pointed out that this standard was applicable to all laboratories and can be used by the NAFPs to assist these labs in the development of their management systems for quality, administrative and technical operations. She pointed out that the workshop would also be covering other supporting information, including the benefits of accreditation, the accreditation process and assessor attributes. The participants were encouraged to participate fully in the activities of the week in order to maximize the benefits.
CROSQ’s Technical Officer – Accreditation, Mr. Stephen Farquharson explained that the role of the NAFP was to assist Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) with their quest for international accreditation to meet the needs of businesses. He told the officials from Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis and Suriname that the week-long training would give them the basics needed to provide the necessary assistance to CABs, and especially laboratories.
With a primary focus on increasing exports out of The Bahamas, the Government there has just launched the newest standards organisation in the region – The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ).
As the country rang in its 43rd anniversary of Independence, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Mr. Perry Christie, noted they indeed had a lot to celebrate, including the establishment of the bureau.
“As a Government, we hold that the formulation and maintenance of standards and quality by BBSQ is essential, not optional; it is a necessary and well-considered strategy. It is a primary plank in my government’s plan to expand national development through trade, primarily through increased exports of Bahamian goods and services and access into new markets. The Bureau is also important in terms of local consumer protection,” the Prime Minister noted in recognition of the achievement.
He further extolled: “The ultimate objective is to enhance the quality of life for the Bahamian people for the long term.”
His sentiments were echoed by the Minister of Financial Services and Local Government, Mrs. Hope Strachan, whose portfolio has primary responsibility for the bureau. She too noted the need for standards and a focus on quality in the Bahamian society.
“We are fully aware that transforming the culture in both the manufacturing and services sectors to comply with new internationally accepted national standards could possibly result in apprehension and skepticism from the business community and even the general public. I wish to advise, however, that these changes, once implemented will improve public confidence and create new opportunities for Bahamian and international investors and put our relationship with our trading partners on an even playing field,” she noted.
The Minister further invited stakeholders to join with Government as it made this vital step to take advantage of the opportunities to expand the Bahamian economy and global trade.
Both the Prime Minister and Minister, lauded the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and other agencies for the role in helping the BBSQ’s establishment, including training, financial and technical assistance.
Chairman of CROSQ, Mr. Jose Trejo hailed the launch as a momentous occasion for the Bahamas as well as the region as a whole.
“The institutionalization of the Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality is a declaration that the Government of the Bahamas recognises the need to install the requisite infrastructure to support and promote a culture for quality; but more so, it is a reflection of the government’s commitment to ensure, above all, the health and safety of its peoples and its environment. By extension, it underpins the socioeconomic importance that the Bahamas places on the development of trade in goods and services as it now openly seeks to embed quality infrastructure in its national development dynamics. This not only enhances the national effort, but also serves to draw us closer in our unrelenting regional endeavour at harmonizing our economies across a single space…
“Strategically, our mandate within CROSQ is to facilitate trade and competitiveness of CARICOM products and services for sustainable development through the implementation of a regional quality infrastructure. This we intend to achieve by offering support to the national bureaux of standards in the development of their own national quality infrastructures. With this in mind, over the past seven years, CROSQ has been working closely with the Bahamas having undertaken various onsite and offsite interventions. These interventions have led to the provision of equipment, training attachments, workshops and seminars, and meetings,” said the Chairman, adding that it was also significant that increasingly women were stepping into the roles of leadership in the development of the region’s quality infrastructure.
Director of the BBSQ, Dr. Renae Ferguson-Bufford added her voice of thanks to the Government of The Bahamas, as well as the various agencies and programmes that allowed them to reach this point.
“The Bahamas has long been known as a stable economy within the Caribbean; but to advance further towards globalization, we must turn our attention to the building blocks of a sustainable and viable quality infrastructure. This means developing national standards based on international requirements, developing a metrology regime to ensure free and fair trade of goods and services, and building conformity assessment services which include testing, market surveillance, certification and accreditation of our laboratories and other systems of operations.
“We cannot afford to be left behind in terms of global markets access, industry competitiveness, innovation, further development and growth of this country's main economic sectors of tourism and financial services; and in the areas of agriculture, public and environmental healthcare, and the list goes on and on. We believe our strategic plan is properly aligned to the national development plan and Vision 2040 of the Government,” said Dr. Bufford.
The CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) is on a thrust to make quality a way of life in the region.
CEO of CROSQ, Mr. Deryck Omar made this clear as he addressed media yesterday during a break at a forum of directors of standards bureaux in CARICOM. Remarking on the challenges identified by some directors in the development of standards, the CEO remarked that this was one of the reasons behind the current drafting of a Regional Quality Policy for CARICOM.
“At the regional level the 15 CEOs of the Bureaux of Standards have gotten together and we are basically writing a regional constitutional document on what quality consciousness is all about and how to foster and promote a quality culture in the Caribbean region. We have that document in draft form and we are currently developing that and once we get that approved we would want to distribute that widely through the region, and that will be a Regional Quality Policy approved by policymakers as to what we believe quality is,” he said at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) CEO Forum being held at Courtyard by Marriott in Barbados from July 4 to 6, 2016.
He noted this was one of the ways to address the challenges bureaux experienced with engaging stakeholders. In relation to engagement with industry to increase the uptake and use of standards, the CEO explained that CROSQ was supporting each of the 15 bureaux within CARICOM to develop and improve their awareness, marketing and communications with stakeholders.
“Being scientists we love standards development, we love testing, measurement infrastructure, but when it comes to engaging with people and society and those softer issues, that is a new talent we are helping the bureaux to bring into their core as to how to develop marketing and communication plans, how to reach out to [the media] the help us spread the message of standards and the use of it,” he added.
Finally, he stated that the attraction and retention of staff, as well as financing were issues bureaux indicated challenges with and which CROSQ as a network of bureaux of standards was trying to assist. “At the regional level we look for a lot of donor funded projects that can support Member States to invest in resources, be they people, be they tools, be they equipment or even work methods and then what we do is develop frameworks that helps these bureaux to share these resources across the region.”
The ISO-sponsored forum is being facilitated by ISO Acting Secretary General, Mr. Kevin McKinley, who said the intent was to maximise the shared knowledge and connect the Caribbean more fully with the world and influence the standards process.
“There is a huge gap, a huge opportunity, that exists right now. We cannot run a region, a country, only by mandatory rules, only by laws. You need organised market forces that compliment public policy objectives. International standards are set up in a way that involves the key countries and the key countries include the Caribbean in a lot of areas that are of priority to this region.
“So how do you get to the table on subjects that make most sense and influence the standards that are going to have the most impact on how global new public policy related to climate change, related to the environment, energy efficiency . . . These policies are coming out at a global level and you need tools to implement them at a national level and a company level.”
Mr. McKinley acknowledged that not all members were equal in their level of development, but noted this forum was intended to take the best practices from each and help each other implement.
The forum, sponsored by ISO, is hosted by the Barbados National Standards Institution, and facilitated as well by CROSQ.
If the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ) is to press ahead to aid the development of quality goods and services across the region that trade and compete internationally, regional governments and businesses need to play their part.
That was the view of accreditation expert, Mr. Pat Paladino, as he addressed a symposium to mark World Accreditation Day in Guyana this week.
Mr. Paladino, addressing an audience that included Minister of Business, Mr. Dominic Gaskin, regional leaders in quality infrastructure development, as well as regulators and private sector business leaders, acknowledged the role that the two major accreditations in Guyana; one in Jamaica and one in Grenada utilising CROSQ’s Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme, had played in pushing quality to the forefront of discussion.
He also highlighted the Caribbean Network of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CANCAB) another programme created by CROSQ to assist the development of the region’s conformity assessment bodies, namely the inspection, testing and certification entities within both the private and public sector.
Additionally, said the international accreditation expert, the National Standards Bodies of Belize, Suriname and Jamaica, had all been certified to the ISO 9001 quality management system, with the assistance of CROSQ, but all this work was only the start of what was needed in the region.
“The CARICOM and CARIFORUM Regions have much more to do to be able to ensure that all quality and quality-related services are available within the regions. There are many more standards to adopt or adapt and many more conformity assessment bodies to accredit. There is a need for the development of capabilities within the NABs for product, services and personnel certification bodies and inspection bodies.
“It is also necessary to obtain international recognition of the National Accreditation Bodies for certification and inspection bodies. Each one is a formidable task, but I have confidence that the organizations are up for the task,” said the accreditation consultant.
“All this work and the achievements will go to waste if there is no uptake by government or business. That is the policies and programmes developed must be embraced and put to use. Regional standards that are harmonized internationally must be adopted at the national level. National regulations must start to reference the use of these standards and address qualification of organizations to the international standards.
“The time is now to show such commitments. Without your commitment it will become extremely difficult for Caribbean organizations to be competitive in international and regional markets,” he added, congratulating the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) on the tremendous work it had done in the country thus far.
Head of Conformity Assessment at the Bureau, Mrs. Candelle Walcott-Bostwick noted the high demand in the country for quality management services and accreditation services, since the recent accreditations of the Guyana Rice Development Board’s Central Laboratory and the Eureka Medical Laboratories Inc. in Georgetown, with the assistance of the bureau, CROSQ and funding partners.
Likewise, Technical Officer for Accreditation with CROSQ, Mr. Stephen Farquharson, made a call for labs wanting to move to accreditation status to contact the local focal point at the GNBS to access the services CROSQ could provide to begin the process.
He noted that CCA Scheme and the CANCAB mechanism were both created under the European Union’s 10th European Development Fund Technical Barriers to Trade Programme, and additional funding partners like the Caribbean Development Bank, the UK Department for International Development, as well as the Centres for Disease Control under various programmes, had enabled the assistance to be provided to the labs and bureaux that had received certification or accreditation. This assistance, he noted, was available to others seeking it.
Furthermore, like Mr. Paladino, he underscored the importance of the focus on quality to breaking barriers and opening new markets for products and services for the countries of CARICOM and CARIFORUM, and protecting the general welfare, health and safety of consumers and the environment.
The CROSQ officer noted that the organisation was in the process of cooperating and collaborating on a common regional quality policy and strategy of development that was needed in the region and for which close public and private sector linkages with the bureaux of standards would be needed.