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 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Programme has been deemed a success by its partners and stakeholders.

Concluded at the end of March 2017, the programme whose aim was to enhance the services of Quality Infrastructure within CARIFORUM countries to facilitate the smoother operations of trade, was centred around the development and equivalence of standards among Member States; development of metrology (science of measurement) services; the accreditation of laboratories and the development and implementation of testing, inspection and certification bodies and services, as well as the boost of awareness and information sharing.

The programme was managed by the German National Metrology Institute (PTB) and implemented by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL) in the Dominican Republic.

Project Coordinator with CROSQ, Ms. Karlene Russell noted that it was a very successful implementation at a rate, as of mid-March, approaching 90 per cent completion.

“The main elements of the TBT Programme included capacity building in all areas of Quality Infrastructure. We also looked at international recognition of national and regional quality institutions, as well as regional harmonisation and equivalency, specifically related to standards development, and of course the promotion of a quality culture in the region.

“To date we have achieved 70 per cent of our performance indicators and another 20 per cent is about 50 per cent completed. So we are looking at significant progress being made in about 90 per cent of our performance indicators. And as far as the implementation of regional programmes go, that is a very very good result and we are very pleased with the success,” said the project coordinator.

The performance indicators are the benchmarks set in the project to gauge effectiveness and achievement of the objectives set within the overall project, as well as more specific areas. 

The project was a 7.8 Million Euro undertaking, of which about 95 per cent had been spent up to mid-March, which was also concomitant with the technical implementation, added Ms. Russell.

These comments underscored those of Chairman of CROSQ, Mr. Jose Trejo at two separate events in March, the Close-Out Seminar in Antigua and Barbuda, and then a regional press conference held via video conferencing systems and linking a majority of the Member States and Germany. 

Mr. Trejo noted that he was exceptionally pleased with the progress and results of the project, and over the coming years, CROSQ would aim to strengthen the platforms set.

“During the next few years, CROSQ will focus on strengthening Quality Infrastructure in the Services sector and creative industries. We will also seek to implement programmes that foster greater utilisation of national QI services by the private sector, public sector & academia. Programmes geared towards international accreditation of conformity assessment bodies – such as testing laboratories, inspection bodies and certification agencies, will be continued in earnest.

“As we pursue our regional development agenda we acknowledge that the CARICOM region is seen as attractive for investment and recognised for our competitive advantage in niche products.  Therefore as we continue to develop these markets, quality must remain at the centre in order to advance Caribbean Competiveness,” said the Chairman.

In offering congratulations, PTB’s Head of Technical Cooperation for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr. Ulff Hillner noted, “It was in many respects a very rewarding experience for us as a National Metrology Institute. It was the first time the European Union directly entrusted and awarded us as a national organisation to execute this kind of project so we have been able to gain a lot of experience along the way.

“It was rewarding because a team was built in the process that spanned the region that included the CROSQ Secretariat and staff, the National Standards Bodies in CARICOM and the Dominican Republic, so in that way it was a novel and innovative approach which proved to be quite successful. . . I think the achievements speak for themselves,” said Mr. Hillner.

Among notable highlights of the project were:

• The development of a Regional Quality Policy that is now set to go before CARICOM’s Council on Trade and Economic Development for approval;

• The creation of a Five-Year Regional Standards Development Priority Plan, which was the first of its kind in the world to provide the Caribbean with a forward scope for the development of Standards. It has already gained the attention of the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO);

• The ISO9001 certifications in Belize, Jamaica and Suriname. 

• The creation of the Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme that coordinates regional experts in assisting laboratories and other bodies seeking accreditation, at reasonable rates;

• Equivalence of standards with five commodities between CARICOM and the Dominican Republic – to ensure the standards set at both trading ends were similar;

• The establishment of two Caribbean Reference Laboratories (CaRLs) in volume and temperature;

• Experts trained in mass and temperature in labs within the Region; and the provision of measurement equipment in all CARIFORUM countries;

• Awareness-raising about accreditation at the national level;

• Accreditation of five regional laboratories and one certification body utilising the Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme; as well as testing laboratories in Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Belize, and an inspection body in Trinidad and Tobago which are on the way to accreditation.

• CROSQ’s observer status on the World Trade Organisation’s TBT Committee;

• The production of a series of videos about the development of Regional Quality Infrastructure in the Caribbean, which are now available in 17 countries, including the Dominican Republic and Germany.

 

 

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Services are the largest component of both developed and developing country economies and constitute major inputs into the production of most “tangible” goods. 

This wasn’t the case only a few decades ago, when a proposal to bring services into the multilateral trading system was met with opposition, with many countries worried about “rules” undermining their ability to pursue national policy objectives and constraining their regulatory powers. The creation of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), however, proved to be a landmark achievement by allowing “a high degree of flexibility within the framework of the rules and market access commitments”. The industrial sector is no longer leading growth; services are now recognized as a swifter and more lucrative alternative. 

The economy of Antigua and Barbuda – like that of many small island developing states – is services-driven. Tourism and tourism-related services are responsible for 85% of all foreign exchange earnings and account for over two-thirds of GDP. In its efforts to galvanize economic development, the government is pursuing investment in niche markets, including but not limited to tourism, international financial services, offshore education, and information and communication technologies. These are some of the fastest-growing and most rapidly changing service sectors. The ISO New Rights Pilot Programme1) has allowed Antigua and Barbuda to participate in, and influence the development of, International Standards in such areas as tourism, management consultancy and quality management systems. 

Service trade is the new frontier. Service providers consistently need to meet and anticipate customer requirements, while providing them with the service they want “right the first time” and every time thereafter – eliminating the need for rework or replace. The development of the “service economy” further underscores the need for standards. 

As a result of the global importance of services, ISO has organized a workshop to be held in June 2016, in Geneva, Switzerland, to obtain feedback from relevant stakeholders on the need for International Standards on services.

The event explores how ISO standards can help to design, assess and measure service excellence, benefitting both businesses and consumers. The outputs and outcomes of the workshop will help the service sector realize its core values such as social responsibility, service excellence, collaboration/consensus building, reliability and competence as it strives to meet customers’ needs and expectations. 

Without a doubt, standardization will support the services sector by increasing its competitiveness and market access – necessary to boost the sector’s contribution to economic growth and development. Service standards will enable transparency and comparability of services, promote reliability and effectiveness as well as improve efficiency and quality. They will also enhance consumer confidence in services and service providers alike. 

Given the multifaceted contribution of services to the global economy and trade, it is critically important for service providers to have a “standards platform” from which they are able to supply quality services, while still ensuring innovation, technology transfer and differentiation among competitors. And what better forum for continual improvement than ISO?

 - The above text is an article published in ISO Focus, May-June 2016 Issue 116, featuring Director of the Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards, Mrs. Dianne Lalla-Rodrigues and the country of Antigua and Barbuda.

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The second national dialogue on quality infrastructure (QI) came off in Antigua last month, providing the Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards (ABBS) and local officials with a clear picture of the state of the agriculture sector as relates quality and standards.

Held at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium on November 13, 2014, Director of the ABBS, Mrs. Dianne Lalla-Rodrigues, welcomed participants to the forum, while Officer-in-Charge of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality, Russell Frankly, gave a brief overview of the organisation’s role as facilitators, and its relationship with the German Metrology Institute (PTB), which is the sponsor of the RQI 4 and 10th EDF Technical Barriers to Trade projects.

Mr. Franklyn outlined the importance of the quality infrastructure dialogue, as well as the role of agriculture in the region’s survival.  He highlighted that in Antigua trade in agricultural goods was 2% - the lowest in the region, and that 62% of that country’s GDP was made up by services. Notwithstanding, there is potential for agriculture and agro-processed goods, he stated, adding that the quality of goods was preventing the region from getting into certain markets.

The acting head of CROSQ also indicated that Quality Infrastructure consultations would be held throughout the region with the intention of creating an action plan to address the region’s QI issues. The first consultation was held in Bahamas in October.

The Director of Agriculture, Mr. Jedidiah Maxime stressed that quality and standards are used to meet buyer requirements in countries where economies rely on exports. Antigua and Barbuda is a net importer and traditionally has not place much importance on standards.  However, the changing global dynamics has resulted in the country becoming an exporter in tourism-related areas, he pointed out.

Mr. Maxime added that quality and standards must not only be an issue of exports but national pride. He noted that a food production policy has been adopted by the Antigua and Barbuda government and an action plan is being developed to implement the policy.

Additionally, the Director indicated that the Ministry of Agriculture is collaborating with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to look into setting up a national commission for sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) areas. One objective of this is to champion issues relating to SPS which have to be adhered to. Issues, particularly those at the level of production, including record keeping, food safety issues and the adaptation of farmers to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), were identified as critical.

Senator Collin James, Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, Commerce and Industry and Sports, highlighted reasons for requirements in trade such as food safety, environment and health. He stated that there was a need for technical assistance to small countries in relation to technical barriers to trade and SPS in conformity, which was necessary to access markets.

QI allows a country to meet requirement of markets to build clients and consumer confidence, hence collaboration with PTB to strengthen QI institution, as well as the QI dialogue workshops which will increase awareness of the private sector in quality. A deliverable is the action plan to allow the bureau to be more responsive to the needs of its client.

The technical working session began with ‘Putting QI Dialogue Forum into Context’, where Ms. Julie-Ann Laudat gave the contextual framework within which the exercises will be completed. Antigua and Barbuda Food and Nutrition Security Policy focuses on increasing production and potential which will result in the potential to export increasing. As the potential to export increases, Antigua and Barbuda has to meet international Standards and Quality.

 

Ms Laudat also mentioned challenges which affect production – such as lack of trained staff, lack of lab facilities and the need for technical regulations and standards. Other breaks out sessions included the ‘Prioritization of the QI Services Needed to Meet the Needs of the Agricultural Sector’.

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The countries of the Caribbean region are too small to be followers of world trade. What they must become are creators of standards that will benefit them on the international stage.

Trade Advisor with the Ministry of Commerce in St. Lucia, Mr. McDonald Dixon, made this observation as the St. Lucia Bureau of Standards (SLBS) celebrated World Standards Day on Tuesday with a Staff and Technical Committee Awards ceremony.

We are too small to follow the dictates of others, geared towards the fulfillment of aspirations not of our own making. Therefore it is timely for us not only as a country, but also as a sub-region, the OECS, to begin formulating standards that will satisfy the needs of our people,in the broad areas of health and safety and in specific fields such as security, environment and the elimination of corruption and deceptive practices.

“We must design technical regulations that guarantee the integrity of what we eat, the air we breathe and the water in which we bathe. No longer should we allow our large international trading partners to continue to dump inferior meats and foodstuff into our small markets with impunity, and when we seek to take action they are quick to point out that our measures are not in tandem with international regulations,” said Mr. Dixon.

The trade advisor added: “We must also seek to achieve in whatever we do, technical harmonization with other OECS member states and also within the larger CARICOM Community. We cannot compromise on quality or arrive at positions that can distort our efforts at trade facilitation. I know that the prescription is complex, but since when has there been a modicum of fairness in trade and commerce without some good sweat?”

Determined to not just focus on the problems without offering solutions, Mr. Dixon noted that the “education of civil society in the use of standards” would be key in the procurement of superior goods and services.

“Too often we forget that the main purpose for standards, regulations or measures is to improve the way of life our citizens. But the only way there can be appreciation is when benefits can be clearly enumerated and the people they are intended to assist or protect understand their purpose.”

He congratulated the St. Lucia Bureau of Standards on its awards, singling out those who work behind the scene to contribute to the development of standards in any way.

 

The Bureau concluded its week of activities with a bakers’ workshop at the Coco Palm Hotel on Thursday, followed by presentations today to the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College.

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