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.

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The CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) has been praised by regional and international partners for the role it continues to play in supporting the improvement of the quality of products and services traded within the region.

The praise, from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the European Union (EU), came as CROSQ was hosting the 32nd Meeting of its Council of National Bureaux of Standards’ Directors in Barbados recently.

Coordinator of Regional Cooperation and Integration in the Technical Cooperation Division of CDB, Ms. Andrea Power, told the opening of the meeting that CROSQ’s model of cost-effectively pooling resources between member states to provide “complementary systems and services” held the potential to be a benchmark model in the area of trade.

“CDB is pleased to participate in the 32nd meeting of the council of CROSQ. The Board’s commitment to and mandate to promote regional integration is rooted in its founding charter and as such the promotion of regional integration is a cross-cutting thematic priority within our strategic framework.

“Our commitment to regional integration is also rooted in a certain belief that if we get it right, regional integration represents a unique opportunity for the region to take advantage of international trade and insert itself into global value chains on our own terms and in a more sustainable and resilient way,” said the Bank official.

Ms. Power further called for a completion of the regional Single Market, stating, “While we have expended significant effort to remove restrictions found in our laws, we must now aggressively pursue what I call market making reforms and building out of regional public goods which will make the single market more efficient and make access to the single market more equitable.”

She highlighted the Bank’s recent commitment of US$700,000 towards developing national quality policies in five countries, based on CROSQ’s own Regional Quality Policy, as well as the intention to add another two regional analytical laboratories to the growing list of those being accredited.

Her comments followed those of the First Secretary to the Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, Mr. Luca Pierantoni, who noted that the execution of the technical barriers to trade (TBT) component of the 10th European Development Fund programme, by German National Metrology Institute, CROSQ, the Quality Institute of the Dominican Republic was a success because of cooperation between entities.

Mr. Pierantoni maintained, “Experience has demonstrated that actions at the regional level will be unsuccessful without the commitment, support and involvement of concerned actors at the national level,” adding that the partnership of regional and national entities would continue to be important to the success of the upcoming TBT programme of the 11th EDF.

“One thing that we will always need to keep in mind is that whatever we do, whatever we establish, all the certification mechanisms that we set up, all the laboratories that we help operationalize, all the legislation that we help draft, all the regulations that we manage to review, should have only one aim: to benefit the people outside that door; to create more conducive conditions to make business in the Caribbean; to make the private sector of the Caribbean more competitive,” the EU First Secretary reiterated.

“We want a system that is centered on the private sector of the Caribbean, that responds to its needs; that focusses on the value chain; that builds on the potentials that the Caribbean economies have and concretely help the business to export more and better and to reach durable market penetration in Europe and elsewhere,” he said.

The meeting comprised two open days of dialogues with agencies including the Pan-American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO); the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA); the CARICOM Secretariat; the Caribbean Poultry Association; ASTM International; the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO); Caribbean Export Development Agency and several others.

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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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All eyes will be focussed on Antigua and Barbuda next week, when the 30th Council of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) meets for the close out of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Programme and Directors’ meeting.

The March 13 – 17th Council meeting is expected to attract more than 50 persons from the 15 CARICOM Member States, the Dominican Republic, and even as far away as Germany, as many international organisations and agencies affiliated with trade and the European Union-funded 10th EDF TBT programme arrive in the country for the meeting.

The first day will feature a Close out Seminar of the CARIFORUM 10th EDF-TBT Programme which began in 2012. The programme, which lasted for a period of five (5) years, and will conclude this month, and was centred around the building of the region’s capabilities in the several areas of quality infrastructure, and using these capabilities as a means of managing and reducing technical barriers to trade. Quality infrastructure (QI) refers to the development of standards for products and services; metrology - which is the science of measurements and its related infrastructure; accreditation, and conformity assessment - primarily the services of testing, inspection and certification.

The managers and implementers of the project, namely the German Metrology Institute (PTB), and CROSQ, along with the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL), will give a breakdown of the project, with discussions centred on the successes, challenges, and lessons learnt over the past five (5) years.

The Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards (ABBS), which is serving as local hosts to the week of activities and meetings, will also use the occasion to launch the Antigua and Barbuda National Quality Awards Programme, which, once fully established, will recognise local producers and manufacturers of goods, as well as service providers who are and have introduced quality management and other quality-based systems and activities into their businesses.

“This is going to be a big occasion for Antigua and Barbuda to host an event of significant regional importance, and also to introduce to the public of our country the concept of creating a quality culture with the launch of this National Quality Awards. These Awards, which will be launched on the evening of March 13 will say to our businesses that we recognise the efforts to produce quality for our own consumption, as well as for export to the region and the rest of the globe.

“It is an initiative that was encouraged under the 10th EDF-TBT Programme, but one we thought important enough to introduce to our public and private sector here in Antigua and Barbuda. It will be a great celebration and achievement for all of us; and to have the rest of the region watching the unfolding of this Awards will be a tremendous boost for the country,” said Director of the ABBS, Mrs. Dianne Lalla-Rodrigues.

It was a sentiment shared by Chairman of CROSQ, Mr. Jose Trejo. He noted that the CROSQ Council of Directors was pleased to be hosted by the ABBS and the country of Antigua and Barbuda for the closing of the 10th EDF-TBT Programme which he noted had brought several notable improvements to the development of quality infrastructure in the region.

“We’ve seen advancements in equipment, physical infrastructure, skills of staff who have been trained in various areas and have participated in exercises to prove their competence over the period. I can say without contradiction that this programme has been a benefit to our region and has enabled us to form closer and greater ties with our colleagues across the region and further north to the Dominican Republic,” he said.

The Chairman said he was looking forward to the week of activities and to discussing with partners from the European Union, the CARIFORUM Directorate, as well as Germany and the Dominican Republic, the accomplishments that have been realised, as well as the valuable lessons learnt, which can be used for future developments in our quality infrastructure in the region;.

The 10th EDF-TBT Programme Close-out Seminar will take place on March 13, 2017 and will be followed by the meeting of the CROSQ Council, from Tuesday March 14, 2017 to Thursday March  16, 2017, where Directors and Executive Directors from National Standards Bodies across the CARICOM Region will look at arrangements for further developing QI across the region as well as other collaborative efforts for the year ahead.

 

About the 10th EDF-TBT Programme

The Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) component of the 10th European Development Fund - Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme (EDF-CRIP), "Support to the Caribbean Forum of the ACP States in the implementation of the commitments undertaken under the Economic Partnership Agreement", is funded through a Financial Agreement between the European Union and CARIFORUM.

The overall objective of the 10th EDF Programme is to support the beneficial integration of the CARIFORUM states into the world economy, to support regional cooperation and the development efforts of the Caribbean, in an effort to meet the requirements under the current Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and CARIFORUM. The EPA-TBT component is expected to facilitate intra- and inter-regional trade as well as international competitiveness and sustainable production of goods and services within the CARIFORUM states for the enhancement of social and economic development.

It is implemented by CROSQ and the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL) in the Dominican Republic, and managed by the German Metrology Institute (PTB).

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The establishment of the first public/private sector network to oversee issues of quality assurance for testing, inspection and certification bodies, has been described by a top European Union official as a positive and necessary step in the Caribbean.

Speaking at the opening of the Second Meeting of Caribbean Network of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CANCAB), held from November 17-18, 2016, at Accra Beach Resort in Barbados, the EU’s Team Leader for Regional Cooperation, Mr. Luca Pierantoni noted that with its formation the body could address two challenges – ensuring consumer protection and facilitating trade.

“[We] care because we are all consumers . . . So it is a chain in a way and this is why there is a particular importance of conformity assessment, of specification, all along the path of the chain of production.

“The second [it addresses] is obviously trade, and this is particularly crucial in the region, and this is also the reason why we are supporting this in the framework of the work that we do in terms of assistance for the implementation of the Economic Partnership-Agreement, which was signed as you know in 2008 and which is under implementation now,” said Mr. Pierantoni.

The Meeting was a joint CROSQ and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) meeting, funded by the EU’s 10th European Development Fund (EDF) initiatives for Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures.

Mr Pierantoni highlighted the collaboration with the German Metrology Institute (PTB) which managed the TBT component, alongside implementers, the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ) and the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL) in the Dominican Republic.

Further praising the steps of that initiative in creating the CANCAB, the EU expert who collaborates with CARICOM and CARIFORUM said for too many years, Caribbean exporters had to outsource conformity assessment services from outside the region, which caused problems and affected trade negatively.

“The importance of respecting standards is obviously fundamental for the capacity of access to markets, including obviously the EU market. So in this context the establishment of CANCAB is fundamental and an essential step for a resilient, more prosperous and more competitive Caribbean,” he said, adding that it was also good that one Conformity Assessment Body in the region had already been accredited.

Speaking on behalf of CROSQ, Project Coordinator for the 10th EDF-TBT Programme, Ms. Karlene Russell, highlighted the successes of the programme thus far, including more testing, inspection and certification bodies responding to the need for accrediting their services to international standards.

The capacity development of six conformity assessment bodies is progressing well and we anticipate that we will meet our target of accreditation of at least four of these bodies by the end of the 10th EDF-TBT Programme (next March). . . 

 “It is indeed our pleasure to collaborate with IICA in staging this second CANCAB meeting.  The work being done by IICA in their 10th EDF SPS Project is complementary to the work of CROSQ and as such in May 2014 IICA, the Caribbean Export Development Agency and CROSQ signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on matters relating to food safety.  This joint meeting is therefore a manifestation of that commitment.  Through our joint efforts, we believe that we will be successful in fostering a regional quality culture and to also contribute to improving Caribbean competitiveness built on a firm foundation of quality,” said Ms. Russell.

It was a cooperative agreement that Representative of IICA’s Barbados Delegation, Mrs. Ena Harvey underscored.

She added: “An effective and efficient regime for agricultural and fisheries health and food safety is dependent on having informed technical expertise and supported by strong infrastructural capability.”

“In order to meet the requirements of international trade, critical competences must exist in the areas of surveillance, diagnostics, risk analysis, emergency response capability, quarantine and all aspects for food safety including GAP, HACCP, Traceability, Risk.  Having access to laboratories that are able to conduct the required tests and diagnoses is therefore very important, and the formation of this sub-committee will play a significant role in rationalising the laboratory services that exist across the Region thereby making these services more available and affordable to stakeholders,” said the IICA Representative.

 

Over the two-day meeting of testing, inspection and certification bodies, the key issues discussed included: the validation and implementation of the CANCAB Strategic Plan; the framework for pilot testing a Regional Certification Scheme for a product; and the establishment of a Testing Subcommittee with emphasis on Agricultural Health and Food Safety (AHFS) laboratories.

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About the CROSQ 10th EDF-TBT Programme

The Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) component of the 10th European Development Fund - Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme (EDF-CRIP), "Support to the Caribbean Forum of the ACP States in the implementation of the commitments undertaken under the Economic Partnership Agreement", is funded through a Financial Agreement between the European Union and CARIFORUM.

The overall objective of the 10th EDF Programme is to support the beneficial integration of the CARIFORUM states into the world economy, to support regional cooperation and the development efforts of the Caribbean, in an effort to meet the requirements under the current Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and CARIFORUM. The EPA-TBT component is expected to facilitate intra- and inter-regional trade as well as international competitiveness and sustainable production of goods and services within the CARIFORUM states for the enhancement of social and economic development.

It is implemented by CROSQ and the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL) in the Dominican Republic, and managed by the German Metrology Institute (PTB).

About the IICA 10th EDF-SPS Project

The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Project is one component of the 10th EDF SPS Programme titled: "Support to the Caribbean Forum of ACP States in the implementation of the Commitments Undertaken under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)".

The overall objective of the 10th EDF Programme is to support the beneficial integration of the CARIFORUM states into the world economy and the overall objective of the SPS programme is to facilitate CARIFORUM States to gain and improve market access by complying with Europe's Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures and to help CARIFORUM states to better develop their own regionally harmonized SPS measures. The outcomes of the SPS Project are intended to increase production and trade in agriculture and fisheries which meet international standards while protecting plant, animal and human health and the environment.

It is implemented by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.

 

*Both projects and their Implementation Agencies and partners closely collaborate so as to ensure synergy and avoid duplication. 

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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.

 

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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.

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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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