The Caribbean Region’s latest quality-related project is looking to take as much advantage of the European Union-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
The newest project, under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) EPA Programme’s Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Component, is aiming to find and close the existing quality gaps in key sectors, value chains and organisations; bring greater awareness to the region about quality, and the strengthening of regional quality institutions. It is being managed by the German National Metrology Institute and implemented in the region by CROSQ and the Dominican Republic’s quality institution, INDOCAL.
In addressing his hopes for the 11th EDF EPA TBT, Head of Cooperation with the European Union Delegation to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, Mr. Luis Maia noted that despite the 10 year existence of the EPA in the region, there were still gaps to fill.
“That we have not achieved the EPA’s full potential is more than evident, but the focus should be on the why, the how, and the when. Taking responsibility, and then corrective action, is the only way to address the necessary, but not always easy steps that a trade agreement requires,” he stated.
Mr. Maia assured those gathered in Barbados for the launch that the EU wanted the EPA to work for the Caribbean and were putting in efforts towards that end.
His comments came moments before Barbados’ Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott made similar observances about the challenges of the EPA and its benefits for regional trade.
Dr. Walcott posited that he was at pains to note the lack of expected gains for the region as had originally been envisaged from the signing of the EPA. There was however no single cause, he quickly noted, but a plethora of issues stemming from these developing countries size, vulnerability and other capacity constraints.
Nevertheless, he praised the successful results of the 10th EDF CRIP EPA TBT Programme which came to a close in 2018, for “the progress made towards creating a modern quality infrastructure, according to internationally recognise principles, for the region.”
He singled out the development and operationalisation of regional frameworks for the various quality areas, including standardisation, metrology, conformity assessment and accreditation; as well as the harmonisation of standards and procedures, and the development of capacities of national bureaux of standards across the region.
“The world is moving ahead and with continued pressure from consumers, technical barriers to trade will continue to emerge. We must persevere. We must think outside the box. In order to do so, however, we must take on board the concerns of our consumers and realise the importance of competition,” he stated.
CEO of CROSQ, Mr. Deryck Omar highlighted that the 11th EDF-EPA TBT Programme had set out to accomplish a number of targets towards making the region more competitive. Among these:
- The development of standards
- Interventions in key value chains
- Accreditation and certification scheme
- Upgrading and accreditation of laboratories and other quality institutions, and
- Education of the general public and business sectors.
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.