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 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.