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What is standardisation?

Standardisation is the process of formulating, issuing and implementing standards with respect to actual or potential problems, provisions for common and repeated use, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context.

What is a standard?

According to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, a standard is “a guideline approved by a recognised body that provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for products, processes and production methods, with which compliance is not mandatory. The term may also include or deal exclusively with terminology, symbols, packaging, marking or labelling requirements as they apply to a product, process or production method.” Standards should be based on the consolidated results of science, technology and experience, and aimed at the promotion of optimum community benefits

What does a standard do?

A standard helps to ensure quality, ecology, safety, economy, reliability, compatibility, interoperability, efficiency, effectiveness and other vital characteristics.

Principles of standards development

There are five key principles of standards development, whether at a national or regional level:

stakeholder-driven; and

Types of standards

Standards can be of many types, and within the region the more common types are:

testing standards; product standards; process standards; service standards; and management systems standards.

Who benefits from standards?

Standards provide technological, economic and societal benefits:

  • Businesses can offer products that meet international specifications and therefore gain market access.
  • Consumers are afforded a wider choice of safe, reliable and consistent quality products.
  • Governments have the scientific and technological basis for health, safety and environmental legislation.
  • Trade officials can use standards to level the playing field and arbitrate trade disputes.
  • For developing countries, standards represent internationally-recognised “best practices” and could be an important source of technological know-how. Standards provide a basis for making correct decisions when investing scarce resources.
  • For everyone, standards improve the quality of life.

What are harmonized standards?

Harmonised standards facilitate market access under the CSME. CROSQ coordinates the development and harmonization of regional standards in accordance with the WTO/TBT Code of Good Practice for Standards development. There are 14 provisions in the Code, including:

  • the principle of National Treatment;
  • standards should not create unnecessary obstacles to international trade;
  • using international standards to develop regional standards;
  • avoid duplication or overlap with other standardisation bodies, whether national, regional or international;
  • standards should be based on product requirements in terms of performance, rather than design or descriptive characteristics; and
  • publication of work programmes, transparency and consultations.

What is a Technical Regulation?

Technical regulations lay down product characteristics or their related processes and production methods, including the applicable administrative provisions, with which compliance is mandatory. The term may also include or deal exclusively with terminology, symbols, packaging, marking or labeling requirements as they apply to a product, process or production method.

Difference between a standard and a technical regulation​

The difference between a standard and a technical regulation lies in compliance. While conformity with standards is voluntary, technical regulations are by nature mandatory. They have different implications for regional or international trade. If an imported product does not fulfil the requirements of a technical regulation, it will not be allowed to be put on sale. In case of standards, non-complying imported products will be allowed on the market, but then their market share may be affected if consumers’ prefer products that adhere to standards, such as quality or colour standards for textiles and clothing.

The need for regional standards

A regional standard is the harmonisation of several national standards into a CARICOM Regional Standard. The purpose of this harmonisation is to increase intra-regional trade, reducing TBT and facilitating the functioning of the region under the same rules.

Harmonised standards are identified by the letters CRS (CARICOM Regional Standard) or CRCP (CARICOM Regional Code of Practice) and may be prefixed by a Member State’s standards body when adopted. Harmonisation of standards is the process of establishing a common CARICOM Standard either from the standards of Member States or from international standards adopted or adapted and approved by Member States.

At the start of the 21st century, the globalisation of trade and many other issues, such as security, health or the environment, imply that regional standards, based on a double level consensus – between countries and across stakeholders – are, more than ever, in demand.

The political context in which Regional Standards are developed has evolved drastically, with the expansion of the scope of the WTO, the multiplication of free trade agreements, the pressure for better public governance, the concentration of industry in ever more global companies, the growing demand of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for more equitable and sustainable development and the increasing public demand for the social accountability of economic actors.

Companies, therefore, have to monitor their triple bottom line – economic, environmental and social – in order to ensure their own sustainable development, whilst contributing to that of the region.

Harmonised regional standards benefit from adequate mechanisms to construct a regional consensus and apply the principle of “do it once, do it right, do it regionally”.

How are regional standards developed or harmonised?

An application for the development or harmonisation of a regional standard is submitted to CROSQ through one of the NSBs. CROSQ circulates the proposal to the Member States for evaluation and voting. If the recommendation is accepted, then the standard is developed or harmonised. There are several stages in the CROSQ standards development process, focusing especially on the concept of consensus-building within all Member States.

  • Preliminary stage (Stage 00) – a proposal for the development or revision of a standard is submitted by individuals or organizations through their respective NSBs for consideration;
  • Proposal stage (Stage 10) – the submitted proposal is circulated to all CROSQ Member States for evaluation and voting; TMC recommends the proposal along with the assigned RTC and Country Secretariat to Council for approval based on the evaluation report;
  • Committee stage (Stage 30) – comments from members of the Technical Committee are taken into consideration with a view to reaching consensus on the technical content of the standard;
  • Enquiry stage (Stage 40) – the working draft is circulated to Member States for comments from their stakeholders, which are then taken into consideration;
  • Approval stage (Stage 50) – the revised draft standard (final draft standard) is edited and then circulated to NSBs for voting on acceptance of the document as a CARICOM Regional Standard. The votes are summarized and the FDCS is forwarded to COTED for adoption as a CARICOM Standard through the recommendation of the CROSQ Council;
  • Publication stage (Stage 60) – the approved standard is reviewed for quality checks, after which it is finalized for publishing in both soft and hard copy. The CARICOM Standard is then distributed to Member States with instructions to implement the standard as per the COTED directive; and
  • Review stage (Stage 90) – periodic review of the standard is performed every 3 to 5 years in an effort to keep it current and relevant. If on review it is determined that the standard needs revision or amendment, the process is repeated from stage 00. On occasion, it may be necessary to revise a standard earlier than the suggested 3- to 5-year period.

Who are considered regional stakeholders?

Stakeholders in regional organisations comprise all those groups (e.g. industry groups / associations) who have an interest in the regional standardisation process because they are affected by it and therefore wish to contribute to the process of the development of regional standards. Consumers and consumer organisation in particular are major stakeholders, who have a very vital role to play in standardisation activities.

How can stakeholders be involved in the standards development process?

As a stakeholder, there are three ways in which you can get involved in the standards development process:

by proposing the development of a new standard through your NSB; by commenting on draft standards when they are circulated; or rendering your expertise to a Regional Technical Committee for the development of a standard.