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From the Caribbean Common Market Standards Council to CROSQ

by Omer Thomas

The nations of the Caribbean have discovered that the requirements of regional and global trade agreements made their existing regional standards council obsolete. Omer Thomas of the Bureau of Standards, Jamaica, outlines the goals and mission of a new and improved regional standards organization for the Caribbean—CROSQ.

Background

Over the past decade, the roles and responsibilities of standards organizations in the Caribbean have changed dramatically due to international developments and, in particular World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. Against this background, the countries of the Caribbean have restructured the Caribbean Common Market Standards Council (CCMSC). This restructuring has resulted in the upgrading of the CCMSC to form a new standards body called the CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ). This new organization is intended to meet the needs of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

It is hoped that CROSQ will be an effective vehicle for the harmonization of various standards and standards-related activities in the Caribbean. Also, it will provide clarity during hemispheric and international discussions, which hitherto was not possible under the original CCMSC arrangements.

The Caribbean Common Market Standards Council (CCMSC)

The CCMSC was established in 1976 to advise the Council of Ministers of the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM)—now the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED)—regarding standards related matters and technical regulations.

The CCMSC was comprised primarily of the heads of National Standards Bodies (NSBs) of the member states of CARICOM. It was an informal arrangement with no juridical personality.

The CCMSC was frequently called on to address matters outside of its original terms of reference and at times beyond the constraining capabilities of its informal structure. The requirements of the WTO concerning standards and technical regulations governing international trade also highlighted the irrelevance of CCMSC as it was constituted.

The CCMSC’s status and modus operandi was inadequate to 1) fulfill the Caribbean Single Market and Economy’s stated commitment to promote and enhance regional standards and regional and international trade and 2) to support the impending formation of major regional and hemispheric trading groups such as the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

The CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ)

Based on the CCMSC’s deficiencies in the new international par-adigm, the heads of the various bureaus of standards in the Caribbean agreed in 1996 that the CCMSC needed to be restructured to increase its competence in the development of harmonized standards in the region. Further to this agreement, COTED resolved to establish CROSQ as an inter-governmental regional standards organization. Unlike its predecessor, CROSQ has a formal organizational structure, legal status and a juridical personality in order to receive international recognition.

The primary objectives of CROSQ are to:

• Facilitate trade within the CSME and with other countries;
• Enhance efficiency and quality in the production of goods and services within CARICOM; and
• Promote consumer and environmental protection.
All administrative and legal procedures are in place to have the CROSQ functional by the first quarter of 2002.

Functions of the CROSQ

The CROSQ will function in the following manner:

• Promote the development and harmonization of standards, including metrology, technical regulations and the mutual recognition of conformity assessment procedures with the aim of facilitating trade and supporting the CSME;
• Promote the CARICOM Standard Mark;
• Act as a regional accreditation body and encourage the mutual recognition of accreditation and certification systems which are based on internationally accepted criteria;
• Serve as an inquiry, notification and information point for WTO-related matters on behalf of member Caribbean states;
• Promote and protect the interests of member countries in the Caribbean and associate members, in regional and international standardization activities including external negotiations;
• Investigate and arbitrate in disputes in the use or interpretation of standards or procedures;
• Support standards-infrastructure development at national levels; and
• Maintain cooperation and collaboration with hemispheric and international standards bodies such as COPANT, ANSI, ASTM, ISO, etc.

The Caribbean member states believe that CROSQ will provide a more effective and efficient management of the regional standardization effort as CARICOM moves into a single market and economy and reacts to the challenges of an increasingly globalized and liberalized international economy. //

Copyright 2002, ASTM

Omer Thomas is the executive director of the Jamaican Bureau of Standards.