If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us in the quality world, it’s that innovation in times of challenge can bring surprising results.
Such has certainly been the case with the progress of the Technical Barriers to Trade Component of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Programme. The project is one of the largest currently being implemented by CROSQ, which partners with the German National Metrology Institute (PTB) and the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL), of the Dominican Republic in execution.
That the pandemic has had an impact goes without saying, but CROSQ’s project coordinator, Mr Terry Hutchinson is confident time lost to countries’ closures, halt of or limited access to persons and other challenges can be and are being mitigated by cooperation and mitigation measures.
In a recent assessment, Mr. Hutchinson noted that all technical officers within the CROSQ Secretariat had been working throughout country “lock-downs”, spikes in positive cases and other uncertainties to reassure … countries that the programme remained committed to working with them to see positive results.
“It’s been a case very much of working with Member States, both in CARICOM and with the Dominican Republic, to keep things moving forward. Although the DR has its own project coordinator, we meet regularly and with the project coordinator from the PTB to keep each other abreast of developments, challenges, and also brainstorm on potential strategies to ensure we achieve the results we want,” he explained.
The TBT component has three main goals:
- To close the quality-related gaps that are identified in key sectors and organisations;
- To promote the definition, relevance and application of quality infrastructure to key stakeholders throughout CARIFORUM, and,
- To strengthen regional frameworks in the quality areas of standards development, metrology, accreditation, conformity assessment and awareness.
“As far as the quality-gaps are concerned, we are working with The Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic on addressing quality-related issues in a value chain identified by each country to have tremendous export potential; we are working with Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana to get dialogues going with their identified national sectors, which span from agriculture to tourism, construction and even water.
“St Vincent and the Grenadines is also one of the countries which had identified a sector for discussion, but of course given the recent changes due to the eruption of La Soufriere, we’re of course making the requisite allowances to ensure they are back on their feet nationally as a first priority. There are a number of interventions in which that country is involved which we will be working with them hand in hand to make sure they really feel the benefits of what this 11th EDF project can do for them,” the project coordinator assured.
“It’s an acute situation, but with all of our countries, we work closely with the national standards body in making sure the interventions have an impact on the development of the national quality infrastructure.
“There are accreditations of conformity assessment bodies, certification of private sector firms; accreditation of metrology laboratories, we are looking at a regional product certification mark, similar to what Africa has, and throughout all of this we are engaging the media individually in each country to educate and sensitise about what is happening, why and the potential benefits to each country.
“So, it’s a very involved programme, but we are determined that this will make a national and regional impact that people will feel and from which they will benefit.” This TBT Component of the 11th EDF-EPA programme began in October 2019 and runs until 2024.