Barbados is a step closer to getting alerts and notifications on dangerous goods being sold within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
It will be made possible through CARICOM’s Rapid Alert System for the Exchange of Information on the Dangerous Non-Food Consumer Goods – CARREX – which the country will implement soon.
Speaking at the opening of a consultation on CARREX at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, deputy programme manager with the CARICOM Single Market & Economy (CSME) Unit, Philip McClauren, said the initiative would operate similarly to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, which have the mandate of safeguarding the interest of American consumers.
“The CARREX must be seen as a system that will act in the interests of consumers in the Community, regardless of the origin of the dangerous goods, once they are present in the CSME [CARICOM Single Market and Economy] and the Community by extension. In that regard, the CARREX must be the system to raise the alarm bells so that regional consumers can be duly warned and that national authorities can take appropriate action,” he said.
“It is anticipated that by design the CARREX will act in the interests of regional consumers regardless of the origin of these dangerous goods, whether of Community origin or imported into the Community, once there is an inherent threat to the health and safety of consumers.”
McClauren told stakeholders that the challenge for national consumer agencies in the CSME was that, in most cases, some of them have had to deal almost single-handedly with product recalls and dangerous goods on the market.
Drawing reference to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated parts of the Gulf Coast States of Louisiana and New Orleans in 2005, he said some of the SUVs that were submerged under the deluge and as a result encountered serious electrical problems, were dumped in some parts of the Caribbean.
“Some of these SUVs found their way on the market in Barbados, a matter which was being investigated by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs at the time. It must also be noted that Barbados was acting alone in this matter, as other national consumer protection agencies in the region were not able to share informatiion with Barbados because they were not sure if these SUVs were on the domestic market in the respective Member States.
“That is precisely why a system such as the CARREX is necessary to spur national authorities into action and cause these agencies to adopt a more proactive rather than a reactive posture when dealing with similar cases that may arise in the future,” McClauren said.
Meantime, Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss, in welcoming the initiative, said there was a need for greater cooperation and coordination of action by regional bodies with regard to the issue of protecting the health and safety of consumers.
Inniss, who is also responsible for consumer matters, pointed out that as early as 2002 regional governments and NGOs were expressing concerns about the presence of unsafe goods in the marketplace.
“A CARICOM approach is particularly necessary given the similarity of products offered within the region and the fact that we are increasingly net importers with declining terms of trade. This new system, then, is designed to ensure that regional governments possess, and are able to manage, mechanisms for effective market surveillance. It is also intended to ensure that the human and technical services available to them optimize public safety,” he said.
“Further, it will serve as a means of providing the environment whereby products can compete in the market equally. Persons who import or produce products for retail purposes will be even more encouraged to ensure that items meet essential safety and health requirements. In such an environment, I am sure, we will see local and regional markets become more competitive as conditions are continually created to support quality goods.”
Inniss added that Government would also continue to be vigilant.