Remarks by Deputy Programme Manager, CSME, Mr. Philip McClauren At the Opening Ceremony for the Barbados Consultation

CARICOM Media Release

On the CARICOM Rapid Alert System on the Exchange of Information on Dangerous (non-food) Consumer Goods (CARREX).


Salutation! I bring greetings from the CARICOM Secretary General. The objectives of the CARREX in-country mission are twofold:
i. To operationalize and activate the CARREX in the Member States by providing national contact points and national authorities full access to the network.
ii. Raising public awareness through national consultations with all stakeholders and sharing information through the media so that CARICOM Nationals will become fully sensitized and better informed about the CARREX.

Yesterday Wednesday August 13, 2014 the team from the CARICOM Secretariat/CSME Unit was involved in what is termed a Walk-Through Exercise with staff of Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Small Business Development and other public sector agencies. The purpose of this exercise was to give the National Authorities and National Contact Points (NCPs) for the CARREX a tour of CARREX software; and to help the State Actors better understand how they can navigate through the CARREX webportal and system. Today, we are here to consult with both State and Non-State Actors including Economic Operators on the plans for further integration of the CARREX both regionally and bilaterally; and how all stakeholders will be able to use the CARREXArchitecture for issuing notifications and alerts; and to share and receive information on dangerous non-food consumer goods.

The CARREX Web Portal is a very important system for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). This Region has in the past and even now,as we speak, continue to rely heavily on international institutions for information, eitherdirectly or indirectly on dangerous goods that have made their way on the market domestic and/or regional market. The problem with this dependency syndrome is that some of these international institutions particularly the Federal or State Agencies in jurisdictions such as the United States will only issue alerts when the dangerous goods or products in question are on the US market. However, if the dangerous goods are in a foreign market they are not obligated to act. It is in light of this situation that the CARREX System must be seen as a critical mechanism for the Region. CARREX is therefore not only timely but an imperative for issuing alerts and notifications on dangerous goods that would not be under the interrnational market surveillance radar and would be present in the Community. This is an important dimension since for example the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) mandate would be to safeguard the interests of US 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 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. 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.

The CARREXis therefore designed to operate as a regional mechanism for sharing information on dangerous goods through a network of National Contact Points. The role and responsibilities of these NCPs would be:
• To receive information on dangerous goods from various national administrative units, including customs authorities, bureaus of standards, economic operators, consumer organisations or individual consumers;
• To validate the information so received
• To decide whether to transmit this information to the Central Management Secretariat
• To transmit the information on dangerous goods received from the Secretariat and other member States contact points to the relevant national actors
• To inform about measures taken in order to prevent or eliminate detected product-related risks.

The recent revelation of expired meats from a processing plant which was supplied to foods chains such as KFC and Mac Donalds in parts of Asia led to boycotts by consumers; and the recall by General Motors (GM) of approximately 3.4 Million cars with ignition problems which subsequently led the US Center for Auto Safety to make a direct link between some 300 deaths apparently caused by the failure of GM airbags in the recalled model; and the actions by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to impose a fine of US$35 million on General Motors for lapses in reporting the ignition switch problems to consumers; should serve as a reminder to us in the Region that the CARREX and national surveillance systems in all Member States should be granted the attention that they rightfully and duly deserve.

The positive and prompt actions by consumer groups and consumer protection agencies in the industrialised world have resulted in a number of benefits to consumers. This means that these industrialised countries in many respect place a high premium on the health and safety of consumers and their citizens. Generally, consumers anywhere in the world want to be assured that the goods and products that they consume are safe, wholesome and will not pose an immediate threat or danger to their life and health.

The challenge for national consumer agencies in the CSME has been embedded in the fact that in most cases some of these agencies have had to deal with product recalls and dangerous goods on the market almost single-handedly. It can be recalled that after the passage of hurricane Katrina in 2005 which devastated parts of the Gulf Coast States of Louisiana and New Orleans,some of the SUVs that were submerged under the deluge and had 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 alos 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 thedomestic marketin 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. The establishment of the CARREX should inspire national authorities and economic operators to act decisively and expeditiously in the public interests. The CARREX System will require and may impose an obligation on national authorities be assertive and progressive in their approach as market surveillance operators. This means that the nationaalmarket surveillance mechanisms in all Member States must be prepared to work in unison and in a coordinated manner in order to facilitate the smooth operations of the CARREX. It also means that where necessary, the surveillance systems both inter and intra CSME must be strengthened, in orderto facilitate the work that will have to be undertaken in the detection, investigation, testing, assessment, validation and removal (if necessary) of products with inherent risks from the market. The process would also involve the notification and alerts to the Regional Clearing House at the CARICOM Secretariat for onward transmission to all Member States.

Therefore, this series of in-country missions is well intended so that after we have gone to all the Member States, the CARICOM Secretariat will be in a position to fully operationalize the system in the Community; so that the national authorities would be ready to receive and transmit information through the CARREX Architecture. The team at the Secretariat will also be using this in-country missions to fine-tune and address all the technical concerns in order to ensure that the system is more user friendly;is accessible to all stakeholders and CARICOM Nationals both at home and in the diaspora.

I therefore take this opportunity to wish all participants a frutiful session and look forward to a very engaging and stimulating session as was the case yesterday. With these words I wish to thank you for your patience and your undivided attention.

God Bless and I Thank You.

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