MINISTER of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams says that the Caribbean Community's (Caricom) online consumer-protection warning system has the potential to foster development of regional economies, while protecting consumers from unsafe goods.
She was addressing a sensitisation workshop on the Caricom Rapid Alert System for Information Exchange on Dangerous Goods (CARREX), held last Friday at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.
CARREX is part of a Caricom Secretariat project, funded by the European Union, and which is intended to boost consumer protection and improve the quality of products entering and trading on the regional market.
It will ensure that when dangerous goods enter the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME)the product can be tracked and removed.
The system was created in response to calls by consumer groups for stronger region-wide market surveillance for unsafe consumer goods, except food, and will put the region in a better position to safeguard consumers from purchasing or utilising dangerous goods.
The system operates through carrex.caricom.org, a website on which consumers in any Caricom country can alert their national contact point about a product, which they have found to cause harm or poses a safety hazard.
Folkes Abrahams said Caribbean countries have an obligation to facilitate the full implementation of CAREXX, by passing necessary legislation.
She hailed the system as a tool that will improve the rate of growth, improve gross domestic Product and create new pathways to development that will benefit not only Jamaicans, but the entire hemisphere.
She said it will also engender and facilitate the expansion of bilateral agreements with other trade partners, so that the region can increase cross border protection for citizens.
The state minister said the effectiveness or integrity of the system is entirely dependent on the cooperation and collaboration of the individual governments' commitment to consumer protection.
“The clearing house has the authority to recall or ban temporarily, partially or permanently any product based on non-compliance of established criteria specifically for a safe product and or the risk assessment. The reporting mechanism is also extremely comprehensive and is evidently a part of an overall governance strategy at the provincial and central government levels,” she noted.
In her remarks, Chief Executive Officer of the Consumer Affairs Commission Dolsie Allen noted that collaboration is critical to ensure that the policies implemented are effective and sustained.
Consumer Health and safety officer at the CSME Secretariat in Barbados, Hilda Kelshall, said the system will help countries express complaints about products entering the country from other member states, which may be considered a health and safety risk to consumers.
The sensitisation workshop comprised representatives from consumer agencies and institutions such as the Bureau of Standards of Jamaica, business operators, technical personnel at the ports, customs as well as the experts within the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Ministry of Health.
CARREX will alert on non-food consumer products, from motor vehicles and electrical items to toys and a range of other consumer items.
The CARREX system does not cover food safety, which is monitored by the Suriname-based Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency.