As trade becomes more critical to T&T’s diversification path, it’s important that high quality goods can compete in international markets.
As such the Trade Ministry and the T&T Bureau of Standards (TTBS) have engaged an international consultant to commence a nine-month project to update and strengthen this country’s standards and metrology legislation.
According to the Trade Ministry, T&T’s current legal framework governing the National Quality Infrastructure (NIQ) requires beefing-up to allow local manufacturers and service providers to take full advantage of international opportunities.
“The Government is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Road Map to Recovery Committee.
“One of the key recommendations is to ensure a sustainable path to growth and competitiveness of the private sector is having a robust NQI,” Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon told the Sunday Business Guardian.
She added that domestically produced goods and services will also be more competitive against imported products in the local market, noting that internationally recognised accreditation will also help protect consumers against substandard goods and engender greater consumer confidence in the marketplace.
Gopee-Scoon explained the project will address standards and metrology development in areas such as utilities, food and drugs, the environment and health.
One of the major undertakings will include an assessment of the current NQI legal framework to identify areas for amendment and prepare recommendations for Cabinet.
A NQI is the system comprising public and private sector organisations together with the policies, relevant legal and regulatory framework, and practices needed to support and enhance the quality, safety and environmental soundness of goods, services and processes.
It relies on metrology, standardisation, accreditation, conformity assessment and market surveillance.
TTBS, the national standards body, is responsible for the development and implementation of standards, measurement systems and conformity assessment services.
It is governed by two main pieces of legislation, the Standards Act and the Metrology Act which promote and encourage the development and maintenance of standards in alignment with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the International Standards Organization (ISO).
The services of the TTBS include, among other things calibration services, laboratory testing, certification of systems, products and services.
“Both standards and metrology are extremely important to our everyday lives and in particular trade,” Gopee-Scoon said, citing that standards provide a common language to measure and evaluate performance and establish trust globally.
Metrology is the science of measurement and legal metrology deals with laws and regulations relating to units of measurement, measuring devices and measurement methods.
“Based on these definitions, metrology provides support and protection in trade by ensuring that measuring devices provide accurate measurements and standards, specify how things should be made or done in a way that is acceptable to a customer, industry or country” Gopee-Scoon explained.
And to verify whether standards have been met, goods and services must undergo conformity assessment activities such as testing, certification and inspection.
Hence, Gopee-Scoon said, these elements are critical components of a country’s NQI which guides the production of local goods and services based on agreed standards that follow international benchmarks.
Everyday examples of NQI include ensuring that the meters at the gas pumps and the scales at the supermarkets and markets are accurately calibrated.
Gopee-Scoon said the revised legislation will therefore, contribute to a robust and trusted NQI which promotes a more vibrant economy, improves competitiveness and quality and creates safer and more sustainable products.
Additionally, NQI can stimulate innovation in product and service development; have increased domestic commercial activity and enhance consumer protection, she said.
The more aligned a country’s NQI is to international benchmarks, is the more competitive its products and services will be in the international market, Gopee-Scoon added.
As a result, the goods and services will undergo less mandatory inspection, testing and certification and the associated costs and time to export are lower.
Further, traders, businesses and customers rely on a country’s NQI to ensure that its products and services meet requirements for health, safety and environmental protection.
“As such, the review and amendment to the current legislation will ensure adequate mechanisms for compliance with regulations and standards and allow necessary action to be taken by the TTBS to remove existing deficiencies and address regulatory and legislative overlaps,” Gopee-Scoon said.
She added that this will also ensure that counterfeit products and non-compliant, unsafe products are not offered for sale to consumers and equip the TTBS with the appropriate regulatory oversight to promote the development of industry specific standards.
It was only this week that CEO of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce Gabriel Faria, at a webinar, said illegal trade continues to distort competition in the marketplace, as compliant business are rendered impotent to compete.
He had also said that illicit trade breeds corruption,adding that it’s important for T&T to have stronger laws and implement more punitive measures to combat this scourge.
According to Gopee-Scoon nine- month project is also one of several being implemented under the Strengthening of the Single Electronic Window for Trade and Business Facilitation Programme.
Other legislations being updated under the Programme to improve the ease of doing business include the Electronic Transactions Act, Data Protection Act, Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties Act and the development of new legislation to give effect to T&Ts obligations under the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organisation.
“T&T’s goods and services must be of high quality and meet international standards if we wish to make our mark in the international market place,” Gopee-Scoon emphasised.
The Trade Ministry also recently launched the second phase of the Laboratory Accreditation Programme and during 2021 to 2023, it will assist laboratories to prepare and establish their respective management systems for accreditation.
Gopee-Scoon who cited medical laboratories as one example said they play an important role in the evaluation of human health status and the correct diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of diseases.
“We have definitely seen the importance and need for accurate and reliable results during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The quality and technical level of medical laboratories are directly related to the health and well-being of the public.
“Accreditation has been recognised by medical laboratories as an important tool to improve quality and technical ability,” she added.