May 26, 2018 Last Updated 5:35 PM, Mar 12, 2018

It is important to consider the protection of the consumer as many persons now engage suppliers in a different jurisdiction. This was posited by a senior official from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat during the Barbados Fair Trading Commission’s (FTC) annual lecture series held last evening, 8 March, 2018 at the Accra Beach Hotel & Spa in Barbados.

Mr. Philip McClauren, Deputy Programme Manager, CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), was a co-presenter on this year’s topic – Protecting Consumers in the Digital Era. He made the point that with so many CARICOM consumers purchasing products on-line, there was the question of whose laws would be used to protect the buyer.

Mr. McClauren said that consumers must ensure that the supplier provided on-line, pre-contract information such as cancellation rights, delivery and performance deadline, jurisdiction and enforcement of consumer legislation.

He outlined the work CARICOM was doing to protect the consumer, such as the creation of model bills for distance selling and consumer protection in response to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. This Treaty is an Agreement among CARICOM Member States which was revised to include the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

Mr. McClauren also made note of the CARICOM Rapid Alert System for the Exchange of Information on Dangerous Non-Food Consumer Goods (CARREX). This on-line portal can be accessed via www.carrex.caricom.org where complaints can be launched and sent cross-border as well.

Mr. McClauren served for 13 years as the Director of Consumer Affairs in Saint Lucia before joining the CSME Unit of the CARICOM Secretariat which is based Barbados.

The other presenter at the lecture series was Attorney-at-Law and University of the West Indies Lecturer, Mrs. Ayanna Young-Marshall. A lively discussion ensued after the presentations as participants sought to have concerns clarified.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States will be participating in a workshop for improving the monitoring, evaluating and reporting of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

This activity takes place in Barbados 13-14 March, 2018 for National CSME Focal Points to assist in building a CSME reporting structure that is standardised and self-sustaining at all levels. Focal Points would be required to compile compliance data on the implementation of the CSME regimes.

The workshop is part of a consultancy funded by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) CSME and Economic Integration Programme.

The workshop ties in with the comprehensive review being done on the CSME, focusing on achievements, outstanding matters, bottlenecks, work in progress and matters requiring resolution. It is necessary to provide the Community with reliable data on the usage of the CSME and National Focal Points are key to process. Fourteen persons are scheduled to participate in the workshop which is also a forum to share best practices on the various elements of the CSME.

The activity takes place at the Radisson Aquatica Resort in Carlisle Bay, Aquatic Gap, St. Michael, Barbados.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat this week engaged regional institutions based in Barbados on the processes for Free Movement of persons under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Representatives from the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF), the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), and the Caribbean Export Development Agency among others met at the CSME Unit of the CARICOM Secretariat in Haggatt Hall yesterday, 7 March, 2018.

The half-day meeting discussed the right of CARICOM nationals to enter another Member State; the right of six months’ automatic stay, the issuing of the CARICOM Skills Certificates, the right of establishment, and the provision of services among other areas. The exceptions to such rights and the CARICOM Complaints procedure were also addressed.

Some of the exchanges focused on monitoring CSME implementation and the need for increased advocacy and outreach on the CSME at the national level.

The exercise is part of the Secretariat’s on-going efforts to sensitise persons within the Community on the CSME and regional integration.

Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, on Monday said that substantial progress had been recorded in the regional integration movement, particularly with the Single Market component of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).  He acknowledged, however, the need to implement the existing plan for outstanding issues regarding full compliance within a specified time frame.

The Secretary-General was at the time making remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the Twenty-Ninth Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The CSME is one of the main matters that the Heads will discuss during their two-day meeting. Among the specific issues they will address are administrative requirements in the process to acquire a Skills Certificate, and the procedures to which Member States must adhere with respect to refusal of entry of CARICOM nationals. Heads of Government, in 206, had mandated a comprehensive review of the CSME, the Region’s flagship programme.  

The CSME was conceived by CARICOM in 1989. The Single Market component came into being in January 2006. The CSME is intended to better position Member States to grow by accessing and using their combined, rather than individual resources.  Its successful Legal and Institutional measures and mechanisms include transforming regional arrangements into domestic law. There have also been agreements and arrangements to establish and operationalise various Community institutions needed for the effective operation of the CSME.  These include the Barbados-based CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), the CARICOM Competition Commission (CCC) headquartered in Suriname, the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) in Barbados, and the Trinidad and Tobago based Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).

In Haiti yesterday, the Secretary-General said “we must accelerate the use of the provisions of the CSME to help us build our economic resilience.” He noted the eagerness of Haiti to complete its internal arrangements to become CSME-compliant. The Secretary-General on Friday, last, in Port-au-Prince, participated in a forum on the CSME involving members of Haiti’s private sector, youth and civil society which inspired his belief that their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit will ensure Haiti plays a major role in the CSME.

Given the importance of transportation to the efficacy of the CSME, he said that this sector will receive a boost during the Meeting with the New CARICOM Multilateral Air Services Agreement being ready for signature.

Seen as a major development, the Agreement expands the scope for airlines owned by CARICOM nationals to provide air services throughout the Community. It also allows for no restriction on capacity or traffic rights, and is expected to facilitate increased intra-regional travel as well as cost-effective cargo options.

Twenty-three (23) officials from various agencies in St. Kitts sand Nevis participated in a training workshop which was hosted by the Immigration Department at the Police Training Complex. The purpose of the workshop was to ensure that Government agencies have a common understanding of their roles in relation to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) in general, and the Free Movement of Persons (FMP) in particular.
 
Participants represented the St. Kitts and Nevis Customs and Excise Department, Social Security, the Inland Revenue Department, the Accreditation Council,  the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Council, the Labour Department, the Ministry of International Trade, and the Ministry of National Security.
 
They got an overview of the CSME and discussed topics such as the role of the Immigration Department and its officers, facilitation of travel, free movement of skilled CARICOM nationals, right of establishment and provision of services, as well as customer service.
 

 

The workshop began with a brief opening session on Wednesday, January 07.  Head of the Immigration Department, Inspector Jacqueline Brown, explained that one of the intentions was to make participants more aware of their roles in the CSME and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) agreements that the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis had signed on to.
“So we will hope that through these [sessions]…we are able to plug all the loop holes and ensure we get this right once and for all,” Inspector Brown said.
 The main facilitator, Constable Sheldon Jeffers from the Immigration Department, participated in a Train-the-Trainers Workshop for Immigration and Customs Officers in June 2017 in Barbados. It was organised by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat and was part of the Tenth European Development Fund CARICOM Single Market and Economy Economic Integration Programme. The objective of the training was to clarify the roles and functions of Border (Immigration and Customs) Officers where the CSME was concerned, and to address issues relating to the Free Movement of Persons.
 
Constable Jeffers and other participants in that workshop were then mandated to engage in three training sessions at the national level. This first workshop ran for one and a half days and the second workshop was scheduled for February 09 in Nevis.
“We all should know each other’s [role] and what we do, because when persons arrive at the airport, it is our responsibility as immigration officers, as the first point of contact, to inform them, to educate them…” said Constable Jeffers.
 Assisting him with presentations were Trade Policy Officers from the Ministry of International Trade in the persons of Sherima Powell, Samantha Boone and Shemida Pemberton, along with Jahme Jahbarme who works at the CSME Desk in the Ministry of International Trade. Some of the sessions were also facilitated by the CARICOM Secretariat in Barbados via an online forum. (Press Release via St. Kitts sans Nevis Information Service)

The Caribbean Community’s development of a Single Market and Economy has been given a boost with the launch of four new on-line platforms aimed at promoting trade and improving the ease of doing business.

The CARICOM Secretariat, with support from the European Union, on Monday launched the CARICOM Online Companies Registries; Labour Market Information System;  Community Public Procurement Notice Board; and the CARREX Platform and On-Line Public Portal, at a ceremony in Barbados.

The CARICOM Online Companies Registries provide a region-wide electronic platform for online name searches and name reservation,  business and company registration, public access to records, e-payment and e-signature, among other features. It will also facilitate a better overview of the prevailing business climate in the Region, helping for example, to identify areas of saturation, those with growth potential, and even the role of the informal economy.

The EU’s Dr Stephen Boyce, in remarks at the launch, said at least one recent high profile example illustrates the critical importance of this platform.

“A few years ago, the inflight magazine on LIAT was rebranded as LIME. This was just a few weeks before a telecommunications giant in the region acquired a similar moniker.  The result was a further rebranding to Zing to avoid any conclusion. A regional register would have avoided this,” he noted.

The development of this platform required automating the more than half of the national company registries in CARICOM which were still paper based, upgrading those already automated, and providing a functioning web software/application information system.

With the Labour Market Information Systems there is now a central depository for data on the labour markets in participating CARICOM Member States. This allows for better matching of skills with available positions at the regional level, and will thus facilitate movement of skills in the region and better management of labour migration within the Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Additionally, the launch was told that the system can guide the education system, helping it to meet market demands through academic, technical and professional development programmes designed to build and repurpose those already in the workforce and those about to enter.

The Community Public Procurement Notice Board should help both the private sector and governments by facilitating the exchange of information on procurement opportunities and contract awards. Governments, in particular can, through improved coordination of their public procurement exercises, maximise the potential economies of scale. Suppliers, including small and medium enterprises, can access opportunities both in their national space and engage in joint-bidding with other regional suppliers for opportunities across the region.  The platform can also facilitate the capture of statistics on specs, pricing and other areas which can be used for future tenders and budgeting.

The CARICOM Rapid Alert System for Dangerous (non-food) Consumer Goods (CARREX) Platform and On-Line Public Portal should help business-customer relations by serving as a source of public information on dangerous non-food consumer goods that pose serious risks to  the health and safety of consumers.

CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan, in remarks at the Launch, noted that significant strides have been made in advancing the CSME’s regional and sectoral policies but that more is left to the done. 

“These have been enumerated in the CSME Review considered by the Conference of Heads of Government and the Conference has approved the Implementation Plan for the CSME 2017-2019 in line with the CARICOM Strategic Plan which will see work progressing in these areas.”

The EU’s Dr Boyce stressed the need for building resilience in the system across the region:

“During the past three weeks, the path of devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria has reminded us of the fragility of our built infrastructure.  As our brothers and sisters across the region rebuild their lives and livelihoods, attention must also be paid to building a more robust and resilient digital infrastructure. At the regional and national levels, it will be vital to create technology recovery strategies as part of the business continuity planning process.”

Barbados Ambassador to CARICOM Robert “Bobby” Morris, speaking on behalf of the country’s Foreign Minister, stressed the importance of the CSME to regional development.

“The realisation of the CSME is seen as a major item in the advancement of the Caribbean and in recent times the COTED (CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development) and the Conference (of CARICOM Heads of Government)  have had the CSME and Freedom of Movement, in particular, under intense scrutiny in attempts to realise the full benefits of integration for the masses of our people,” he said

More information on the CSME can be found at  -   http://csmeonline.org/

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