There is a need for greater co-operation and coordination of action of regional bodies with regard to the issue of protecting the health and safety of consumers.

Industry Minister, Donville Inniss, who is also responsible for consumer matters expressed this view as he gave remarks today at the opening of a consultation on the CARICOM Rapid Alert System for Exchange of Information on the Dangerous Non-Food Consumer Goods, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Mr. Inniss said he was aware that persons in the region needed to be vigilant as they sought to safeguard consumers amidst the plethora of products offered to them.

???I am also aware that the manufacturers and distributors owe the consumers a duty of care. In all this, however, each consumer must make informed choices when purchasing goods.???

The consultation which was sponsored by the CSME Unit and the European Union, seeks to protect consumers from unsafe products produced in or imported into CARICOM.

Pointing out that as early as 2002, regional governments and NGOs were expressing concerns about the presence of unsafe goods in the marketplace, the Minister noted that trade liberalisation and globalisation have brought both benefits and challenges.

He said: ???This consultation will go a long way in helping regional governments ensure that items purchased by citizens are safe and of the expected high quality by ensuring that those products which do not, are identified and intercepted before harm is done to unsuspecting consumers.???

The Minister therefore called for a CARICOM approach towards consumer protection, stating that it was necessary given the similarity of products offered within the region and the fact that we are increasingly net importers.

???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 optimise public safety.???

He added that Government would continue to be vigilant as the many products offered here increasingly evolve and this was critical to achieve long-term and sustainable success.

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