Over the next two days, CARICOM Foreign and Trade Ministers will be discussing a number of issues with the hope of finding possible solutions towards advancing the process of regional integration and encourage free circulation of goods.
The 49th Regular Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) opened in Guyana today.
High on the agenda for this meeting, is the request for suspension of Common External Tariffs (CET) for certain products and services, and the implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Speaking at the opening at the Pegasus Hotel, COTED Chair and Dominica’s Foreign Minister Francine Baron encouraged the attendees to bear in mind that they may have to make some compromises in order to push through with some positive developments and long outstanding matters.
The COTED chair relayed that while much progress has been made with regards to the implementation of the CSME, much more needs to be done by member states.
“I trust that our deliberations will see redoubling efforts by member states, to ensure speedy implementation of the outshining actions. As is often the case, a major item on the meeting’s agenda will be consideration of the issue pertaining to trading goods,” she remarked.
This includes policy decisions regarding the trade of animal, animal products, the issue of substitutability of plantation white sugar for refined sugar for manufactured goods produced in the region; and consideration of proposals on the strengthening of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Meanwhile, CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General for Trade and Economic Integration Joseph Cox highlighted that the CET rules are in need of modernization due to the many changes that has taken place in Caricom’s production structures, and global technological and logistical innovations.
The Caricom official noted the institution’s ongoing concern in relation to the nostalgic response to the opportunities that the CET framework presents to the region.
“Between January and October 2019, the CET suspensions recorded stands at US$148.5M. The top six products for which suspensions have occurred during the period July to October 2019 alone are refined sugar 14,710 metric tonnes, ham, oil, soya bean oil and coconut oil etc. These represent opportunities for our private sector and I urge our producers to avail themselves of same, bearing in mind that the need is just not the quantity demanded but to honor the specifications of that requirement.”
Speaking at the sidelines of the opening event, Director General of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Carl Greenidge noted that while a whole host of issues will be discussed, specific focus will be placed on the implementation of the CMSE, especially in relation to trade.
He said, “This is part of the consolidation dealing with the operational things, not the general principles, but day-to-day things, where they would say…products, access, and the arrangements between countries to ensure certain commitments are made.”
Guyana has made a request for the suspension to increase the CET to 40 percent on pine woods and pine woods products. This is aimed at further stimulating the local forest industry.
The Council is meeting as the region grapples with the current uncertainty in international trade, the undervaluing of the special circumstances of small states and challenges associated with climate change.
(by Samuel Sukhnandan)