The 46th Meeting of the Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED) opened yesterday in Georgetown with a call for decisive action on fake goods and the alleged dumping Turkish flour onto Caribbean Community (CARICOM) markets.
Antigua and Barbuda’s International Trade Minister, Chet Greene, who is chairing the two-day Conference at CARICOM Headquarters, made the call for urgency, while also highlighting the impasse between the United States (U.S.) and China as geo-political decisions that will impact regional industries and markets.
“The Council must therefore position itself to examine the real potential impact of these matters and take collective and concrete steps to remedy them. We cannot afford to be reactive. Our respective industries and businesses are depending on us to confront and deal with these issues in a very decisive way; not only our industries and businesses, but the Caribbean community at large is depending on us for our decisive interventions,” Greene stated.
Guyana’s delegation is led by Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge. Concerns about fake goods entering CARICOM, especially those sold in Chinese-owned stores across the region, have steadily increased over the years.
Recently, Jamaica made regional headlines when police raided two stores operated by Chinese in downtown Kingston and seized what they described as fake brands valued at more than $300 million.
Six Chinese nationals — five men and a woman — were taken into custody during the operation.
While Guyana has not made a specific request on the meeting’s agenda, the delegates will examine thorny inter-regional trade issues relating to Trinidad and Tobago’s decision to block access for Suriname’s honey and frozen duck.
Also on the agenda are matters relating to the free movement of persons while St. Lucia has requested discussions on market access issues associated with the provision of external auditing across the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Greene is hopeful that the conference will finalise the rules of procedures to govern the operation of the Council and approve the rules, which will assist in dealing with the long-standing issues on the agenda, particularly those relating to non-compliance with provisions of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the CSME.
“Let us not create obstacles and prevent the free flow of trade between our respective countries,” Greene stated.
Secretary-General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, said there has been significant progress in advancing the CSME in several specific ways, but much however remains to be done.
“There are issues which remain on our agenda for far too long, for example we have been grappling with government procurement and contingent rights for more than a decade, going back and forth with seemingly endless consultations,” LaRocque pointed out.
He also added, “Politics, it is said, is the art of possible and this Council is made up of politicians. Let us make it possible to complete these matters. When officials seem not to be able to conclude on a matter, I dare say, it is the duty of the ministers to ensure that it is done. A proposal is before this meeting aimed at addressing this particular problem.”
He said that a review was conducted last year of the basic framework and supportive structure in keeping with efforts to consolidate, recalibrate and strengthen the CSME arrangements that are currently in place.
According to the Secretary-General, based on the review, the Heads of Government of CARICOM approved an implementation plan for outstanding issues as it relates to the previous decisions, commitments and timelines.
LaRocque stated that the review showed that the lack of an effective consultative mechanism at the national and regional levels has negatively impacted decision-making and implementation.
“Against that background a stakeholder consultation is scheduled for early next month which will examine the CSME and its implementation as currently configured and identify what is necessary to make it more effective,” LaRocque revealed.
He said the consultation will inform the ongoing review by the Heads of Government which continue in July.
According to the Ambassador, the plan is to be published shortly, but for it to be meaningful, Members States must provide up to date information on their compliance with the CSME provisions.
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