The Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) has been receiving a concerning number of requests for the suspension of the region’s common external tariff (CET) for certain products. This is according to the Chair of the 49th meeting of the Council, Francine Baron.
Baron, who is Dominica’s Minister of Foreign and CARICOM affairs, addressed the opening of the two-day meeting yesterday, at the Pegasus Hotel.
She warned that the community must consider, with care, the number of requests being made for the CET suspensions, between meetings of COTED as well as during the meeting itself.
She said that the requests are especially concerning because they are “premised on the inability of the region to supply.”
During the workshop, the foreign ministers representing all the CARICOM states are expected to focus on the ability of certain member states to satisfy regional demand of certain products, particularly Grenada and Dominica, Baron told the opening ceremony. She said that the supplication of sufficient quantity to meet the consumption needs of the region should be applauded and encouraged.
There is a need to examine critically the implications of those requests, and to let them guide the region’s development of policies related to investment in regional productivity and manufacturing, Baron told her fellow foreign ministers.
One implication of the requests has recently been raised by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI): the effect of a waiver on competition.
Former GCCI President, Deodat Indar told the press during a meeting last week that the element of the CET has a significant impact on the cost of goods. For instance, Trinidad and Tobago has reportedly requested that the CETs be removed from safety equipment.
If the CETs are removed from that equipment, with nothing telling companies that they should give local businesses first preference, it is likely that local suppliers would run to Trinidad to buy their equipment, because they’ll see an opportunity to save money.
Indar said that “everything the Trinidad government asked for in terms of CET or any item, whether it is manufactured goods or tradable goods, Guyana will be asking for likewise treatment, because if their cost is going to reduce, Guyanese cost has to reduce…”
COTED is set to consider proposals for the strengthening of the implementation of a feature of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which deals with provisions for disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors. That aspect of the treaty is meant to establish a regime to ensure fairness within the community.
This is just one of several sore issues that have to be examined by COTED.
Baron said that issues pertaining to trading goods will be discussed. COTED is particularly expected to make important policy decisions on the trade of animals and animal products, the issue of the substitutability of plantation white sugar for refined sugar in manufactured goods produced in the region. Baron told the gathering that the forum will discuss seeking administrative and legislative amendments concerning the movement of persons, particularly those who are skilled, throughout the region.
She also said that the issue of climate change and its effect on trade has been placed on the agenda, thanks to Barbados.
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