The Hon. Chet Greene, Antigua Minister of Foreign Affairs, is buoyed by the decisions that were taken at the Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development COTED held on 14 June, 2018, in Georgetown, Guyana. The Meeting was anchored at the Georgetown Marriott Hotel with some delegates attending virtually.
Minister Greene, who chaired the Seventy-Fourth Special Meeting, singled out the decisions that were taken on Article 164 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, and movement on matters related to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Article 164 makes provision for the temporary, special treatment of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) with respect to the promotion of industrial development. LDCs had sought an extension of Article 164 treatment on sensitive products based on challenges that firms in those countries were facing. The challenges included population and market size, the scale of economies, and higher costs of the factors of production such as energy, labour/wages, interest rates, access to finance, freight, and production capacity.
Following robust discussions, the Meeting authorised the suspension of Community Origin Treatment for a list of items for specified time-frames. The goods include beverages, candles, stockfeed, wooden furniture, solar water heaters, industrial gases, flour, curry powder, paints and pasta.
“… maturity, a sense of understanding, shared commitment to the regional integration process, all those were evidence by the support given by the MDCs to the LDCs in their quest to either protect, preserve or develop their industries”, the Chairman said following the Meeting.
The Ministerial Meeting on Thursday held discussions on the outcome of the Stakeholder Consultation on the CSME which was held in Georgetown 8-9 June. Among the key areas participants at the Consultation identified for attention were implementation; governance of the CSME; identification of the benefits of the programme; placement of the private sector and the centre of policy development; simplification of the processes associated with the CSME; the necessity for data- and results-driven approach.
“The CSME as a regional construct has been in the works for so long, and I think that today, we can leave with great satisfaction that we have taken steps, critical decisions to move the process along. Some of the steps are not quantum; they are small steps, but when you compare them with no steps at all in the past, they represent the hope that Caribbean people are seeking.
“The whole idea of Consultation drilled down at all levels of Caribbean society is also important. We cannot afford to lose the enthusiasm and interests of the Caribbean populace with respect to the benefits and value of the CSME to the Region”, Minster Greene said.
He added that more persons were becoming more aware of the global realities, and consequently they understood the need to build out the CSME to be more functional and beneficial to the Caribbean people.
“So if nothing else, we can leave today saying that CARICOM is stronger, that the CSME is moving in the right direction, that we have taken decisions that will impact the lives of the people positively, and that is quintessentially the take-away from the meeting – the positivity. And therefore, what is left now is for the Heads to embrace or endorse the decisions of COTED, and for the Caribbean people, including our private sector to really embrace what CSME really embodies for the movement of our Region upwards and forward’, he said.
The CSME is a key item to be discussed when the Heads of Government of CARICOM meet in Jamaica next month.
The Special Meeting was an extension of the Forty-Sixth Regular Meeting of COTED held in Georgetown, 17-18 May. At the Meeting in May, Ministers made headway on the resolution of the matters intra-regional trade in honey and duck meat.
Arrangements are expected to be in place by the end of September to permit entry and transshipment of honey from other CARICOM Member States into the Trinidad and Tobago market. The Ministers urged Trinidad and Tobago to complete the legislative processes that would allow the entry and transshipment, while the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CAHFSA) is to complete Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary work, also be 30 September. Trinidad and Tobago has also taken action to include Suriname on the list of approved countries from which it would import poultry and poultry products. The intra-regional trade in honey and duck meat were on the agenda of the COTED for some time.
Cross-border information sharing
At the Forty-Sixth Meeting, the Ministers also agreed to establish a Working Group or Task Force to look at the creation of a Regional Development Strategy and Roadmap. The open-ended body will also have as one of its mandates, the promotion of cross-border sharing of information and best practices to identify the optimal benefits of assistance from International Development Partners (IDPs).
The decision came against the background of discussions on shaping the Region’s economic development thrust in the current environment.
During their two-day meeting in May, the Ministers also agreed to intensify lobbying efforts in Washington and in Geneva for a World Trade Organisation (WTO) waiver for the continuation of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). The CBI permits the application of duty-free treatment to Caribbean countries under the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act/Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBERA/CBTPA) arrangements.
COTED also endorsed the approval of the CARICOM Regional Energy Efficiency Building Code – FDCREEBC (i.e. Final Draft Caribbean Application Document (CAD) of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The Standard was approved at the Special Meeting of the COTED on Energy in April. The Ministers urged Member States to quickly adopt the approved Regional Energy Efficiency Building Code as national Standards and Code.