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(CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) trade and economic affairs ministers began a two-day meeting here Wednesday amidst concerns that there is need to bring to an end, long standing trade matters within the 15-member regional integration grouping.
Antigua and Barbuda’s International Trade Minister, Chet Greene, who is chairing the two-day Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED) conference, said “it is my hope that we can finalise and approve the rules which will greatly assist us in dealing with the long standing issues on our agenda, particularly those relating to non-compliance with provisions of the Revised Treaty and decisions of the COTED.
“I refer to the issues of market access for honey into Trinidad and Tobago and the intra-regional trade of frozen duck meat from Suriname,” Greene said, adding “if we are to seriously settle these long standing issues for the benefit of our respective private sector, we must consider the provisions of the Treaty outside of a member state’s right to take those matters to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)”.
The CCJ acts as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs CARICOM.
Greene said that in reviewing the Rules of Procedure, the meeting must also consider other mechanisms in between meeting of the COTED that would bring resolution to the long-standing issues, as well as, treating with new and emerging issues on the agenda.
“Because of the dynamics of the matters to be addressed by this Council, we simply cannot wait to the regular meeting of the Council to be informed and take decisions. Therefore, an appropriate mechanism must be included in the Rules of the Procedure for the Council.
“Nonetheless, perhaps the Secretariat can consider increasing the dissemination of technical briefs and updates on specific issues to be considered by the Council. This would certainly help with member states preparation for meetings.”
Greene told his colleagues, there are a number of other issues that will impact on their respective industries, which the meeting must pay particular attention to.
He said these include the impasse between the United States and China, reports of Turkish imports, particularly flour into the region, and the importation of fake goods from various countries.
“Geopolitical decisions are causing changes within the external trade and manufacturing environment, which will certainly have an impact on our industries and market. The Council must position itself to examine the real and potential impact of these matters, and take proactive, concrete steps to remedy them.
“Colleagues, we cannot afford to be reactive, our respective industries and businesses are depending on us to confront and deal with these issues in a decisive way. Who else is best suited to safeguard our interest?
Greene said that the treaty mandates that the Council is responsible for the promotion, evaluation, establishment, and development of policies, programmes, and measures that protect and preserve the region’s trading environment.
“Let us not hand this over to anyone, but work within the provisions of our treaty, and other foreign and domestic relations to address these issues.”
Greene said that the Council must also keep a watching eye on the future of trade with the United Kingdom, post Brexit, a matter which will be discussed during the talks here.
Greene warned that the Caribbean “cannot afford any missed opportunities or slippage with our trading and other relations with the United Kingdom, and the EU”.