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Government urges the public to buy local

By Janelle Norville, GIS

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(GIS) – The implementation of Article 164 is a CARICOM-wide initiative aimed at increasing the participation of the Less Developed Countries of CARICOM.

The regime seeks to achieve its objectives through the provision of tariff protection and other support measures which enhances the competitiveness of LCD manufacturers in the production of a specified list of goods.

The Article 164 regime covers 15 product groups across 36 tariff lines and provides tariff protection to products on that list for a specified period of time. For two of the products—curry powder and pasta, the regime will be in effect for five years. Other products include flour, aerated waters, malt, beer, stout, animal feed, oxygen and carbon monoxide, acetylene, candles of paraffin wax, solar water heaters for domestic use, paint and varnishes including enamels and lacquers.

Minister for Commerce, Industry, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs Hon. Bradley Felix, said that following implementation, some teething issues were identified.

“There were additional goods that fell under the ‘other’ bracket which got affected. We recognized that there was a range of other goods that got clustered in the intention. Article 164 is supposed to protect the perfect substitute of whatever is being done in Saint Lucia and in the LDC’s but based on the manner in which some of these goods fall in terms of customs, tariffs and heading they seem to have a whole range of other items, particularly juices which were affected. The intention is that we will be going to cabinet to suspend a number of these other products until we can address this from a COTED level.”

While tourism remains the country’s main revenue earner, its vulnerability to external shocks cannot be ignored. The Ministry for Commerce said that as a result the government is aiming to diversify its revenue earners and the manufacturing sector has a big role to play.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs Sophia Henry said that the manufacturing sector hopes to take full advantage of the implementation of Article 164. She urges the public and businesses to support local.

“The goods that are produced in Saint Lucia, once these goods are available they are not impacted but if substitutes are imported that is the goods that are subjected to the tariff. So we are here to encourage our retailers, our distribution outlets to support the goods that are produced locally or those that are produced in a LDC. There will be no tariffs on these goods only those imported from more developed countries and from third countries. So that’s a very important point and also to highlight that our manufacturing sector has invested heavily in plant and equipment because of Article 164 to increase their productive capacity; that is a plus and that is the whole purpose of the Article so they are taking advantage of that so that they can expand, so that they can produce more to the local market and even export.”

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs reiterates that for each product on the list consumers and importers have the option of purchasing or sourcing from local suppliers or from another less developed country in which case prices are expected to remain unaffected.

Director of International Trade Dr. Thomas Samuel explains that the regime also includes a component which offers assistance to manufacturers to improve their productivity and enhance their operations.

“There’s also another set of support measures, which will be going along with the tariff adjustment arrangement. In other words, there will be support given to each firm, beneficiary firm looking at specific issues whether it be to build their plan up, whether it be to boost their product in terms of product development and quality. So there’s that aspect as well which is also part of the Article 164.”

The Ministry through its Consumer Affairs Division will continue to monitor price changes of the products covered under the regime. A taskforce in collaboration with the private sector is expected to be established so as to further examine all products classified under the tariff lines in the regime with a view of ensuring that only the intended products are impacted by the regime. The Ministry further urges the public to think buy and support local.

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