Minister Greene calls on trade colleagues to strategize for the region’s benefit

Chet Greene.

This country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Immigration, E.P. Chet Greene, has called on fellow CARICOM states to place closer attention to how the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is being implemented.

Greene made the call during the opening of the 46th meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), held in Georgetown, Guyana, on 16 and 17 May.

Speaking in the capacity of chairman of the meeting, Greene said: “Certainly, the confidence of our people and our businesses within the integration process must not be shattered.

“Colleagues, Article 15 section 2 (b) confers on this Council the responsibility to, ‘promote the development and oversee the operations of the CSME’. As a region we are not where we want to be with the implementation of the CSME, and as we consider the sub items on the agenda we must do so in a manner to report and achieve progress going forward.”

He exhorted his colleague trade ministers “to truly take stock of the areas of implementation where we have stagnated, devise and implement purpose fit solutions to achieve sustained progress, celebrate and showcase the achievements, and involve all community stakeholders in the CSME consultations, through all forms of dialogue at the national and regional level. We must recalibrate where we are with the implementation the Single Market, and the Single Economy, if we are to achieve that desired vision of sustained economic prosperity of our region.”

The COTED Chairman pointed to current international, regional and domestic issues that will impact the work programme and the agenda of the Council. He, however, noted that in the face of all these issues, the Council must find an appropriate mix of methodologies and strategies to address its ever expanding agenda.

In this regard, he said that he was pleased to note that the Rules of Procedures governing the operations of the Council was on the agenda of the two-day exercise.

He added: “As Chair, it is my hope that we can finalize 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.

“Colleagues, 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). I am reminded of an old adage, ‘it’s the private sector that trade, and we create the enabling environment and set policies’.  Let us not therefore, create obstacles or prevent the free flow of trade between our respective countries.

“Additionally, in reviewing our Rules of Procedure we 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 our 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.”

Minister Greene also touched on extra regional issues  that can impact CARICOM member states such as the impasse between the USA 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,” he said.      

“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.”

He further stated that the revised Treaty mandates COTED the responsibility for the promotion, evaluation, establishment, and development of policies, programmes, and measures that protect and preserve the trading environment within the region.

“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.”

The COTED chairman added that the Council must also keep a watchful eye on the future of trade with the United Kingdom, post Brexit and to continue discussing the negotiating strategy and approach with respect to the CARIFORUM-EU EPA roll over up to 2020 as well as keep focus on the second five-year review of the EPA Agreement.

 “So that at the 47th regular meeting of the Council in November, we can have an agenda item that not only focus on the implementation of the EPA, but its challenges, opportunities and potential. We cannot afford any missed opportunities or slippage with our trading and other relations with the United Kingdom, and the EU.”

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