The rapidly changing trading environment demands that the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) find an “appropriate mix of methodologies and strategies” to address the Council’s expanding agenda.
This is according to the Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Immigration of Antigua and Barbuda, who is chairing the Forty-Sixth Meeting of the COTED.
In remarks at the opening session of the Meeting at the CARICOM Secretariat on Wednesday 16 May, 2018, in Guyana, the Minister referred to both internal and external trade matters that could impact the Community’s progress towards sustained economic prosperity. These include the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), market access for products, the review of the Common External Tariff (CET), the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the future of trade with the United Kingdom after BREXIT and the impasse between the USA and China.
“Colleagues, there are a number of other issues that will impact on our respective industries, which we must pay particular attention to. These include 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. 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”, the Minister queried rhetorically. He pointed out that the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas mandated the COTED to promote, evaluate, establish and develop policies, programmes and measures that protect and preserve the Region’s trading environment.
In his remarks, the Minister urged the Meeting to find mechanisms to settle longstanding issues and to address the new and emerging matters on the agenda. He said that the Rules of Procedures of the COTED – which will be discussed at the Meeting – will help to deal with the longstanding matters.
“Colleagues, if we are to seriously settle these longstanding 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,” the Minister said.
“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,” he said.
The Meeting of regional Ministers with responsibility for Trade concludes today.