COTED urged to reassess orientation of external trade

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A review of the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) external trade relations, strengthened capacity, and Member States’ strong support of each other will ensure that the Region is in a better position to confront the challenges it faces.

This is the view of Suriname Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, the Hon. Ferdinand Welzijn, Chairman of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) now underway at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana.

In remarks at the opening of the two-day Meeting Thursday morning, the Minister alluded to global development challenges, including the consequences anticipated from the withdrawal of Great Britain from the European Union (EU).

“For us to be better equipped and face all these challenges we must first work on strengthening the capacities of our communities and strongly support each other, to achieve economic growth and welfare for all of us in the Region”, Minister Welzijn said.

The Community’s external economic trade relations, including future trade with the United Kingdom, post-BREXIT, is one of the matters which the Meeting of CARICOM Trade Ministers will address. Among the others are the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Trade in Goods, and a Draft Regional Policy for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)

Minister Welzijn said that it was important to review the Community’s foreign trade policy and strategy to know whether Region had seized the opportunities from its existing external trade arrangements.

“Therefore, it is extremely important, that our foreign trade policy is well structured; we should not rush into agreements, but consider them well before entering into future trade negotiations”, the COTED Chairman said.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, also referred to the Community’s external trade relations in his remarks to the opening session and shared the view that it would be fitting for the Region to reassess the “overall orientation of its external trade”, given global developments. The development of new relationships and increasing utilisation of existing trade agreements assumed even greater importance, he pointed out.

He told the delegates that CARICOM was party to a number of trade agreements, some of which had not been regularly serviced in recent years. However, he highlighted the fact that recently, negotiations were conducted with Cuba and the Dominican Republic to enhance those trade agreements.

“A decision will have to be taken on how to address the Region’s other trade agreements and negotiations, along with the resources that should be dedicated to doing so”, he advised.

He said that the consolidation and advancement of the CSME would serve as “the springboard for seizing our external trade opportunities.”

“It is important that this Council gives deep consideration to the various international developments that have taken place in recent times, which will have an effect on our major external trading relationships.

“One of these is the decision by the United Kingdom to exit the European Union (Brexit). Both parties are among our major trading partners. This Council will need to take a decision which would allow us to seek, at a minimum, to ensure that our existing market access to the UK continues after the Brexit process is complete. This is important given that the UK market absorbs approximately 22 per cent of our overall exports to the EU”, Secretary-General LaRocque said.