The importance of effectively managing the external relations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was strongly underscored at the opening of the 45th meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Thursday in Georgetown, Guyana.
Chair of the COTED, the Hon. Paula Gopie-Scoon, Trade and Industry Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM Secretary General referred to the current international trade climate and stressed the need for coordinated approach to external economic relations.
While many of the agenda items focus on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, the Region’s flagship programme, and trade in goods, Ministers will place emphasis on matters such as future trade with the United Kingdom post-BREXIT; developments within the World Trade Organisation (WTO); and the state of the rum industry in CARIFORUM.
“We must remember that our strength as a Region depends on a coordinated approach to policies. This includes the external economic and trade relations of the Community which we will address during the course of this Meeting”, Minister Gopie-Scoon said at the opening session.
With reference to the significance of the COTED in the Community’s architecture, the Minister said:
“This mandate of the COTED must be pursued vigorously as the Region struggles to survive and achieve sustainable economic growth and development in a turbulent global economy. As small economies, we must embrace the role of the COTED as stated under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. We must aim to deepen the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) to realise the full benefits of the Treaty.”
Secretary-General LaRocque in his remarks acknowledged the uncertainty of the multilateral trading system that placed emphasis on development issues. Against this background, CARICOM’s participation in the Eleventh Ministerial Conference of the WTO next month was crucial.
“On the international front, you will also be discussing matters relating to our external trade, in particular the decision last year by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Trade between the Region and the UK is currently governed by the provisions of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU. Both parties have begun preliminary consultations towards ensuring that there will be no interruption in our trade post Brexit. The Council will examine proposals for advancing the technical work in that regard.
As small economies, we have a vested interest in maintaining the integrity of an open international trading system. However, at this time there is increasing uncertainty about the future of a multi-lateral trading system which places emphasis on development issues. Therefore, our participation in the Eleventh Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which will take place in December of this year, will be crucial. This gives us an opportunity to reaffirm the importance we place on a trading system that recognises the needs of small vulnerable economies, particularly at this time given the intensifying effects of climate change”, Secretary-General LaRocque said.
The Hon. Carl Greenidge, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana, who welcomed delegates to the Meeting noted that the Region was at a “fairly critical point” in handling challenges trade issues posed.