Regional Trade Ministers meet

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Trade representatives of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States on Monday morning began a two-day meeting in preparation for the Ministerial Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) 9-10 November, 2017.

Given its importance, and the mandate issued by CARICOM Heads of Government last year for a full review, the implementation CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) will be a main agenda item at the two-day Meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown. Discussions will centre on a draft Public Procurement Protocol, police certificates of character, and the harmonisation of laws.

The CSME, conceived by the Caribbean Community in 1989 and given various priority areas for focused attention over its existence, is intended to better position Member States to grow by accessing and using their combined, rather than individual resources.  Its successful  Legal and Institutional measures and mechanisms include transforming regional arrangements into domestic law.  There have also been agreements and arrangements to establish and operationalise various Community institutions, needed for the effective operation of the CSME.  These include the Barbados-based CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), the CARICOM Competition Commission (CCC) headquartered in Suriname, the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) in Barbados, and the Trinidad and Tobago-based Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).

During the two-day Meeting this week, the Ministers will also consider the progress of Member States on the free movement of skills, one of the key regimes of the CSME.

With respect to agriculture matters, trade in sugar is one of the main agenda items. Those discussions will be held against the backdrop of the elimination, effective 1 October, 2017, of production quotas as part of the European Union’s sugar regime reform. The end of EU’s quota management for sugar is expected to lead to a fall in prices towards the international sugar price and a decrease in sugar imports from the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states, with particular impact on Caribbean producers. Securing more remunerative markets, value addition and an enabling policy regime within the CSME are identified as critical to the industry’s survival.

The CARICOM Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy, and recommendations from the CARICOM Inter-Agency Committee on Multi-Sectoral Action in countries to prevent childhood obesity will also be discussed.

A sizeable part of the agenda is devoted to matters related to intra-regional trade in goods, particularly with respect to the Common External Tariff (CET) and the Rules of Origin. The Community’s external economic and trade relations will also come under focus with discussions on the latter including future trade with the United Kingdom post-BREXIT; developments within the World Trade Organisation (WTO); the state of the rum industry in CARIFORUM.

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