Exchanging best practices, joint problem-solving can help advance trade agenda – COTED Chair

COTED Chair, Min. Sandra Husbands of Barbados; (2nd r) and colleague Ministers Kamina Johnson Smith of Jamaica, Tracey Taegar Panton of Belize and Paula Gopee-Scoon of Trinidad and Tobago
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Communicating more, lending expertise and exchanging best practices, as well as joint problem-solving could help to advance the work of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).

Chairman of COTED, the Hon. C. Sandra Husbands, Minister within the Ministry of Foreign Trade of Barbados expressed this view at the conclusion of the Forty-Seventh Meeting of COTED that was held in Georgetown, Guyana 15-16 November.

“… what we want to be able to do is exchange best practices by communicating more to be able to lend each other expertise … do some joint problem-solving and we believe that that connectivity at a more regular level as Ministers will aid the COTED in advancing its agenda, so that, for example, we can come to a COTED with more things already agreed and worked out and therefore we can accomplish more on our agenda. So those are the things that we have committed to,” she told CARICOM Today.

Her comments were made against the background of heavy agenda which included recurring matters, and in keeping with her charge for delegates to return the COTED to its premier position among Community organs. She said at the opening that a space had to be created to focus on making the COTED the most revered organ in the Community. The mandate of the Council, she pointed out, was to trade and economic development which was the heartbeat of society.

“It is integral to every facet of government, business and society. In the absence of success, our ability to achieve sustainable development and sustained societies will be at risk”, she said at the opening of the two-day Meeting.

Asked about the strategic direction of the COTED, the Minister said:

“What I managed to do in talking individually to my comrades is to say ‘can we work towards making COTED even better on behalf of our nations’, and without an exception everyone said ‘yes’. Each territory would have its challenges and difficulties; some will be able to come along; others may have to lag behind because their circumstances simply do not allow for them to do something at this particular time. But we must not view that as failure because times and seasons will determine when it is best for countries to make the move. The question is, have we extracted all … that is possible given the circumstances that we are faced with, and if we can walk away saying ‘yes’ all that was possible at this moment – it may not be all that was desired – then we would have done our job”.

Among the matters the delegates deliberated on during the Meeting were those related to the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME); the direction of CARICOM’s External Trade Policy as well as the Community’s trade relations with the United Kingdom post-BREXIT; the Common External Tariff (CET) and the Rules of Origin (ROO). The CET and the ROO are geared at a more efficient and transparent trading system that would help to unleash the Region’s productive energy and innovative potential that would be more supportive of the private sector.

Minister Husbands said that she was pleased at the steps that were being taken to facilitate the private sector in the Region and was heartened by the strides being made in regional procurement as well as the work of the CARICOM Competition Commission (CCC).

“… (with respect to the) CARICOM Competition Commission, I am very eager that we have at the level of the Region a body that would be able to help all of its members in order to manage things such as anti-trust situations to be able to handle things like consumer protection. I think also because of the small size of our entities, there is undue influence on a number of matters and if we have a regional body that helps to bring distance and objectivity to the process and therefore it provides for the citizens much better protection for small enterprises so that the landscape can be kept flat and more equitable for their benefit”, she said.

She alluded to the “robust discussions” held around the table and pointed out that there was some accomplishment, an acknowledgment that some things were “work in progress”, and a commitment to “pressing those forward as soon as possible so that that benefit now can redound now to the citizens of the Region.”


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