Inaugural Henry Gill Memorial Lecture held

The late Amb. Henry Gill
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(Shridath Ramphal Centre Press Release) On Wednesday, March 17, 2021, the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy & Services of The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill (The UWI Cave Hill) and the Institute of International Relations (IIR) of The UWI St. Augustine hosted their inaugural Henry Gill Memorial Lecture. The virtual event was attended by over one hundred persons drawn from across the Caribbean and international trade community, government and academia.

Ambassador Henry S. Gill (1942-2013) was a distinguished Caribbean trade and international relations expert whose illustrious career included serving as deputy permanent secretary of the Latin American and the Caribbean Economic System (SELA) from 1986-1990 and as senior technical director (2002-2008) and later director-general (2008 to 2009) of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM), now the Office of Trade Negotiations of the CARICOM Secretariat.

In their welcome remarks, SRC Deputy Director Dr. Jan Yves Remy and Director of the IIR Prof. Jessica Byron reflected fondly on the years they had spent under the late Mr. Gill’s tutelage. Ambassador Richard Bernal, who was both a colleague and friend of Mr. Gill, shared his reflections on the late trade expert’s professional life and key role in the negotiation of the Economic Partnership Agreement between CARIFORUM countries and the European Union (EU).

It was, therefore, more than fitting that Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), was chosen as the distinguished speaker for this inaugural lecture series. In introducing Mr. Lamy, Ambassador Dame Billie Miller described Mr. Lamy as an honorary Caribbean citizen, a designation which the former trade chief warmly accepted.

Mr. Lamy divided his remarks into three broad themes: trade in the past, present and future. Calling the new world of trade ‘very substantially different’ from the old, he pointed to a shift from ‘protectionism’ to what he termed ‘precautionism’. He noted that while countries in the past relied on tariff barriers to protect their domestic industries from foreign competition, the ‘precautionism’ approach saw countries increasingly using legal and regulatory barriers to protect their citizens from perceived risks, such as the environment and data privacy. The former WTO director-general estimated that while average trade weighted tariffs are around 5%, businesses were paying probably around 15% in regulatory barriers.

Mr. Lamy explained that this shift to ‘precautionism’ had development implications because it was mainly rich countries which were erecting these regulatory barriers. Noting that trade agreements must take account of this shift, he further explained that special and differential treatment does not work in the new trade world where ‘precautionism’ has become the norm. While it was easy to apply different tariff rates for a good coming from a developed and developing country, the same was not possible with regulatory barriers.

Mr. Lamy advanced several recommendations for countries to consider, including regulatory harmonisation and convergence, a ‘new regionalism’ and freer movement of products, people and data. He called on Caribbean governments, in particular, to continue their regional integration efforts and to further invest in what he termed their ‘brain juice’ given the region’s comparative advantage in human resources. Mr. Lamy’s presentation was followed by a short question and answer session.

Cherisse Gill, daughter of the late Ambassador Gill, shared several personal anecdotes recalling her father’s love for nature and for international affairs. The event was brought to a close by Dr. Anthony Peter Gonzales who raised a virtual toast in Mr. Gill’s honour.

About the SRC

The Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services is the Caribbean’s leading institute for training, outreach and research on international trade and development matters. The Centre is based at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill in Barbados. Further information on our work may be obtained at: www.shridathramphalcentre.com.

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