Remarks by Chair at opening of 56th COTED Meeting

Chair of COTED, Senator Hon. Keisal M. Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines at the Meeting on Friday 2 June 2023

The 56th Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) began on Thursday, 1 June 2023. The two-day, hybrid meeting is convened under the chairmanship of Senator the Hon. Keisal M. Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

From the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana, Minister Peters delivered remarks at the opening of the meeting.

Please read her remarks below:

Dr. Carla Barnett, Secretary-General, CARICOM;

Fellow Ministers and /or Heads of Delegation

Ambassador Wayne McCook, Assistant Secretary-General, CARICOM Single Market and Trade;

Mr. Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary-General, Economic Integration, Innovation and Development;

Ms. Lisa Shoman, General Counsel

Other members of staff of the CARICOM Secretariat

Officials in the respective CARICOM member states

Good morning and welcome to the 56th Regular Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development.

Although introductions may not be necessary, for the avoidance of doubt, my name is Keisal Peters and I am the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of the great multi-island state of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and I will be your chair person for the next 6 months.

At the outset, I take the opportunity to thank the government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana as well as the CARICOM Secretariat for the arrangements made for my delegation’s visit this week.

As chair of COTED, I also take the opportunity to congratulate the government and people of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana on the occasion of their 57th year of Independence!

On a more somber note, as chair of COTED, I extend condolences to the government and people of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana on the tragedy which struck the Mahdia Secondary School and claiming young lives and leaving several others injured. It is my fervent prayer that the families who mourn are granted strength to navigate through this understandably difficult time and may the souls of the dearly departed rest in peace.

Colleagues, I wish to underline the important role assigned to the COTED as the Council that addresses Single Market and trade and economic development issues that are at the forefront of the Community’s agenda.

Our meeting will consider the actionable recommendations of our Senior Officials who met on 9-10 May 2023.

I am confident that all the reports from the Preparatory Meeting of Officials and other documentation have been reviewed and delegations are briefed and ready to work.

Over the course of the next two days, we will address a range of matters for discussion/decision.

With respect to implementation of the CSME, we have several important initiatives to consider:

  • the Revised Draft Mergers & Acquisitions policy
  • proposals for rules and regulations to effectively administer public procurement in the Community
  • Member States’ implementation of the administrative and legislative arrangements for facilitation of free movement of domestic workers, agricultural workers and private security officers
  • the programme of support measures for Article 164 industries.

We will have work to do on trade in goods issues that are a mainstay of COTED’s work – including the grant of suspensions of the CET. In this regard, we will also consider:

  • intersessional work/consultations conducted on specific products (a product-specific rule of origin for liquid soap and liquid detergents; a Member State’s proposal to change the CARICOM PSROs; the Custom Committee’s recommendation on the classification of shampoo bars)
  • the status of Member States’ implementation of the CARICOM Harmonised Customs Bill and Regulations, as well as the CET based on HS2022.

We will also continue to deliberate on the matter of non-compliance, including with respect to several recurring matters on our agenda.

On external trade relations, we will consider work to advance the CARICOM-Colombia negotiations, as well as preparations for the Thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference and Ninth Meeting of the CARICOM-US Trade and Investment Council.

We will consider three (3) regional standards from CROSQ which have been recommended for adoption, as well as approval of CROSQ’s operating budget for the current financial year.

We will also consider the 2023 work programme for the CCC, and, in caucus, the Commission’s proposed budget for 2023.

Additionally, there are a number of matters before us for information/update:

  • the Secretariat’s outreach programme in Member States to advance implementation of the CIMSuPro
  • the work being done to establish a regional administration for intellectual property (except copyright)
  • the Secretary-General’s grant of CET suspensions and safeguards
  • the progress of the Sectoral Working Groups to review the CET and Rules of Origin
  • the WTO’s grant of a new waiver for CARIBCAN
  • efforts towards a framework for SIDS in UNCTAD and an MOU between the UNCTAD and CARICOM Secretariats
  • Caribbean-EU development cooperation
  • Antigua’s hosting of the Fourth UN Conference on SIDS, as well as Jamaica’s implementation of the Productive Input Relief Regime pursuant to the Conditional Duty Exemption Arrangement of the CET.

On process:

  • I intend to keep our deliberations focused – agenda item by agenda item.
  • I encourage brief and focused interventions directed to the issues under consideration.
  • Above all colleagues let us be ready to take bold and decisive action on matters that require clear direction from us as Ministers.

Thank you colleagues and once again, welcome to the 56th Regular meeting of the COTED.

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