ECJ Brexit Ruling: What are the implications?

Renaldo Weekes ping pong

Renaldo Weekes, Guest Contributor 

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Monday, December 10th, 2018, that a European Union (EU) member state has the ability to unilaterally revoke its notification of intent to leave under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty. This ruling comes at a time when anti-Brexit and pro-Brexit persons alike are showing great opposition to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Anti-Brexit persons, in particular, are feeling vindicated by this ruling because it allows them to double down on their stance and try to force Prime Minister May into submission.

However, the British Government stood its ground despite the ECJ’s ruling, with British Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, arguing that the British people voted to leave the EU in 2016 and it will not reverse that decision. The Government even argued that point in the ECJ case, saying it does not plan to reverse its decision so the question of whether the United Kingdom (UK) can unilaterally revoke its Article 50 notification was merely hypothetical and of no consequence.

May’s Brexit deal in more peril

Can the British Government continue to take its tough stance in light of the ECJ’s ruling and all the controversy that shrouds Brexit? Some may find it admirable that the Government is not willing to waver, even in the face of fierce opposition. At some point, however, it must face facts. Anti-Brexit lawmakers will be less likely to back down. As part of its judgement, the ECJ said that the UK’s decision to revoke their Article 50 notification reflects a sovereign decision. This has essentially put absolute power into the hands of UK Members of Parliament (MPs) to change course as they do not have to yield to the EU. There is no doubt that MPs will exercise that power. To anti-Brexit lawmakers, there are no more excuses that Prime Minister May can use to prevent a second referendum or prevent Brexit. In light of this, lawmakers are more likely to vote down on the deal; though there was no doubt that they would have done otherwise.

Responsibility and accountability

The ECJ ruling also puts ultimate accountability on the Prime Minister and her team. The European Commission and the Council argued in the court case that article 50 could not be interpreted as allowing a member state to unilaterally revoke its notification; the member state would need the EU’s permission to revoke the notification. If this turned out to be true, and the EU refused to allow the UK to change its decision, Government would have been able to argue that the EU is at fault for restricting the UK’s sovereignty. That, however, is not the case now. Should the government refuse to reverse Brexit or, at the very least hold a second referendum, there is no other institution that holds responsibility for any ensuing consequences that should come from what is likely to be a hard or even no deal Brexit.

Abuse of the process

Another possible impact of the ECJ ruling was actually cited by the European Commission and the Council during their argument to the court. They noted that if member states can unilaterally revoke their notification to leave, they may abuse that process in order to retrigger the 2 year negotiation period should the original negotiations not go their way. On the face of it, this argument may not hold much weight as there is already a process through which a member state can request an extension of the negotiating period. However, should the member state not agree to the extension period proposed by the council, it may still seek to retrigger the mandated 2 year negotiating process which forces the council into a position where it must agree to the member state’s desired negotiation period. The member state may also opt to not apply for an extension and immediately retrigger the process.

The effects that the ECJ’s ruling may or may not have on the UK and other member states notwithstanding, we must still wait to see if the British government will budge in any way as the March 2019 deadline approaches against the backdrop of MPs threatening to upend the deal and a shaky Government trying desperately to maintain its power.

Renaldo Weekes is a holder of a BSc. (Sociology and Law) who observes international affairs from his humble, small island home. He has keen interest in how countries try to maneuver across the international political and legal stage.

Eight Key Outcomes from the St. Anns Declaration on CSME

Alicia Nicholls

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government met from December 3-4, 2018, in Port of Spain, Trinidad last week for the 18th Special Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM which was a special meeting on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The CSME envisions deepened economic integration among participating CARICOM Member States by creating a single economic space for the free movement of Community goods, services, capital and labour, with the aim of promoting economic development and increased well-being of Community nationals. All independent CARICOM Member States, except the Bahamas, are part of the CSME, while Haiti is not yet a full participant.

Progress towards implementation of the CSME has been painstakingly slow, a point noted in numerous reports commissioned to look at this issue, including the Jamaica-government commissioned Golding Commission Report released earlier this year which examined Jamaica’s relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM frameworks.

At the end of the special CSME meeting last week, CARICOM leaders released their St. Ann’s Declaration on CSME in which they recommitted to the regional integration process and outlined several priority areas for immediate action, including setting timelines for some action areas.

Based on the St. Ann’s Declaration on CSME, here are eight key outcomes from the CSME Special Meeting:

1.Recommitment to national action to further CSME implementation

CARICOM leaders recommitted to take action at the national level to advance the regional integration agenda. In their preamble to the Declaration, they reiterated that the CSME “continues to be the most viable platform for supporting growth and development” in CARICOM Member States, but acknowledged that progress on the CSME should have been further advanced by now. They welcomed Haiti’s commitment to full integration into the CSME by 2020.

2.Greater voice for private sector and labour

CARICOM leaders have agreed to establish a formalised and structured mechanism to facilitate dialogue between the Councils of the Community and the private sector and labour. They also agreed to amend the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to include representative bodies of the regional private sector and labour as Associate Institutions of the Community.

3. Full Free Movement in 3 years (for willing Member States)

CARICOM leaders have set a timeline of the next three years for those Member States which are willing to do so to move towards full free movement. The leaders have also agreed to reinforce the operation of their security mechanisms to ensure the integrity of the regime allowing the free movement of CARICOM nationals.

4. Expansion of categories of skilled nationals entitled to move

Agricultural Workers, Beauty Service Practitioners, Barbers and Security Guards will be added to the categories of skilled nationals who are entitled to move freely and seek employment within the Community.

CARICOM leaders also reiterated that a skills certificate issued by one Member State would be recognised by all Member States. They also agreed to complete domestic legislative and other arrangements for all categories of free movement of skilled persons.

5. Greater CARICOM-OECS collaboration

They have mandated that steps be taken to deepen cooperation and collaboration between the Secretariats of CARICOM and the OECS “to avoid duplication and maximise the utility of scarce resources”.

6. Single Domestic Space for passengers in the Region

CARICOM leaders agreed to examine the re-introduction of the single domestic space for passengers in the Region and agreed to work towards having a single security check for direct transit passengers on multi-stop intra-Community flights. They also agreed to conduct a special session on Air and Maritime Transportation at the Intersessional meeting of the Conference to be held next February to focus on this matter.

7. Public Procurement and Mutual Recognition of Member States’ incorporated companies

CARICOM leaders set a timeline of 2019 for the finalization of the regime that permits citizens and companies of the Community to participate in Member States’ government procurement processes. They also agreed to take the necessary steps to allow for mutual recognition of companies incorporated in a CARICOM Member State.

8. Restructured Commission on the Economy

CARICOM leaders have restructured the Commission on the Economy to advise Member States on a growth agenda for the Community. Leading Barbadian-UK economist, Professor Avinash Persaud, has been appointed to lead this restructured commission, while its nine other members include distinguished regional and international persons.

The text of the St Ann’s Declaration on CSME may be viewed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade and Development Digest – December 2-8, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of December 2-8, 2018! We are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

This week, CARICOM Heads of Government held a Special Session on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) in Port of Spain, Trinidad. They issued the St. Ann’s Declaration on CSME in which they recommitted to the process of CSME implementation and outlined some key priority areas for implementation.

The CARICOM Competition Commission (CCC) has indicated that it is closely monitoring the proposed sale of Scotia Bank’s operations in several Caribbean jurisdictions to the Trinidad-based Republic Financial Group Ltd. Read the CCC’s full statement here.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and parliamentarians from ACP countries held their  36th session of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) in Cotonou, Benin. They adopted several resolutions, including their Declaration of the Co-Presidents on Post-Cotonou Negotiations on the occasion of the meeting of the 36th Joint Parliamentary Assembly

Below we share the other major trade and development headlines from across the Caribbean region and the world for last week:

REGIONAL

CARICOM to open government procurement to regional companies

LoopBarbados: A portal called CIMSuPro – the CARICOM Interactive Marketplace and Suspension Procedure – will be established as a managed market place for CARICOM companies to post their raw material, goods and services.  It would be made available to regional and global purchasers. Read more

More Categories of Workers to Be Granted Free Movement Within CARICOM

Caribbean360: More Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals are to be allowed to seek work in fellow member states, it has been revealed, as CARICOM leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the vision of free movement and a shared market space. Read more

CCJ Issues Record Number of Judgments in 2018

CARICOM: During 2018, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) issued 34 judgments and reasons for decision, its highest number of judgments delivered in a calendar year since it began its operations in 2005. Throughout that period, the CCJ also heard 28 new matters in both its Original and its Appellate Jurisdictions. Read more 

CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors charting enhanced role

CARICOM: CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque in welcome remarks, told the ambassadors their role, both individually as the link between the regional and the national, and as a constituent group within the governance structure of the Caribbean Community, assumes even greater significance in the renewed drive to implement the provisions of the CSME and other critical areas of the community’s work. Read more 

No plans for Jexit 

Jamaica Observer: Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday reiterated that the decision to establish a commission to review his country’s relationship with the Caribbean Community (Caricom) was not intended to create an avenue for it to leave the 15-member regional integration movement. Read more

Tackle CSME Issues Head On, Urges CARICOM Chairman

Caribbean360: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Chairman, Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica, has urged a “head on” approach to tackling of complex issues during the Special CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) underway in Trinidad and Tobago. Read more

Guyana pushes trade and investment at OIC meeting in Turkey

Caribbean News Now: Guyana attended the 34th meeting of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC), which was held last week in Istanbul, Turkey. Representing Guyana at the meeting was its permanent ambassador to the United Nations, Michael Ten-Pow, who promoted the opportunities for trade and investment in his country. Read more

Exxon Mobil could push Guyana past Mexico, Venezuela in oil output

Houston Chronicle: The small South American nation of Guyana could become the continent’s second-largest oil producer thanks to the offshore discoveries made by Exxon Mobil, according to a new report. Read more 

Sugar sales down, total exports down (Belize)

The Reporter (Belize): Revenue earned from sugar exports, Belize’s largest export earner, were down in the month of October, contributing largely to an overall decrease in export revenues of 5.1 percent, according to the Statistical Institute of Belize. Read more

Region’s Coconut Industry gets EDF boost

CARICOM: The coconut industry in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean should soon be receiving a further boost. That is because the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) will be financing a second coconut project in the region. Read more 

Prensa Latina: The Caribbean Sugar Association (SAC) reported that its members met approximately 80 percent of Caricom”s raw sugar needs during 2017/18 harvest. Read more

IMF thumbs up for Barbados

Nation News (Barbados): The International Monetary Fund (IMF) likes the way the Barbados economy is being fixed, calling it an “excellent start”. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

COP24 fails to adopt key scientific report

BBC: Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed. The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October. Read more 

Macron threatens to scupper EU-Mercosur trade deal over climate

Euractiv: French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that he will oppose a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur if Brazil’s incoming far-right president pulls his country out of the Paris Agreement. Read more 

Mercosur and EU trade negotiators meet in Brasilia

The Rio Times: The foreign ministers of Mercosur and EU members are meeting in Brasilia on Thursday (December 6th) in an effort to advance the partnership agreement between the two economic blocs. This is the first time Mercosur and the UE are meeting after statements made by France’s Macron caused tension and doubt about the partnership. Read more 

Why Qatar left OPEC

Al Jazeera: Explaining the motivation behind the decision, Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, Qatar’s minister of state for energy affairs and president and CEO of Qatar Petroleum, said that Qatar’s exit from OPEC “is not political, it was purely a business decision for Qatar’s future strategy towards the energy sector.” Read more 

RCEP: Experts to evaluate pact to strengthen India’s position

Hindu Business Line: To sharpen India’s bargaining position in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is being negotiated among 16 countries, the Commerce Ministry has roped in experts from academic institutions and think-tanks to carry out a detailed study of the pact and give their recommendations. Read more 

#ACPEU – MEPS agree on a partnership tailored to international context

EU Reporter: During the 36th session of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), which took place from 3 to 5 December in Cotonou (Benin), Members of the European Parliament and their counterparts from 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries debated and adopted several resolutions. Read more 

Japan-EU trade pact clears hurdle on road to Feb. 1 start

Nikkei Asian Review: Japan’s parliament approved an economic partnership agreement with the European Union early Saturday, keeping one of the world’s biggest free trade zones on course to take effect Feb. 1. Read more 

EU agrees post-Brexit import quotas for other WTO members

Reuters: The European Union endorsed on Friday new tariff rate quotas (TRQs) that the bloc will apply mainly for agricultural products coming from other World Trade Organization members after Brexit. Read more 

Britons scramble to get E.U. passports before Brexit

NBC: With the U.K. due to leave the European Union in March, the demand among Britons for citizenship and passports from the other 27 countries in the bloc has skyrocketed. Read more

DG Azevêdo in US: This is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to renew trading system

WTO: Speaking in Washington DC on 5 December, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said that WTO members have “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to renew the trading system”. He argued that in responding to the range of challenges in the global trading system today, momentum was building towards strengthening and improving the work of the WTO. The Director-General was speaking at the National Foreign Trade Council’s annual World Trade Dinner. Read more 

Argentina initiates WTO dispute complaint against Peruvian measures on biodiesel imports

WTO: Argentina has requested WTO dispute consultations with Peru concerning anti-dumping and countervailing measures imposed by Peru on biodiesel imports from Argentina. Argentina’s request was circulated to WTO members on 5 December. Read more 

Panels established to review India, Swiss complaints against US tariffs

WTO: At its meeting on 4 December, the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) agreed to requests from India and Switzerland for the establishment of panels to examine tariffs imposed by the United States on steel and aluminium imports. Read more 

United Kingdom submits draft post-Brexit services commitments to WTO

WTO: WTO members received today, 3 December 2018, the United Kingdom’s draft schedule outlining its WTO commitments for services once the UK leaves the European Union. Members now have 45 days to review the schedule before certification. Read more 

China confirms its working on independent WTO reform

Asia Times: China is planning to put forward an independent proposal to promote WTO reform, Yicai.com reported, citing a government official and several sources. Read more

The Caribbean Trade & Development Digest is a weekly trade news digest published by the Caribbean Trade Law & Development Blog. Liked this issue? To read past issues, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

The Draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement: What implications for future CARIFORUM-UK Trading Relations?

Alicia Nicholls

After nearly two years of negotiations between the European Union (EU-27) and the United Kingdom (UK), European leaders endorsed the “The Draft Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community”and the “Political Declaration Setting out the Framework for the Future Relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom” at a special meeting of the European Council on November 25, 2018.

This process is taking place pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which sets out the terms and timelines for the withdrawal of any Member State from the EU. The text of the UK’s draft Withdrawal agreement, which was released on November 14, 2018, delineates the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, while the Political Declaration outlines broad aspirations for the constitutive elements of the two parties’ future trading relationship.

This article takes a brief look at what possible implications the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may have for future CARIFORUM-UK trading relations, which are currently under negotiation and are reportedly close to being finalised.

Essential Elements of the Withdrawal Agreement

The UK ceases to be an EU Member State on March 29, 2019. During the transition period (March 29, 2019 to December 31, 2020), and subject to certain limited exceptions, EU law and the EU institutions and agencies will continue to be applicable to the UK, although it will no longer be an EU Member State. The UK will, however, be ineligible to be represented on, or participate in the decision-making processes of these institutions. This arrangement was deemed necessary to ensure a ‘smooth’ transition and provide for some certainty for traders while the parties hammer out the details of their future trading relationship. The Joint Committee may extend the transition period only once and this must be exercised before July 1, 2020.

The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland includes the controversial “backstop” option, whereby in the event that the EU and UK fail to negotiate an agreement which prevents a ‘hard border’ between Northern Ireland (a country of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (an EU Member State) within the transition period, the UK will be part of a single UK-EU customs territory until such an agreement is made. However, both the EU and UK have expressly stated their intention to conclude such an agreement by July 1, 2020.

Both the EU and UK Government have openly stated that they consider the negotiations on the two agreements closed, and have argued that the deal was the best that could be achieved in the circumstances. Although EU leaders endorsed both agreements, approval and ratification by the UK parliament is also needed under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. UK House of Commons support appears questionable at this stage given the fervent opposition by both Remain and Leave MPs to the current Withdrawal Agreement. The House of Commons will debate the deal on December 11, 2018.

Implications for CARIFORUM-UK Trading Relations

Traders from CARIFORUM currently have preferential access to the UK market under the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (CARIFORUM-EU EPA). While CARIFORUM-EU trading relations will remain unchanged once the UK leaves the EU, the same cannot be said for CARIFORUM-UK relations.

For most Anglophone CARIFORUM countries, the UK is their main trading partner within the EU, as well as a major source market for tourism and investment. It has been reported that UK-CARIFORUM bilateral trade totaled £2.1 billion in 2016.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK remains bound to all EU international agreements, including trade agreements such as the CARIFORUM-EU EPA, to which it is party by virtue of being an EU Member State. However, during the transition period, the UK must not engage in actions deemed “likely prejudicial to EU interests” and its representatives will be barred from participating in the work of any bodies established pursuant to such agreements, unless it does so in its own right or upon invitation by the EU. This would include any bodies, such as the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Council, established pursuant to the CARIFORUM-EU EPA.

The Withdrawal Agreement does not preclude the UK from negotiating, signing and ratifying its own trade agreements with third States or groupings, such as CARIFORUM, during the transition period. But the entry into force and application of said agreements during the transition period would be subject to EU authorization. With respect to CARIFORUM, the grouping is currently negotiating a roll-over of the EPA concessions with the UK to minimize any disruption to CARIFORUM-UK trade. Such a CARIFORUM-UK trade agreement, therefore, would be subject to EU authorization if it is to enter into force during the transition period. In any case, as noted above, the UK will remain a party to the EPA and bound to apply EPA concessions to CARIFORUM traders during the transition period.

But what about the UK’s future trading relations with the EU? A ‘no deal Brexit’ is still a possibility as the draft Withdrawal Agreement needs ratification by each of the EU 27 countries. There is also still that pesky question of the negotiation of the future UK-EU trading relationship. The Political Declaration envisions a UK-EU free trade agreement, the terms of which remain to be negotiated.

A ‘no deal Brexit’ would make it difficult for CARIFORUM firms looking to use the UK as a stepping stone to EU markets, which means a climate of uncertainty will continue to prevail for Caribbean firms seeking to use the UK as a conduit for accessing the EU market until the full details of future UK-EU terms of trade are agreed.  It was recently reported that the agreement between the UK and CARIFORUM was close to being reached and has taken into account the possibility of a ‘no deal Brexit’.

The climate of uncertainty may also impact CARIFORUM-UK trade and investment from the UK side. Although some UK businesses have by now conducted risk assessments and built in Brexit contingency plans, the continued political and economic uncertainty and volatility of sterling will continue to weigh on their export, hiring and investment decisions.

The Withdrawal Agreement takes us one step closer to some idea of what the future UK-EU relations will be, but a climate of political and economic uncertainty will remain for some time, which may have an impact on CARIFORUM-UK trading relations.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – November 25 – December 1, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of November 25-December 1, 2018! We are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

This week, leaders of the EU-27 at their summit in Brussels approved the draft Brexit deal struck between the UK and EU. Ahead of the UK parliamentary vote later this month, Prime Minister Theresa May has been trying to sell the deal to UK parliamentarians and the UK public alike, including in a public letter to the nation.

G20 leaders met in Buenos Aires from November 30-December 2 for the group’s thirteenth summit and its first held in a South American country. Specifically, the leaders noted the following at paragraph 27 of their declaration:

International trade and investment are important engines of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and development. We recognize the contribution that the multilateral trading system has made to that end. The system is currently falling short of its objectives and there is room for improvement. We therefore support the necessary reform of the WTO to improve its functioning. We will review progress at our next Summit.

On the sidelines of the G20 Summit, the leaders of the US, Mexico and Canada signed the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), meant to replace NAFTA. The deal now needs domestic ratification.

In regional news, The Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotia Bank), announced its withdrawal from nine Caribbean countries. Its operations are being sold to the Trinidad-based financial services group, Republic Financial Holdings. This move has raised concern in several of the affected countries.

Some sad news is that the Geneva-based International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) closed its doors this week. Through its publications, the ICTSD was a reliable source for free, timely, high quality and cutting-edge trade reporting and analysis relied on by trade and development academics, practitioners and policymakers alike. Their presence will indeed be missed.

Please see below some of the other major headlines:

REGIONAL

T&T to host special CSME meeting in December

LoopTT: Trinidad and Tobago will host a Special Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) from December 3 to 4 which will focus on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).  Read more 

Takeover of Scotiabank likely to be raised in caucus at special CARICOM meeting

Stabroek: Republic Bank’s planned acquisition of Scotiabank’s operations in Guyana and eight Caribbean countries is not on the agenda of the upcoming special meeting of the Caribbean Community Heads of Government on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) but Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge expects that it will be raised in caucus. Read more 

Republic Financial Holdings to acquire Scotiabank in nine Caribbean countries

Nation News: Republic Financial Holdings Limited (RFHL) announced today, that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Scotiabank’s banking operations in Guyana, St Maarten and the Eastern Caribbean territories, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Read more 

Josie Warns Of Potential For Dire Consequences From Scotiabank Sale

St Lucia Times: Former government minister, Peter Josie, has warned of potential dire consequences from a decision by Scotiabank to exit nine Caribbean countries, including Saint Lucia. Read more

 

CARICOM Sugar Industries prepared to supply total regional demand

RJR News: The Sugar Association of  the Caribbean has stated that for the 2017/18 crop, its members met 80 per cent of  the brown sugar needs of  Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Read more 

T&T can lose CARICOM market for fuel

Trinidad Guardian: T&T faces the pos­si­bil­i­ty of los­ing Cari­com mar­kets for the ex­port of fu­el as the price of fu­el com­ing out of T&T is like­ly to in­crease. Read more 

Cuba’s most valuable exports: its doctors

TRT World: Cuba over the last 50 years has honed in on its medical expertise to be able to punch above its weight in the international arena and garner soft power. Cuba has begun to withdraw more than 8,300 Cuban doctors from Brazil, potentially leaving millions of Brazilians, particularly its indigenous communities, without access to basic healthcare. Read more

CARICOM Leaders claim T&T has unfair advantage in manufacturing sector

Power 102 FM: Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, says CARICOM leaders believe this country has an unfair advantage in the manufacturing sector because it benefits from lower electricity rates. Read more

CARICOM calls for seat on ICAO council

Stabroek: CARICOM is calling for a seat on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as a means of having its concerns properly represented. Read more 

CARICOM highlights work against gender violence in the region

Prensa Latina: The Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Irwin LaRocque, highlighted on Sunday the important work being done in the region against gender violence. Read more 

CARICOM Secretary General describes new management system

CARICOM: A detailed update on the new Results-Based Management (RBM) System being pursued by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat was described by Deputy Secretary-General, Ambassador Dr. Manorma Soeknandan during a courtesy visit with Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris. Read more 

US Government makes US$1 million computer equipment to CARICOM IMPACS

Bajan Reporter: U.S. Embassy Bridgetown, through its Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), participated in an official handover ceremony to commemorate the Government of the United States of America’s U.S. $1 million computer equipment donation to the CARICOM IMPACS/Joint Regional Communication Centre (JRCC). Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

G20 agreement backs ‘rules-based’ order but bows to Trump on trade reforms

The Guardian: World leaders have signed off on an agreement which reaffirms a basic commitment by the world’s biggest economies to multilateral trade and a “rules-based international order”, but bows to US demands for urgent reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Read more 

G20: US and China agree to suspend new trade tariffs

BBC: US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have agreed to halt new trade tariffs for 90 days to allow for talks, the US says. Read more

WTO reform: EU proposes way forward on the functioning of the Appellate Body

EU: The EU together with other members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – Australia, Canada, China, Iceland, India, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland – unveiled a proposal for concrete changes to overcome the current deadlock in the WTO Appellate Body. The proposal will be presented at the meeting of the WTO General Council on 12 December. Read more

USTR Statement on China’s Auto Tariffs

USTR: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a statement regarding China’s tariffs on U.S.-produced automobiles. Read more

Brexit: Trump says May’s Brexit plan could hurt UK-US trade deal

BBC: Donald Trump has suggested Theresa May’s Brexit agreement could threaten a US-UK trade deal. The US president told reporters the withdrawal agreement “sounds like a great deal for the EU” and meant the UK might not be able to trade with the US. Read more

Argentina, India agree to increase trade flows

Prensa Latina: Argentine President Mauricio Macri and India”s Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Saturday to increase trade flow on several fronts and delved into the possibility that Argentina exports lithium to India. Read more

EU leaders agree UK’s Brexit deal at Brussels summit

BBC: EU leaders have approved an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal and future relations – insisting it is the “best and only deal possible”. Read more 

U.S., Mexico and Canada ink new trade agreement, but final ratification remains big hurdle

USA Today: President Donald Trump and the leaders of Mexico and Canada signed a revised trade pact Friday that changes many of the rules governing the free flow of commercial goods across North America.  Read more 

After signing new North American trade pact at G-20, Trump turns sights to China

Washington Post: President Trump suggested his Saturday showdown with Chinese President Xi Jinping could produce a cease-fire in the tariff war, capping a day that saw the American leader reach a milestone in his populist economic crusade by signing a regional trade deal with Mexico and Canada. Read more

Parties to government procurement pact approve UK’s terms of participation post-Brexit

WTO: At a meeting of the WTO’s Committee on Government Procurement on 27 November 2018, parties to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) approved in principle the United Kingdom’s final market access offer to take part in the GPA, in its own right, following its departure from the European Union. Read more

New WTO publication analyses potential impact of Blockchain on international trade

WTO: Amid growing interest and debate on Blockchain, the WTO launched a new publication today (27 November) that seeks to demystify the technology and analyse its capacity to transform world trade. The publication entitled “Can Blockchain revolutionize international trade?” explores how the technology could enhance areas related to WTO work and examines challenges that will have to be tackled to unlock the technology’s potential. Read more 

World Trade Outlook Indicator signals further loss of momentum in trade growth into Q4

WTO: Trade growth is likely to slow further into the fourth quarter of 2018 according to the WTO’s latest World Trade Outlook Indicator (WTOI) released on 26 November. The most recent WTO reading of 98.6 is the lowest since October 2016 and reflects declines in all component indices. It is below the previous value of 100.3 and falls under the baseline value of 100 for the index, signalling that trade growth in the coming months is expected to be below-trend. Read more 

Unlocking Africa’s trade potential

Forbes Africa: The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has identified intra-African trade as a critical factor for unlocking Africa’s trade potential. Read more 

Study: Trade supports over 36 million jobs across the EU

EU: Two new studies published today by the European Commission highlight the increasing importance of EU exports for job opportunities in Europe and beyond. Read more 

The Caribbean Trade & Development Digest is a weekly trade news digest published by the Caribbean Trade Law & Development Blog. Liked this issue? To read past issues, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

Have Caribbean Citizenship by Investment Programmes Run Their Course?

Alicia Nicholls

Caribbean Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programmes, and to a lesser but growing extent, residence by investment (RBI) programmes, are facing a rough ride. The latest blow came when the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) deemed CBI/RBI programmes operated by 21 jurisdictions, including those in the Caribbean, as “high risk to the integrity of the Common Reporting Standard”. While the OECD has clarified that this was not a blacklist, the list puts another glaring spotlight on Caribbean CBI/RBI programmes which are already battling to justify their existence to an increasing choir of skeptics.  In October, the European Union (EU) released a report analysing the state of play, issues and impacts of its own members’ programmes. With the mounting scrutiny being placed on Caribbean countries’ CBI/RBI programmes and stiffened competition from other investment migration programmes globally, have Caribbean countries’ CBI programmes run their course?

What are CBI Programmes?

CBI programmes are one of the two main types of investment migration programme – programmes which offer high net worth (HNW) investors accelerated citizenship or residence of the host country in exchange for a pecuniary contribution. Unlike RBI programmes which only confer accelerated permanent residence status, CBI programmes grant a qualifying investor, upon making a specified economic contribution to the host country (usually in real estate, investment in a business or in a specified government fund), accelerated citizenship for himself/herself and his/her qualifying spouse and/or dependents, once all relevant fees are paid and due diligence requirements are met. It means that a person can acquire citizenship or residence of another country in just a few months, compared to several years under regular naturalisation procedures.

Five Caribbean countries currently operate CBI programmes: St. Kitts & Nevis (the world’s oldest CBI programme), Dominica, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda and St. Lucia. International examples include the EU member states of Austria, Cyprus and Malta, and the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.

Second citizenship is a booming international industry reportedly worth US $3 billion, according to Citizenship by Investment.ch. There are now over one hundred CBI/RBI programmes worldwide, which seek to lure an expanding and highly mobile class of global High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) seeking the advantages a more favourable second passport could bring for themselves and their families. These advantages include greater mobility and security, tax planning advantages, and business opportunities.

The British Overseas Territory of Anguilla is the most recent Caribbean jurisdiction to commence a RBI programme, but versions of these programmes are also operated in the Bahamas, Barbados, Montserrat and Turks & Caicos, for example. Examples of RBI programmes in developed countries include the United States’ EB-5 programme and the United Kingdom’s Tier 1 Visa.

Challenges to Caribbean CBI/RBI programmes

Those Caribbean countries which operate them view these programmes as a pathway for economic diversification and development, bringing greatly needed foreign exchange and foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows, infrastructure development, and employment opportunities. In its Article IV Report on Dominica, which had been badly affected by category five Hurricane Maria in September 2017, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) noted that “fiscal performance deteriorated sharply due to the fall in tax revenue after the hurricane, but was partially offset by a surge in grants and buoyant Citizenship-by-Investment (CBI) sales revenues.”

Despite their economic benefits, CBI programmes have always been controversial due to some governments’ philosophical aversion to what many have called the “commodification of citizenship” or “selling of passports”. Indeed, CARICOM Member States remain philosophically divided on the desirability of CBI programmes.

There have also been, in some cases, legitimate concerns about the efficacy of the due diligence procedures, the perceived absence of a ‘genuine link’ between recipients of citizenship under CBI programmes and the host country, and reports of alleged instances of misuse of passports obtained under CBI programmes, which have brought increased international scrutiny of Caribbean countries’ CBI programmes.

One of the pull factors of Caribbean countries’ CBI programmes is the visa free access. For example, on the Henley & Partners Passport Index published by the world’s leading investment migration firm, Henley & Partners, St. Kitts and Nevis ranked the highest among Caribbean CBI countries in the strength of its passport,  providing visa-free access to 151 countries. Unfortunately, this advantage may be undermined if third countries, as is their right, decide to revoke visa-free access to citizens originating from countries offering CBI programmes, due to national security concerns. For example, Canada imposed visa requirements for citizens from St. Kitts & Nevis in 2014 and from Antigua & Barbuda in 2017 over similar concerns. Both countries have subsequently made changes to their programmes, but their citizens have not yet regained visa-free access to Canada.

The US Government has also repeatedly flagged Caribbean CBI programmes as possibly being used for financial crime, including in its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2017. With the current US administration taking an even tougher stance on national security,  US scrutiny of Caribbean CBI programmes is likely to continue or even intensify.

The European Commission has already sounded the alarm about the potential security risks that golden passport programmes operated by its own members could pose to the bloc. It reiterated this in its recently released report on those programmes operated in the EU.  But this scrutiny is not limited to EU CBI/RBI programmes. In a recently released report, global NGOs, Transparency International and Global Witness, also recently called on the EU to review its visa waiver schemes with those Caribbean countries operating CBI programmes.

In light of this scrutiny, other CARICOM Member States which do not operate programmes have feared that they themselves may suffer reputational and security risks due to the CBI programmes of other Member States. The CARICOM Secretariat has been examining the issue of CBI programmes operated by member states, but there appears to be no public information on what have been the outcomes of this examination thus far.

The other risk comes from increased global competition. The list of countries offering some kind of CBI or RBI programme has grown exponentially in the years since the global economic and financial crisis. For instance, this year Moldova started its own CBI. Moreover, while St. Vincent & the Grenadines is currently the only independent member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to not offer a CBI programme due to the current government’s philosophical opposition to these programmes, the leader of St. Vincent & the Grenadines’ opposition party recently reaffirmed his support for launching a CBI programme there. What this shows is that countries around the world still see the economic potential of these programmes and it also means that competition is increasing.

Caribbean countries’ CBI programmes have ranked high on the Professional Wealth Management (PWM) Index. Regrettably, the increased competition between Caribbean CBI programmes both inter se and with other CBI programmes internationally has led to an apparent ‘race to the bottom’ among Caribbean CBI programmes in the form of price competition.

The OECD Challenge to CBI/RBI programmes

In early 2018, the OECD announced that it was examining CBI/RBI programmes as part of its Common Reporting Standard (CRS) loophole strategy and requested public input into the misuse of these programmes and effective ways of preventing abuse. The CRS is an information standard approved by the OECD Council in 2014 for the automatic exchange of tax information among tax authorities of countries which are signatories. CRS jurisdictions are required to obtain certain financial account information of their tax residents from their financial institutions and automatically share this information with other CRS jurisdictions on an annual basis. Most Caribbean IFCs are early adopters of the CRS.

While noting that CBI/RBI programmes may have legitimate uses, the OECD stated that CBI/RBI programmes are a risk to the CRS because they can be misused by persons to hide their assets offshore and because the documentation (such as ID cards) obtained through these programmes could be used to misrepresent an individual’s jurisdiction of tax residence. This, the OECD noted, could occur when persons fail to report all the jurisdictions in which they are resident for tax purposes.

In April 2018, the OECD published a compilation of the responses it had received, which also included responses by countries in the Caribbean offering CBI programmes. In its list of ‘high risk CBI/RBI” programmes to the integrity of the CRS” published in October 2018,  the OECD focused on those CBI/RBI programmes which gave access to a lower personal income tax rate on offshore financial assets and those which did not require an individual to spend a significant amount of time in the host jurisdiction.

It should be noted that reporting for CRS purposes is based on tax residence and that just because an investor has obtained citizenship of a country under a CBI programme, does not mean that he or she is automatically deemed to be a tax resident of the country. For example, a person may obtain St Lucian citizenship under St. Lucia’s CBI programme pursuant to the Citizenship by Investment Act and regulations, but under the St. Lucia Income Tax Act, he or she is only deemed to be resident for income tax purposes in St. Lucia for a given income year if he/she has been physically present there for not less than 183 days in that income year.

While the OECD has clarified that the list of ‘high risk CBI/RBI programmes’ was not a blacklist, there is concern about what reputational impact this list may have on the countries whose programmes were named. Financial institutions have been told by the OECD to bear in mind its analysis of high-risk CBI/RBI schemes when performing their CRS due diligence, which potentially brings increased scrutiny for Caribbean countries, which are already suffering the loss of correspondent banking relationships due to de-risking practices by risk-averse global banks.

Have CBI programmes run their course?

Given the growing array of challenges outlined, have CBI programmes run their course? While I do not think Caribbean CBI programmes have run their course, I think that there needs to be strong consideration by each of the countries concerned, and their citizens, of whether the economic benefits justify the increasing reputational and security risks, and to consider what further changes could be made to make their programmes more sustainable.

Caribbean countries are well aware that it is not in their interest for their CBI/RBI programmes to be perceived as loopholes for tax evasion or other criminal activity. It is, therefore, in their interest to work with the OECD to address the concerns raised about the potential for misuse of their CBI programmes.

According to the communique released at the 66th Meeting of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Authority, that organisation’s highest body, it was noted  as follows:

“The Heads engaged in extensive discussions on the matter, noting the unreasonableness of the OECD position, and resolved to undertake comprehensive reviews of the respective CBI and RBI Programmes to ensure that areas where they may be limitations are identified and strengthened.”

This is a promising development and it is hoped that these reviews will be conducted in a timely manner, that the results will be made public in the spirit of transparency and that the recommendations made will be implemented.

To their credit, there already exists cooperation among the Citizenship by Investment Units or equivalents of the Caribbean CIP countries through the Association of the Citizenship By Investment (CIPA). They have also been receiving the assistance of  the Joint Regional Control Centre arm of the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).

There is the real risk that countries may become overly dependent on CBI programme revenues for their fiscal and macroeconomic stability during boom times, leaving them vulnerable during periods of leaner revenue inflows. Since 2010, revenues from its programme have buoyed St. Kitts & Nevis’ economy, but the IMF in its Article IV Report of 2017 warned that “ the recent slowdown in CBI-related inflows and the ending of the five-year holding period for CBI properties call for close monitoring of the implications for the financial sector through the real estate market and banks’ exposure to real-estate-related activities.”

On a broader note, a comprehensive study of the economic contribution these CBI programmes have made and are making to the economies and societies of these Caribbean countries is recommended. This would provide empirical evidence of whether the macroeconomic benefits outweigh the reputational and national security risks. In this regard, the recent EU study on its own programmes could provide a good model for CARICOM or the OECS in terms of analysing the state of play and the impacts of Caribbean countries’ CBI/RBI programmes and making recommendations for mitigating the risks identified.

Such a study will require sound data. This brings me to another problem with these programmes – the transparency deficit, which was also highlighted by Transparency International and Global Witness in their report. Obtaining data on these programmes remains regrettably difficult due to the unfortunate reluctance by some authorities to share data publicly, even with researchers. Though some data on the macroeconomic contribution of these programmes may be obtained from those countries’ IMF Article IV reports, other data, such as employment generated by these programmes, are not.

Making data on these programmes publicly available will not only negate the perceived opacity of these programmes’ operation, but facilitate evidence-based planning, monitoring and evaluation of these programmes.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade and Development Digest – November 18 – 24, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of November 18-24, 2018! We are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

This was another busy week in trade news! The WTO published its report on G20 trade measures showing that trade restrictive measures have increased significantly. The EU Summit saw the approval by EU leaders of the UK-EU Brexit Withdrawal Agreement but the agreement still has several other hurdles to overcome, including approval by the UK parliament where it remains deeply unpopular.

Please see below some of the other major headlines:

REGIONAL

Barbados overhauls corporate tax regime, slashes tax rate on local companies more than 20 per cent

Caribbean360: Barbados will harmonise its domestic and international corporation tax regimes by December 31, 2018, slashing the tax burden for some local companies by up to 29 per cent. Read more

Guyana and the EU reach an agreement to promote trade in legal timber products and improve forest governance

Antigua Observer: Guyana and the European Union (EU) have concluded a six-year process of negotiations towards a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which aims to improve the application of forest laws, strengthen forest governance and promote trade in legal wood products. Read more 

Glasgow University To Pay Reparations For £200m Extracted From Region

Jamaica Gleaner: Vice Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (UWI) Sir Hilary Beckles has reported that The University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom (UK) has agreed to pay reparations for £200 million (approximately J$34 billion) taken from the Caribbean. Read more 

Bahamas’ WTO membership is no “fait accompli”

Tribune 242: The Government’s chief World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiator yesterday said The Bahamas’ accession was no “fait accompli”, telling accountants: “I’m not tied to any outcome.” Read more 

Bahamas Chamber hires consultant for WTO Impact analysis

Tribune 242: The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce has hired Oxford Economics to study the likely economic impact of this nation’s accession to full World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership. Read more 

UK Hydrographic Office presents Guyana with marine geospatial data

Government of the UK: UKHO presents Guyanese Government with findings from a recent seabed mapping campaign to support the sustainable growth of its blue economy. Read more 

Full CSME implementation needs to be advanced in light of global trade wars – CARICOM

CARICOM: The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) could be used to insulate the region from the fallout of escalating global trade wars suggests the CARICOM Secretary-General. Read more

CARICOM Development funds must be replenished soon 

Loop News Barbados: The CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) has stimulated higher incomes and expanded trade for the Caribbean region. However, you cannot pour from an empty cup, therefore members states are being urged to put their monies forward to ensure the Fund can continue to deliver for the islands, and can look into forging partnerships to garner more benefits for small and medium enterprises as well. Read more 

CARICOM Looking To Re-Introduce Single Security Check

St Lucia Times: The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is seeking to re-introduce the single security check for direct transit passengers on multi-stop intra-community flights. Read more 

 

INTERNATIONAL 

EU leaders agree UK’s Brexit deal

BBC: EU leaders have approved an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal and future relations – insisting it is the “best and only deal possible”. Read more 

China is paying for Most of Trump’sTrade War, Research says 

Bloomberg: President Donald Trump is succeeding in making China pay most of the cost of his trade war.That’s the conclusion of a new paper from EconPol Europe, a network of researchers in the European Union. Read more

Africa-China trade hits $230bn

Business Report: Over the past decade China’s trade with Africa increased from $100 billion (R1.4 trillion) in 2007 to $230bn by the end of 2017. Read more 

Africa: Trade Misinvoicing Costs South Africa U.S.$7.4 Billion in Tax a Year

All Africa: While SARS is scrambling to meet collection targets, a new report estimates the country lost $37-billion in revenue to trade misinvoicing in five years. Trade misinvoicing is thought to be the largest component of illicit financial flows, draining developing countries of much-needed finances. Read more 

Trudeau meets key trade partners to talk about future of Pacific trade deal

Toronto City News: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is spending his last day at a major economic summit meeting with two key trading allies across the Pacific in the shadow of an ongoing trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. Read more 

Investors hope for trade war ceasefire at G20 summit

The Guardian: There are hopes, however limited, that the meeting between the two leaders in Buenos Aires will result in a calming of tensions which have so far resulted in huge share price drops, most notably in US tech stocks. Read more 

India seeks binding commitments to simplify services trade in RCEP 
Economic Times: India has asked 15 Asia-Pacific countries to make “binding and commercially meaningful” commitments to simplify trade in information technology and business services aimed at easing movement of skilled professionals in the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement being negotiated. Read more

Panels established to review US steel and aluminium tariffs, countermeasures on US imports

WTO: At its meeting on 21 November, the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) agreed to requests from seven members for the establishment of panels to examine tariffs imposed by the United States on steel and aluminium imports. Read more 

WTO report shows sharp rise in trade-restrictive measures from G20 economies

WTO: The WTO’s 20th monitoring report on Group of 20 (G20) trade measures issued on 22 November shows that the amount of trade covered by new import-restrictive measures hit a new high during the current reporting period.  Read more 

WTO, UNCTAD, ITC sign MoU to provide businesses with better access to trade data

WTO: The WTO, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) signed today (23 November) a Memorandum of Understanding to advance the development of an online platform — the Global Trade Helpdesk — aimed at providing businesses, and particularly small businesses, with faster and easier access to trade data and information on potential export markets. Read more 

Items proposed for consideration at the next meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body

WTO: The WTO Secretariat has circulated a meeting notice and list of items proposed for the next meeting, on 4 December 2018, of the Dispute Settlement Body, which consists of all WTO members and oversees legal disputes among them. Read more 

Morocco files appeal against panel ruling in dispute with Turkey over steel duties

WTO: Morocco filed an appeal on 20 November concerning the WTO panel report in the case brought by Turkey in “Morocco — Anti-dumping Measures on Certain Hot-Rolled Steel from Turkey” (DS513). The panel report was circulated to WTO members on 31 October. Read more

Panama files appeal against compliance panel ruling in dispute with Colombia over import measures

WTO: Panama filed an appeal on 20 November concerning the WTO compliance panel report in the case “Colombia — Measures Relating to the Importation of Textiles, Apparel and Footwear (Recourse to Article 21.5 of the DSU by Colombia and Panama)” (DS461). The compliance panel report was circulated to WTO members on 5 October. Read more

WTO members review regional trade agreements covering EU, Ghana and EAEU

WTO: WTO members reviewed the interim Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Ghana at the 19 November meeting of the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements. Members also considered the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) treaty and EAEU accessions of Armenia and the Kyrgyz Republic. Read more

The Caribbean Trade & Development Digest is a weekly trade news digest published by the Caribbean Trade Law & Development Blog. Liked this issue? To read past issues, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

G20 Trade Restrictive Measures Increase Significantly, WTO reports

Alicia Nicholls

The world’s twenty most economically powerful countries, the Group of 20 (G20), imposed a record number of trade restrictive measures between mid-May to mid-October 2018. This is according to the World Trade Organisation’s just released Report on G-20 Trade Measures, which  revealed that G20 countries’ trade-restrictive measures, estimated at US$481 billion, covered six times more trade than in the previous reporting period and were the biggest since this measure was first calculated in 2012.

According to the WTO’s report which was released on November 22nd, G20 economies applied a total of 40 trade-restrictive measures during the review period (May 16 to October 15, 2018) or about eight such measures per month, on average. These measures included tariff increases, import bans and export duties. According to the WTO, “about 79% of the current import-restrictive coverage is associated with bilateral measures between U.S. and China”.

G20 countries also implemented a higher number of trade remedy investigations than they terminated, but the gap between initiations and terminations has narrowed. Initiations of anti-dumping investigations accounted for three-fourths of all initiations during the review period. The WTO noted that iron and steel and products of iron and steel, furniture, bedding, mattresses and electrical machinery and parts thereof were the main sectors affected by trade remedy initiations.

On the flip side, G20 countries applied a total of 33 trade-facilitative measures, or seven trade-facilitative measures per month. These included eliminating or reducing import tariffs and export duties. The trade coverage of import-facilitating measures was US$ 216 billion. One silver lining is the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement which liberalized an additional US$541 billion of trade and has been an important trade liberalization measure.

Another nugget of good news is that despite the current crisis facing the WTO’s Appellate Body, the report noted that WTO members’ use of the WTO’s dispute settlement system remained high, which shows that WTO members still value the dispute settlement system.

The report presents the first concrete evidence of trade restrictive measures implemented during the current period of escalating trade tensions among the world’s major trading powers, most notably the US and China. It also comes on the heels of the just released report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which warned that global economic growth had peaked on the back of the slowdown in global trade and investment flows and appealing to the global policymakers to increase cooperation on matters of trade and the multilateral trading system.

In his statement on the report, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo warned that “the report’s findings should be of serious concern for G20 governments and the whole international community.” He further warned that “further escalation remains a real threat” and that “if we continue along the current course, the economic risks will increase, with potential effects for growth, jobs and consumer prices around the world.” As a result, he noted that while the WTO was doing all it could to support efforts to de-escalate the situation, he called on political will and leadership from the G20 to find solutions.

The full WTO Report on G20 Trade Measures (mid-May 2018 to mid-October 2018) may be accessed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Why WTO Reform Matters for Caribbean Small States

Alicia Nicholls

At the conclusion of its 47th Meeting this week, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) released a statement in support of the multilateral trading system and its guardian, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which are currently under threat. All independent CARICOM member States, with the exception of the Bahamas which is currently in the process of accession, are WTO members and have a rich history of engagement in the WTO. WTO reform is more than a moot point for the Caribbean, but a question of economic and sustainable development importance for the region.

What is the Multilateral Trading System and the WTO?

The multilateral trading system was formed at the end of the Second World War with the creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the progenitor to the WTO, in 1947. This rules-based system has provided for the predictable and peaceful conduct of global trade for more than a half century to the benefit of the global economy.

Since its inception in 1995, the WTO has been the guardian of the multilateral trading system. Its 164 members account for over 97% of global trade, with 22 other countries currently in the accession process. Despite its flaws, some of which I will come to shortly, the WTO has been an important building block in the global economic governance structure. Among its functions, the organisation serves not just as a permanent forum for negotiation of global trading rules among its members, but its dispute settlement system provides to WTO members an exclusive and compulsory system for the timely and orderly settlement of trade disputes.

Why the need for reform?

The core functions of the WTO have become increasingly under strain. Calls for reform are not new, but have intensified in recent years. Without doubt, the United States’ threat of withdrawal unless its own demands are met, has invigorated political will for reform of the WTO.

Firstly, the negotiation function of the WTO is in a paralytic state given the inability of member states to conclude the Doha Development Agenda – the latest round of trade negotiations which were launched at the Doha Ministerial in 2001 and whose only major agreement so far is the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The paralysis has been due largely to current decision-making procedures and the increased number of members which has made multilateral rule-making on ever more complex trade issues difficult. Secondly, the US has been blocking the appointment of judges to the WTO’s Appellate Body, which means there are currently only three judges, the minimum needed to hear a dispute. The once vaunted system will grind to a halt by December 2019 when two other judges’ terms are up for renewal. Thirdly, there are concerns with the lack of compliance by some States with notification and transparency requirements which impacts on the WTO’s monitoring function.

In response, many countries have not just pivoted their attention away from the multilateral table towards the regional arena, but there is growing protectionism and resort to unilateral measures. In its latest economic outlook released November 21st , the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned that global GDP growth has peaked on the back of a slowdown in global trade and investment flows owing to current trade tensions. The OECD has, therefore, called for renewed international cooperation and dialogue to tackle global trade issues and reform of the global trading system. Similar warnings have been made by other multilateral institutions and bring into sharp focus the importance of the stability of the multilateral trading system for the global economy in general, and for Caribbean small states, in particular, whose small open economies are susceptible to global economic shocks.

These systemic risks suggest that the WTO requires more than superficial tinkering, but comprehensive, inclusive and transparent reform. The challenge is making the WTO, an institution born in a different era and different economic landscape, “fit for purpose” for twenty-first century global trading realities, and in a way that caters to the unique needs of its smallest and most vulnerable members.

Why does WTO reform matter to Caribbean small States?

Caribbean small states, and small States in general, comprise only a tiny fraction of world trade, but their equitable integration into the global economy is essential for their economic survival. These States comprise primarily small island States, but also some small continental States. Compromised by limited bargaining power and inherent economic and other vulnerabilities, they depend on the certainty and predictability of the rules-based multilateral trading system not just to ensure that their traders face fair trading conditions in external markets, but that they could hold (at least in theory) larger states to account through the WTO’s dispute settlement body when they do not play by the rules.

It is of importance to Caribbean small States that updated trade rules for the twenty-first century not be made in negotiation theatres to which they are often not party (such as in Regional Trade Agreements and Mega-Regional Trade Agreements), but in the multilateral system where they have an equal seat at the table.

What proposals are on the table?

Thankfully, the silver lining to this story is that most WTO members have thus far expressed continued support for the multilateral trading system and have exhibited interest in WTO reform. The EU and Canada have both publicly shared their initial reform proposals and Canada held a meeting with thirteen other ‘like-minded’ governments in Ottawa to discuss WTO reform. The proposals have touched, for example, on decision and rule-making, improving the dispute settlement function and improving transparency and notification requirements.

In November 2018, the US, EU, Japan, Argentina and Costa Rica laid a proposal for tightening transparency and notification requirements under the WTO agreements. Among the recommendations were changes to the current Trade Policy Review mechanism, special consideration for developing countries and penalties for non-compliance by members.

Many of the proposals currently on the table have direct implications for Caribbean small States. For example, the EU and Canadian proposals evince growing appetite by the more advanced economies to change the current model of decision-making, that is, the consensus-based approach which requires absence of any formal objection to the decision. This approach has made the WTO one of the most democratic of the multilateral economic institutions. It allows small States to have bargaining power they otherwise would not have had and by mere numbers has led to a shift in the balance of bargaining power in favour of developing countries in the WTO. Though this approach has accounted for some of the stalemate, the wholesale move to a less democratic form of decision making would be disadvantageous to small States beset by limited negotiation might.

There are also calls for reforming the application of special and differential treatment (SDT) since currently any WTO member can self-designate as a developing country, entitling it to the flexibilities under the Agreements. This concern is due to the inclusion of large emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil in particular as developing countries. While not specifically supporting the creation of special categories, the EU concept paper notes the lack of nuance in the concept of a ‘developing country’. This is a good reason why small States should redouble their advocacy efforts for the translation of the Small Vulnerable Economy (SVE) informal group into a formal sub-category of developing countries.

What should we do?

The current crisis in the multilateral trading system has implications for Caribbean small states which rely on the certainty of the multilateral trading system and on the health of the global economy. It, however, also opens the door for our States to advocate for reforms as well. CARICOM countries have always played an active role in WTO negotiations, including pushing for the SVE grouping. For this reason, the COTED statement supporting the multilateral trading system and the WTO, and demanding a space for small States in the negotiations, was a good initial step.

The next step should entail formulating our own carefully considered responses to the proposals already on the table and advancing our own concrete proposals where we deem necessary. For instance, as noted before, given the dissatisfaction by advanced economies with the current carte blanche approach to SDT, this may be the opportune time to raise the reconsideration of making the SVE category a formal category. Additionally, as the on-going US-Antigua Gambling dispute shows, even though a small State may win a dispute, obtaining compliance is another matter. For this reason, dispute settlement reform is another area on which Caribbean small States should take particular interest.

Indeed, CARICOM governments will not have to depend solely on the vast knowledge and experience of their technocrats, but there are an increasing number of regional scholars and academic institutions, such as the University of the West Indies’ Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy & Services, which are pro-actively considering these issues, and whose technical expertise and research capacity could be drawn upon. There is also no need to reinvent the wheel given the growing corpus of literature, developed by the Commonwealth Secretariat for example, which has analysed the drawbacks of the WTO for small States and making proposals for reform. This work can be drawn upon in the formulation of our own proposals.

The Caribbean has a strong history of multilateral engagement within the WTO. The current situation gives us an appropriate moment to contribute to the comprehensive reform of the guardian of the multilateral trading system to ensure it remains fit for purpose for 21st century trading realities and for the global economy, and that it better serves its smallest and most vulnerable members. Caribbean small States can ill-afford to be perceived as backseat participants, but must be fully engaged and mobilized in this critical moment.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade and Development Digest – November 13 – 17, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of November 13-17, 2018! We do apologise for the delay in this week’s Caribbean Trade and Development Digest, but are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

Last week was quite a busy week in trade policy news on the regional and international fronts! There was the announcement and release of the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, ended with no joint statement amidst disagreement between the US and China. On the regional front, the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) held its 47th meeting and released a statement  in support of the WTO.

REGIONAL

COTED Statement on WTO

CARICOM: CARICOM Trade Ministers, meeting in Georgetown, Guyana, on 15 and 16 November 2018, at the Forty-Seventh Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), re-iterated the Caribbean Community’s support for the rules-based, multilateral trading system embodied in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Read more 

Dubai-Caribbean non-oil trade hits $273 million in 2017

Khaleej Times: The value of non-oil trade between Dubai and Caribbean countries totalled $273 million in 2017, according to new data released by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry ahead of the first UAE-Caribbean Cooperation Forum in Dubai. Read more

St Lucia set to launch import substitution programme

St Lucia Times: The Ministry of Agriculture, with the support of the government of Taiwan, will next year begin implementing an import substitution programme for a range of crops in an effort to reduce Saint Lucia’s food import bill. Read more

Guyana, EU to sign pact on forest governance

Stabroek: After around six years of engagements, Guyana and the European Union (EU) are to sign an agreement that will bolster forest governance and address issues such as illegal logging. Read more 

China eyes US$10 trillion in imports from Latin America, Caribbean

Stabroek: The Government of the People’s Republic of China is looking to import some US$10 trillion in goods and services from Latin America and the Caribbean over the next five years, China’s Ambassador to Jamaica Tian Qi has disclosed. Read more 

Advancing Single Market and Economy pivotal to CARICOM’s future – LaRocque

Stabroek: If CARICOM is to safeguard the region’s interests in the global arena and achieve the objective of improving the lives of its citizens, its most important immediate task is to advance the implementation of the Single Market and Economy (CSME), Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque says. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

APEC summit wraps with no joint statement amid US-China discord

CNN: For the first time in its 25-year history, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit ended Sunday with its leaders failing to agree on a formal joint statement.

All 21 APEC leaders at the annual meeting in Papua New Guinea were in agreement except China, a source within the meeting told CNN. Read more
European Commission welcomes agreement on foreign investment screening framework
EU: Today the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission reached a political agreement on an EU framework for screening foreign direct investment. Read more

Japan initiates WTO dispute complaint against Korean support for shipbuilders

WTO: Japan has requested WTO dispute consultations with Korea concerning alleged subsidies provided by the Korean government to its shipbuilding industry. Japan’s request was circulated to WTO members on 13 November. Read more

WTO Members Prepare to Shift Gears in Fisheries Negotiations

ICTSD: WTO members negotiating a proposed agreement to tackle harmful fisheries subsidies held a second cluster of meetings last week as part of their September-December work programme, hearing reports about brainstorming sessions in “incubator groups” the week before and completing the streamlining of a document consolidating all existing proposals.  Read more 

Kenya Eyes High Table Seat At Inaugural Intra-Africa Trade Talks

AllAfrica: Kenya is keen to play a lead role in steering intra-Africa trade as the continent meet for the Inaugural Intra-Africa Trade Fair (IATF) in Cairo, Egypt, next month. Read more

May sticks to Brexit deal as opponents seek formal challenge

Reuters: British Prime Minister Theresa May vowed on Monday to stick to her draft European Union divorce deal as dissenting lawmakers in her own party tried to trigger a leadership challenge. Read more 

Vice president Pence pushes Japan for free trade agreement

Reuters:  U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, keeping up pressure on Japan to cut its trade surplus with the United States, said on Tuesday American goods and services too often faced barriers in Japan and a bilateral trade agreement offered the best way forward. Read more 

Singapore, China sign several agreements, including free trade agreement upgrade

ChannelNewsAsia: China and Singapore have signed a slew of agreements, including the upgrade of a bilateral free trade pact, which will allow greater market access for Singapore companies. Read more

China, Spain, Latin America: A New Growth Axis in Global Trade

World Crunch: Spain, an industralized EU member with close ties to Latin America, could profit from easing the entry of Chinese firms keen to invest in and export to the Americas. Read more

How news media can boost China-Latin America relations

Xinhua: There’s no doubt of the news media’s impact across borders and in fostering relations between countries and entire regions. Nowhere is this more true than in the relationship between China and Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC). Read more 

WTO working more closely with UK on Brexit

RTE: A senior World Trade Organization (WTO) representative has said the body is watching Brexit negotiations between the European Union and the UK “very closely”. Read more 

Trump’s protectionism might just save the WTO

The Washington Post: President Trump is right that the World Trade Organization badly needs reform.Keeping the United States within the WTO should obviously be Plan A. But it would be prudent for other members to start thinking about devising a new international trade organization minus the United States in order to avoid the “my way or the highway” blackmail that has become the American president’s signature negotiating style. Read more 

WTO members adopt roadmap for reducing technical barriers to trade

WTO: WTO members achieved a breakthrough at a 14-15 November meeting of the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) by agreeing on a list of recommendations that aim at reducing obstacles to trade and improving implementation of the WTO’s TBT Agreement.  Read more 

Launch of WTO Data Portal

WTO: The WTO launched on Friday 16th November its new online database. The WTO Data portal brings together a wide range of statistical indicators on international trade and other WTO-related information. Read more 

US-China Discord Dominates APEC Summit

Jakarta Globe: The United States and China swapped barbs over trade, investment and regional security at an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, or Apec, summit on Saturday, as growing fault lines among members suggested little prospect of consensus at the weekend meeting. Read more 

India to adopt new approach toward free trade agreements

Japan Times: India is planning to adopt a new strategy toward negotiating free trade agreements even as the country is engaged in talks with members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the proposed ASEAN-focused regional free trade area. Read more 

Egypt, Eurasian Union to start negotiating free trade agreement

Egypt Today: Egypt and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) signed a framework document for negotiations on the free trade agreement between the two sides, as they both decided to hold the first tournament of negotiations in mid- January in Cairo. Read more 

India, Mauritius likely to sign free trade pact in January

Hindu Business Line: The proposed India-Mauritius free trade agreement,being given the final touches by negotiators this week, is likely to be signed in January during Mauritius PM Pravind Kumar Jugnauth’s India visit, a government official has said. Read more 

The Caribbean Trade & Development Digest is a weekly trade news digest published by the Caribbean Trade Law & Development Blog. Liked this issue? To read past issues, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – November 4-12, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of November 4-12, 2018! We are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

REGIONAL

CARICOM finalising trade arrangements post- Brexit

RJR News: Minister of  Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, says the technical work for the rollover of  the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) into a new CARIFORUM-United Kingdom trade arrangement post-Brexit is close to being finalised. Read more

CARICOM trade ministers meet next week; officials begin preparatory work

Caribbean News Now: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) trade officials on Wednesday began preparations for the 47th meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), which will be held in Georgetown, Guyana, November 15-16. The two-day preparatory meeting is being held at the CARICOM Secretariat. Read more

INTERNATIONAL

Trump’s trade war could dent China’s domestic consumption, dragging down the rest of Asia

CNBC: Asian countries’ exports are potentially vulnerable to the U.S.-China trade war on two fronts: changes to global supply chains and slowing Chinese domestic demand. Read more

Don’t expect quick end to U.S.-China trade war, top White House official warns

Washington Post: Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro said Friday that “trust issues” with China are responsible for the lack of progress in trade negotiations, tamping down hope for progress in resolving the trade war when President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet later this month at the G-20 summit in Argentina. Read more

Trump’s trade war may have helped the Democrats win the House

Washington Post: Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, which runs along the U.S.-Canada border, has one of the highest concentrations of iron miners in the country. Republicans took it from Democrats in Tuesday’s midterm election amid a surge in the industry propelled in part by President Trump’s tariffs on China. Read more

Commission reports on latest negotiating rounds with Indonesia and New Zealand

EU: The Commission today published two reports summarising the progress made during the latest negotiating rounds for the EU-Indonesia and EU-New Zealand trade agreements. Read more

Aid for Trade monitoring exercise to review economic diversification and empowerment

WTO: The Aid for Trade monitoring and evaluation exercise was launched at a meeting of the WTO Committee on Trade and Development on 6 November 2018. WTO members and Aid for Trade partners may submit self-assessment questionnaires up to 31 December 2018 to assist preparations for the 2019 Aid for Trade Global Review. Read more

DG Azevêdo and Premier Li Keqiang discuss how to safeguard the WTO

WTO: Director-General Roberto Azevêdo visited Beijing, China, on 6 November to participate in the “1+6” roundtable meeting hosted by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, together with five other heads of major international economic organizations and financial institutions (the IMF, World Bank, ILO, OECD and the Financial Stability Board). Read more

WTO issues panel report on Indian safeguard duties on steel products

WTO: On 6 November the WTO circulated the panel report in the case brought by Japan in “India — Certain Measures on Imports of Iron and Steel Products” (DS518). Read more 

Registration opens for screening of “US — Softwood Lumber Pricing Methodology” second hearing

WTO: At the request of the parties in the dispute “US — Anti-Dumping Measures Applying Differential Pricing Methodology to Softwood Lumber from Canada” (DS534), the panel has decided to open its second substantive meeting to public observation on 4 December 2018 (and on 5 December, if necessary). The live screening will take place at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva. Read more

IP seminar addresses how technological changes have transformed trade and knowledge flows

WTO: Government officials from 29 developing and least developed countries and 13 Geneva-based delegates from around the world took part in the Seminar on Intellectual Property and Knowledge Flows in a Digital Era, which took place at the WTO on 5-6 November 2018. Read more 

The Caribbean Trade & Development Digest is a weekly trade news digest published by the Caribbean Trade Law & Development Blog. Liked this issue? To read past issues, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – October 28 – November 3, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of October 28-November 3, 2018! We are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

Caribbean trade officials and experts met in Guyana this week to discuss emerging trade issues, while Barbados hosted Africa, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) private sector consultations.  On the Brexit front, business leaders in the UK are calling for a new EU referendum. The EU is reportedly revising its WTO reform proposals released in September in order to gain US support.

Please have a read of the week’s other headlines below:

REGIONAL

What’s at stake as EU, Africa, Caribbean, Pacific, negotiate new accord

Devex: After years of preparation and posturing, negotiations on the new relationship between the European Union and 79 African, Caribbean, and Pacific states are finally underway. Read more 

OECD support on economic citizenship programmes unreasonable, says OECS

Caribbean News Now: The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Authority, the highest decision-making body of the nine-member sub-regional bloc, has responded to the recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report that listed five of its members for tax evasion concerns with regard their citizenship by investment (CBI) programmes. Read more 

OECS to establish a diplomatic presence in Africa

Searchlight: Eastern Caribbean States will soon have a strong diplomatic presence on the world’s second largest continent, Africa. This decision was made on Tuesday, during the 66th meeting of the OECS Authority, which took place in St Vincent and the Grenadines at Beachcombers Hotel. Read more 

OECS to hold Blue Economy Seminars in Member States

St Lucia Online: Transitioning to a Blue Economy is critical to ensuring continued economic growth in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), given that the marine space of small island states is significantly larger than their land mass and clearly a substantial asset. Read more 

TCI needs UK letter of approval to start APIS with CARICOM

Magnetic Media: The United Kingdom has to give the Turks and Caicos permission to continue on its path to having APIS or the Advanced Passenger Information System with its country partners in CARICOM. Read more 

Caribbean countries discuss global trade challenges

Commonwealth: Caribbean countries of the Commonwealth met in Georgetown, Guyana this week to deliberate on how to respond to major shifts in the global trade landscape. Read more 

Guyana trade mission jets into Aberdeen

Energy Voice: A trade mission from Guyana will visit Aberdeen later this month to foster business links with north-east oil and gas companies. Read more 

Guyana/China MOU signals “unfettered” partnership in every possible area

Kaieteur News: Finally, the APNU+AFC Government has released the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, signed with China to facilitate the infamous Belt and Road Initiative. The MOU was signed on July 27, last. Read more 

CARICOM countries join call for US to lift embargo against Cuba

RJR: Two days after the House of Representatives in Jamaica approved a resolution calling for the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the US, other CARICOM countries have taken a similar stance. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

Vietnam is winning the US-China trade war

Foreign Policy: The facts on the ground are clear; Vietnam, once dependent on garments and other cheap exports, has begun to rival China’s tech sector. And with Asian businesspeople increasingly resigned to a protracted trade war between Washington and Beijing, firms are more eager than ever to escape tariffs by relocating to China’s smaller southern neighbor. Read more

Pacific-Rim trade deal to kick in December

CBC (Canada): U.S. President Donald Trump tried to kill it, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership wouldn’t stay dead. Less than two years after the U.S. withdrew from the landmark Pacific Rim trade deal it once saw as key to an Asian trade strategy, six of the remaining countries have ratified it. Read more 

Future economy minister says Mercosur is not a priority for Bolsonaro

Mercopress: Mercosur is not a priority, and Argentina is not a priority for the new government of Brazil, the priority is to trade with all the world. The strong statement came from Paulo Guedes, signaled as the next Finance minister of president elect Jair Bolsonaro’s cabinet and a crucial player in that team since the newly elected leader has admitted a limited knowledge of economics. Read more 

US attacks UK plan for digital services tax on tech giants 

BBC: The US has hit back against a UK plan to impose a new tax on sales by technology giants. Read more

US, China ‘not on the cusp of’ trade deal: White House advisor

Reuters: The United States and China are not close to a deal to resolve their trade differences, the White House’s top economic adviser said on Friday, adding that he was less optimistic than previously that such an agreement would come together. Read more

USTR to hold hearing in December over trade talks with Japan

Japan Times: The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will hold a hearing on Dec. 10 regarding bilateral trade negotiations with Japan that Washington plans to launch in mid-January, according to the Federal Register. Read more

Trump vows close ties with Brazil’s Bolsonaro on trade, military

Reuters: The United States will work closely with Brazil on trade and military issues following Jair Bolsonaro’s presidential election victory, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday. Read more 

Alibaba launched Africa’s first electronic trade platform

Africa News: Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba on Wednesday launched Africa’s first Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) at a special ceremony in Kigali, Rwanda. Read more 

Critics of EU-Mercosur deal name conditions for support

Swissinfo.ch: A coalition of Swiss farming organisations, consumers and NGOs says it is in favour of a free trade agreement between Switzerland and the four Mercosur countries: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. But it is demanding binding criteria concerning sustainability.  Read more 

Continental free trade agreement bodes well for future of trade policy across Africa

Business Day: On March 21 2018, 44 African countries signed the African Union’s continental free trade agreement (Acfta). The AU aims to use the agreement as a conduit for the creation of a single market and customs union on the continent, akin to the trade blocs established by the EU. Read more 

EU-Africa trade will only blossom when all are treated as equals

The East African: China’s use of trade and investment links to expand its influence in Africa is fuelling growing concern in some European capitals. But, instead of complaining about China’s activities, the European Union should be deepening its own engagement with the continent. Read more 

Nigeria is set to host Africa Trade Forum 2018

African Review: The Africa Trade Forum 2018, set to take place on 2-3 November 2018 in Lagos, will discuss the process for realising the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Read more 

Dairy farmers ‘very disappointed’ with USMCA

South Western Ontario:  Very disappointing was how Dairy Farmers of Ontario spokesperson Ralph Dietrich described the pending United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. Read more 

Commonwealth concerned at technological gap in trade

St. Lucia Online: A senior official of the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat says efforts are being made to bridge the technological gap in trade. Read more

RP-US bilateral trade agreement

Manila Standard: As the Philippines is about to renew its bilateral trade agreement with the US, President Duterte has expressed concern that concluding a free trade agreement with the US might jeopardize our bilateral relations with China and with the Asean where we currently enjoy robust trade relations. Read more 

India, China to undertake joint research on WTO reforms

Economic Times: India and China Thursday agreed to undertake joint research in the areas of WTO reforms, urbanisation and frontier technologies with a view to enhancing economic cooperation between the countries, an official statement said. Read more

Report: EU trade agreements deliver on growth and jobs, support sustainable development

EU: According to the second annual report about the implementation of trade agreements issued today, these agreements – covering nearly 70 markets all over the world – are proving effective in removing barriers to trade and promoting high standards of labour and environment protection. Read more 

Brexit: Relations ‘fraying’ between Britain and Ireland

BBC: The Irish prime minister says Brexit is fraying relations between Ireland and Britain. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it had also “undermined” the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). Read more 

Brexit: Business leaders call for new EU referendum

BBC: More than 70 business leaders have signed a letter to the Sunday Times calling for a public vote on the UK’s Brexit deal. Read more 

Minister Pato signs ACP administrative cooperative agreement

ACP Secretariat: Papua New Guinea has taken steps to strengthen and deepen its Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU and other ACP states that have similar trading arrangements. Read more 

EU Revises Plan to Fix WTO in Bid to Get U.S. on Board

Bloomberg: The European Union is revamping its plan to reform the World Trade Organization in an effort to win support from the U.S., according to two people briefed on the process. Read more 

Women-supporting trade policies need better data, experts say

UNCTAD: The idea that governments around the world must support women as traders, workers and entrepreneurs to drive international commerce has been recognized in several multilateral agendas in recent years, but experts say that a data gap needs to be filled before the most effective policies can be designed. Read more 

WTO members discuss implementation of the Information Technology Agreement

WTO: Implementation issues concerning India and China were flagged once more at the Committee meeting. WTO members raised concerns about the import duties that India has introduced on mobile phones and their parts, which members consider to be covered by the ITA. Read more

Panels established to examine Pakistani duties on film, Korean duties on steel

WTO: At a meeting of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) on 29 October, WTO members agreed to a request from the United Arab Emirates for the establishment of a panel to examine anti-dumping duties imposed by Pakistan on biaxially oriented polypropylene from the UAE as well as a request from Japan for a panel to examine anti-dumping duties imposed on stainless steel bar from Japan. Read more

White House officials are pushing back on the idea that a trade deal with China is imminent

CNBC: For a brief moment Friday, there was optimism in the market that the Trump administration was getting closer to a trade deal with China. But administration officials are telling CNBC that there is no indication of an imminent agreement. Read more 

RCEP nations unlikely to reach agreement this year

Japan Times: The 16 mostly Asian countries negotiating what will be the world’s largest free trade area might not be able to achieve their target of a substantive deal by the year’s end, an official source familiar with the talks has said. Read more

Philippines, Japan eye inclusion of e-commerce

Business Inquirer: Japan might include e-commerce under its free trade deal with the Philippines as both sides review the merits of the nearly decade-old agreement. Read more

NEW ON CTLD BLOG

Jamaica remains easiest place in CARICOM to do business, according to World Bank Doing Business Report 2019

Could Promoting Bilingualism Give Caribbean Countries a Trade and Investment Advantage?

The Caribbean Trade & Development Digest is a weekly trade news digest published by the Caribbean Trade Law & Development Blog. Liked this issue? To read past issues, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

Jamaica remains easiest place in CARICOM to do business, according to World Bank Doing Business Report 2019

Alicia Nicholls

Jamaica has maintained its spot as the easiest place to do business in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in the just released World Bank Doing Business Report 2019.  This is the 16th edition of this flagship World Bank publication which objectively ranks 190 economies globally on their ease of doing business based on a number of indicators. The theme of this year’s report is Training for Reform.

Jamaica has an overall ranking of 75 out of the 190 economies ranked. Of note is that overall, Jamaica also ranked as the 6th easiest place to start a business and 12th in the ease of getting credit. With respect to significant business reforms, the World Bank highlighted Jamaica’s improved access to credit information by distributing data from utility companies.

No Caribbean country has made the top 50. The rankings of the other Caricom countries are as follows: St. Lucia (93), Dominica (103), Trinidad & Tobago (105), Antigua and Barbuda (112), The Bahamas (118), Belize (125), Barbados (129), St Vincent and the Grenadines (130), Guyana (134), St Kitts and Nevis (140), Grenada (147), Suriname (165) and Haiti (182).

The Dominican Republic, which is not a CARICOM country but is part of CARIFORUM, has a ranking of 102. Puerto Rico, a Commonwealth of the US, is the Caribbean region’s easiest place to do business, with a ranking of 64.

Globally, New Zealand was ranked the easiest place to do business (1), while Somalia was ranked as the least (190). Turning to small States, Singapore was ranked second, while Mauritius continued its upward climb, with a current rank of 20th.

The World Bank reported a record 314 regulatory reforms between June 2, 2017 and May 1, 2018. Some 128 economies introduced ‘substantial regulatory improvements’ which made doing business easier in all areas measured. The following economies internationally were singled out as having made the most improvement: Afghanistan, Djibouti, China, Azerbaijan, India, Togo, Kenya, Cote D’Ivoire, Turkey and Rwanda.  

The full World Bank Doing Business Report 2019 may be accessed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – October 21 – 27, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of October 21-27, 2018! We are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

The main headline this week was the Ottawa Ministerial Meeting on World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform held in Ottawa, Canada, from October 24-25 and chaired by Canada’s Minister of Trade International Trade Diversification, the Honourable Jim Carr. Ministers and Heads of Delegation from thirteen other ‘likeminded’ countries joined with Canada to discuss proposals on the way forward for strengthening and modernising the world’s multilateral trade body. The WTO’s Director General Roberto Azevedo also attended the meeting at the invitation of the organisers. The joint communique from this meeting may be found here. Canada has also released a discussion paper with its ideas for WTO reform, which may be found here.

Please have a read of the week’s other headlines below:

REGIONAL

Phillips Says Global Anti-Immigration Policies A Threat To Caribbean Progress

Jamaica Gleaner: Opposition Leader and People’s National Party (PNP) President Dr Peter Phillips today warned that Caribbean progress was under threat from a rise in anti-immigration policies in rich countries. Read more 

The Dominican Republic helps mango producers double exports

FreshPlaza: The Dominican Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and the Special Fund for Agricultural Development (FEDA) contributed more than 130 million pesos for the construction and equipping of a modern hydrothermal treatment plant to the Banileja Association of Mango Producers (ABAPROMANGO) with the objective of doubling fruit exports next year. Read more

CARICOM Secretariat releases biodiversity management score card

Caribbean News Now: The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has recorded a significant milestone with the release of a report on the state of biodiversity management in the region. Read more

Why British trade with Africa, Caribbean and Pacific nations can boom after Brexit

Gov.UK: UK Trade Policy Minister, George Hollingbery, spoke in Brussels to representatives from the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states on why British trade with ACP nations can boom after Brexit. Read here.

RI takes first jab at Indonesia-Caribbean relations

The Jakarta Post: Following President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s orders to explore non-traditional trade markets, the government has moved to facilitate business-to-business talks between Indonesia and 15 countries joined in Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Read more 

Taiwanese business delegation visits St Lucia for investment and trade opportunities

Caribbean News Now: A business delegation from Taiwan arrived in Saint Lucia on October 24, 2018, to explore investment opportunities and engage potential business partners in Saint Lucia. Read more 

CTO Secretary General says complacency puts Caribbean people and economies at risk

Caribbean360: Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley has called on Caribbean states to take tsunami preparedness seriously, stating to do otherwise would put the people and regional economies at risk. Read more

IMF says recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean has lost momentum

Caribbean360: The International Monetary Fund’s Regional Economic Outlook for the Western Hemisphere has marked down its growth forecasts for Latin America and the Caribbean to 1.2 per cent in 2018 and 2.2 per cent in 2019, from the May 2018 forecasts of 2.0 per cent and 2.8 per cent, respectively. Read more

INTERNATIONAL

Vanuatu Trade Policy Review

WTO: The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu had its first review of its trade policies and practices which took place October 23 and 25. Read more 

Asia-Europe Meetings Close With Calls for Supporting WTO, Multilateralism

ICTSD Bridges: The 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) came to a close last week in Brussels, Belgium, where leaders from 51 countries examined options for greater cooperation on supporting the multilateral trading system, improving climate action, and otherwise backing multilateralism and shared policy objectives.  Read more 

EU, US Officials Consider Approaches, Objectives for Trade Negotiating Outcomes

ICTSD Bridges: Three months after US and EU leaders agreed to launch an “Executive Working Group” to tackle a series of trade issues, questions over how future talks will proceed and what those efforts will cover substantively remain, with trade officials offering differing public assessments in recent weeks. Read more 

Russia seeks to capitalise on Brexit after blocking Liam Fox’s WTO plan

The Guardian: Russia is among 20 countries that are looking to squeeze a commercial advantage from Brexit after blocking an attempt by the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, to fast-track a World Trade Organization deal on the UK’s terms of trade with the world. Read more 

UK signals failure of bid for quick Brexit transition at WTO

Reuters: Britain signalled on Thursday that its attempt to seal terms for its post-Brexit membership of the World Trade Organization by a fast-track procedure had failed, and it must now enter negotiations which are likely to be lengthy. Read more 

DDG Wolff: “It is essential that the WTO adapts to future changes in world trade”

WTO: In a lecture delivered to the Academy of Economic Studies in Chișinău, Moldova, on 24 October 2018, Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff said that much in the world of trade will change going forward, largely due to the emergence of new technologies. Read more 

Subsidies Committee members express concerns on lack of notifications

WTO: Members of the WTO’s Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures expressed concerns at their special meeting on 23 October about the failure of many members to notify the Committee of subsidy programmes. Read more

Canada ratifies Pacific rim deal 

CTV: A bill to enact a new trade pact with Pacific Rim countries has passed the legislative finish line, making Canada one of the first countries to ratify the 11-country deal. Read more 

Chilean Senate approves deepening of free trade agreement with China

Santiago Times: This week the Chilean Senate approved the protocol of deepening the Free Trade Agreement with China, a fact that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roberto Ampuero, described as “very good news.” Read more 

Will Trump push for an ‘America first’ trade agreement in Asia modelled on his new Nafta deal?

South China Morning Post: US President Donald Trump seeks to redefine all major free-trade agreements on the basis of US economic and geopolitical leverage. In these efforts, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is likely to serve as a blueprint. Read more 

EU and Indonesia complete sixth round of negotiations for a trade agreement

EU: The sixth round of negotiations for an EU-Indonesia free trade agreement took place from 15 to 19 October in Palembang, Indonesia. Read more 

The Caribbean Trade & Development Digest is a weekly trade news digest published by the Caribbean Trade Law & Development Blog. Liked this issue? To read past issues, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

Could Promoting Bilingualism Give Caribbean Countries a Trade and Investment Advantage?

Alicia Nicholls

What do Mauritius, Malaysia, and Singapore have in common? Besides being examples of highly competitive emerging economies, these countries have multilingual populations which they proudly count as part of their country’s competitive advantage.

Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, recently announced his government’s hope to adopt Spanish as a second language given the longstanding and growing importance of foreign direct investment (FDI) from Spain to Jamaica’s economy. Spanish chains are a growing presence in Jamaica’s tourism, wellness and construction  sectors and have injected US$1.7 billion in Jamaica’s tourist industry, according to the Prime Minister in his speech.

Similar statements on the need for improving our populations’ language competencies have also been made by current and previous Commonwealth Caribbean governments. Could the promotion of bilingualism give our hitherto monolingual Commonwealth Caribbean countries a trade and investment edge in an increasingly interconnected global marketplace?

 ‘Everyone speaks English!” Or do they?

I am not aware of any data on the rates of bilingualism (that is, proficiency in two or more languages) in the Commonwealth Caribbean. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that aside from local dialects, anglophone Caribbean countries have mostly monolingual (one language) populations.

It is not uncommon to hear some persons strongly proclaim “everyone speaks English, so why must I learn another language?”. Though English is currently the most learnt second language internationally, this chart from the World Economic Forum shows that English is actually the third most spoken mother tongue in the world, with 372 million first-language speakers in 2017. The second most spoken language was Spanish, with 437 million speakers. But the most spoken was Chinese (Mandarin) with 1,284 million speakers, which is not surprising given the population of China.

While the English language has been the global lingua franca since the 20th century, it has not always been, and it may not always be either given China’s growing economic dominance and promotion of its culture and language.  In recognition of this fact, China Daily has reported that there is growing interest in western countries for learning Mandarin. In Russia, for example, the number of Chinese language learners has reportedly increased from 17,000 in 2007 to 56,000 in 2017 and Mandarin is now an elective language in that country’s national college entrance examination.

That aside, the Commonwealth Caribbean is surrounded not only by its Spanish, French and Dutch speaking Caribbean island neighbors, but also Spanish-speaking Latin American countries and Portuguese-speaking Brazil, which present still largely undertapped export and tourist markets.

Bilingualism enhances labour force quality

There is a corpus of research highlighting the cognitive, psychological and social advantages to human beings learning a second language. These include sharpened memory, improved decision-making skills, multi-tasking capability, problem-solving and mental dexterity. Knowledge of another language also increases a person’s employability, cultural sensitivity, earning potential and labour market opportunities. As a multilingual person, I can personally attest to the doors which knowledge of other languages have opened for me professionally.

Internationally, employers’ demand for bilingual persons has increased not only as trade with other countries has increased, but because of the recognition by firms of the benefits to their export strategies of employing bilingual persons. A report of March 2017 by New American Economy found that demand for bilingual workers in the US is growing at both the higher and lower ends of the employment spectrum. This is further supported by a report by the Economic Intelligence Unit, which surveyed 572 executives globally and found that organisations with international ambitions were increasingly expecting prospective employees to be fluent in key foreign languages.

Taken as a whole, improving a population’s language competency makes for a more attractive labour force to international investors. This advantage has not gone unrecognized by some countries. Mauritius, whose population speaks French, English and French Creole, proudly touts its bilingual population as one of its unique selling points as a place for international business. In Switzerland, which has four national languages, a report from 2008 estimated that country’s linguistic advantage as equivalent to about 9% of its GDP.

In an increasingly interconnected world, I believe monolingualism will put our human resource, which is our greatest resource, at a distinct disadvantage in attracting international investment and tourism.

Bilingualism/Biculturalism as Business Advantages in Cross-Border Transactions

Effective communication is essential to the success of cross-border deals, which means that linguistic and cultural differences are frequent barriers to cross-border trade and investment. The previously mentioned report by the Economic Intelligence Unit found that “misunderstandings rooted in cultural differences present the greatest obstacle to productive cross-border collaboration”. For instance, a handshake or kiss on the cheek may be perfectly acceptable in one culture, but may cause offense in another.

A UK-based report also found that “over time the trade cost to the UK resulting from language barriers has varied in magnitude, but has been consistently large.”  While I am unaware of similar research conducted in the Commonwealth Caribbean, anecdotal evidence shows that this may also be the case here as well.

It is not uncommon for some businesses seeking to export to feel that it is not necessary to invest in developing a multilingual strategy or capacity given the increasing availability and accuracy, for example, of online translation services. However, online translation services miss subtle cultural nuances, which may be fatal when engaging in cross-border business negotiations, especially with enterprises from ‘high context cultures’. ‘High context’ is the term used in international business to describe those cultures which place greater emphasis on context, non-verbal cues and on interpersonal relations when conducting business. Examples would be most African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries. ‘Low context’ cultures usually rely mainly on verbal cues, and interpersonal relationships have less importance in the business context. These cultures include many Western European countries, the US and Canada.

In the Commonwealth Caribbean most of our international trade is currently with low context cultures with which we share cultural, linguistic and historical ties. But, as our firms seek to diversify, and as China (a high context culture) expands its economic footprint in the region, there will be need for greater understanding of the Chinese language and culture.

Prior knowledge of the language and cultural norms of a target export market is also invaluable when conducting market research into the business, legal and regulatory environment of that potential export market.

Bilingualism can foster wider Caribbean integration

Promoting bilingualism can foster closer Caribbean integration. By accident of geography, the Caribbean Region is divided by water. By accident of history, these divisions are furthered by language. However, greater linguistic and cultural awareness among our islands can bridge these divisions.

As an example, the French-speaking island of Martinique is one of the top tourist source markets for St. Lucia, its neighbor just 40 miles to the south.  Its tourist and business ties with Martinique are facilitated not just by geography and reliable transportation links, but also the mutual intelligibility of the Martinican and St. Lucian creoles and some shared cultural similarities. St. Lucia, nicknamed Helen of the West, changed colonial hands fourteen times between France and England, giving the island a unique culture and patois which is a mélange of its French and English colonial roots.

A new programme called the Trade Enhancement for the Eastern Caribbean (TEECA) programme seeks to promote trade and investment between Member States of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and Martinique, which became an OECS associate member in 2015. The success of this programme will undoubtedly hinge on OECS firms seeking to create or expand business with those in Martinique having an understanding of the Martinican cultural, business and legal context and knowledge of the French language.

Building a Bilingual Advantage

Promoting greater language competency among our populations could bring trade and investment advantages to Caribbean countries which rely disproportionately on their human resource. While not a panacea, it can provide for a more employable and attractive labour force, facilitate our export market diversification efforts, strengthen integration with the non-anglophone Caribbean and improve trade and investment ties with the wider LAC region

Of course, creating a bilingual society cannot happen overnight. First of all, we need to determine what language competencies our Governments will seek to promote. Spanish and French are increasingly being taught in Commonwealth Caribbean secondary schools, but should Mandarin also be included on the curriculum?

Moreover, expanding language instruction at the primary school level would be key, as well as promoting greater cultural exchanges. Languages should not be seen  solely as subjects for study, but as a door to further business opportunities, creating an edge for our people in an increasingly interconnected and competitive global environment.

As it is firms which trade and not countries, it is incumbent on regional firms to increase their in-house language capacity by employing persons with the linguistic skills and cultural knowledge of their export target markets, and also, where appropriate, invest in developing the language proficiency of their existing staff.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – October 14-20, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of October 14-20, 2018! We are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

In its latest Investment Trends Monitor, UNCTAD has reported that global FDI fell by 41% in the first half of 2018 due primarily to the large repatriations by US parent companies of accumulated foreign earnings from their foreign affiliates due to US government tax reforms. The full report may be found here.

The OECD has published a list of citizenship and residence by investment programmes which it deems “high risk” to the Common Reporting Standard, and names several programmes operated by Caribbean countries.

Nearly 700,000 protesters in London participated in the People’s March calling for a referendum on the UK’s final Brexit deal with the EU. Closer to home, in Haiti, President Moise has agreed to protesters’ calls for an investigation into the alleged misuse of funds received by Haiti under the PetroCaribe Agreement with Venezuela. Venezuela has announced it will replace the US dollar for the euro for use in international payments.

Please see further headlines below:

REGIONAL

Jamaica Prime Minister wants Spanish to be second language

Magnetic Media: Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says it is of strategic importance that the appropriate programmes be put in place, making Spanish a second language in Jamaica. Read more 

Support grows for marijuana decriminalisation across the region

Jamaica Observer: The chairperson of the Caricom Regional Commission on Marijuana Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine says there’s much support across the region for the decriminalisation of marijuana. Read more

Haiti’s President Launches Petrocaribe probe

VoA: Responding to protester demands to “tell us where the PetroCaribe money is” Moise tweeted Thursday that his administration would investigate the allegations of misuse of funds and would hold all those responsible accountable. Read more 

Haiti protests over politicians’ misuse of Petrocaribe funds

Al Jazeera: Protests in Haiti have turned violent as anger grows over billions of dollars of missing funds that were meant to provide social care and improve public services. Read more

IMF Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean

IMF: Amid escalating trade tensions, tighter financial conditions, and volatile commodity markets, economic recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has both moderated and become more uneven.  However, activity is recovering in the Caribbean, reflecting the uptick in tourism owing to robust US and global growth. Read more 

Is the Caribbean becoming a junkyard for Japanese excesses? (Commentary)

St Lucia News Now: Statistics from the islands show that thousands of cars are imported into the Caribbean from Japan annually. Eight of every ten cars imported have or are nearing the age of serviceability. Many of these vehicles will retire after a few years of use with the stark reality being that they will need to be disposed of.  Read more 

Caribbean countries set to reduce trade hurdles

UNCTAD: Senior trade officials from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have met with UNCTAD experts to discuss a new drive to help them improve the efficiency of their cross-border trade. Read more 

Will Mexico’s free zones affect Belize?

LoveFM: Tracy Taeger-Panton, the Minister of State Responsible for Investment, Trade and Commerce says it is still unclear what Mexico’s plans are but the Government is looking at ways to develop the economy of the northern districts. Read more 

Bahamas elected to UN Human Rights Council

Magnetic Media: The Bahamas was elected by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), on 12 October 2018 to serve on the Human Rights Council (HRC).  The HRC was created by the UNGA in 2006, replacing the former UN Human Rights Commission, and is the UN organ responsible for promoting and protecting human rights worldwide. Read more 

WHO removes Caribbean from Zika classification

Jamaica Observer: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has removed its Zika virus country classification scheme from countries in the region. The scheme had categorised most of the Caribbean territories as having active Zika virus transmission. Read more

INTERNATIONAL

Overseas investment failing, developing countries largely unscathed: UNCTAD

UN: Foreign direct investment (FDI) has dropped 40 per cent year-on-year so far, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said on Monday, but the $470 million decline is happening mainly in wealthy, industrialized nations, especially in North America and Western Europe. Read more 

Venezuela ditching US dollar for euros in international trade

Caribbean360: Venezuela will drop the US dollar from its exchange market in favour of the Euro, in reaction to crippling sanctions imposed by the United States. Read more

Canada launches safeguard investigation on certain steel products

WTO: On 12 October 2018, Canada notified the WTO’s Committee on Safeguards that it initiated on 11 October 2018 a safeguard investigation on certain steel products. Read more 

WTO members review use, application of preferential rules of origin for LDCs

WTO: At a meeting of the Committee on Rules of Origin on 15-16 October, WTO members further reviewed the use and application of preferential rules of origin programmes for least developed countries (LDCs) in line with commitments made at the WTO’s 2013 Bali and 2015 Nairobi ministerial conferences. Read more 

DG Azevêdo: Debate on WTO reform should reflect all perspectives

WTO: At a meeting of the full WTO membership today (16 October), Director-General Roberto Azevêdo noted the emerging debate on ‘WTO reform’ and highlighted the importance that this discussion is inclusive. Read more

Australia accepted as new party to government procurement pact

WTO: On 17 October 2018, parties to the WTO plurilateral Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) unanimously approved a decision to welcome Australia as the 48th WTO member to be covered by the Agreement. Read more

WTO members fix dates for Astana Ministerial Conference

WTO: WTO members have agreed that the organization’s next Ministerial Conference will take place from 8 to 11 June 2020 in Astana, Kazakhstan. The dates were endorsed at an 18 October meeting of the WTO’s General Council. Read more 

670,000 march to demand final say on Brexit

The Independent: Masses overflowed through the streets of London for more than a mile, from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square, as an estimated 670,000 protesters took their demand for a fresh Brexit referendum right to Theresa May’s doorstep.  Read more

Singapore, EU ink landmark free trade agreement

ChannelNewsAsia: Singapore and the European Union (EU) on Friday (Oct 19) inked a landmark trade deal that will eliminate tariffs and give businesses across various sectors, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), better market access.
Read more

Trump embarks on bilateral trade talks to pressure China

New York Times: Fresh off securing trade agreements with South Korea, Canada and Mexico, President Trump is embarking on a new plan: refashioning the Trans-Pacific Partnership to his liking through a flurry of bilateral trade deals. Read more

Australia insists trade agreement with Indonesia on track despite Israel comments

Channel News Asia: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday a billion-dollar free trade agreement with Indonesia will be signed this year despite a furious reaction to Canberra’s potential move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Read more

2018 Update of the EU Control List of Dual-Use Items

EU: On 10 October 2018, the Commission adopted the annual Delegated Regulation that updates the EU dual-use export control list in Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 and brings it in line with the decisions taken within the framework of the international non-proliferation regimes and export control arrangements in 2017. Read more

EU completes second round of negotiations with New Zealand

EU: EU negotiators were in Wellington, New Zealand from 8 to 12 October 2018 for the second round of negotiations for a trade agreement. Read more 

NEW ON CTLD BLOG

Caribbean Citizenship/Residence by Investment Programmes among those deemed “high risk” by OECD

If you take away multilateralism, who will hear us?

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Citizenship/Residence by Investment Programmes among those deemed “high risk” by OECD

Alicia Nicholls

UPDATED: The OECD has indicated that the list is not a blacklist.

A new threat to Caribbean countries’ citizenship and residency by investment programmes (CBI/RBI programmes) has emerged. Today the Paris-based think tank, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a ‘black list’ of sorts of CBI and RBI programmes that “potentially pose a high-risk to the integrity of the Common Reporting Standard”.

What are CBI/RBI programmes?

Citizenship by investment programmes and residence by investment programmes provide citizenship (in the case of the former) or residency (in the case of the latter) to an investor (and often his or her dependents) in exchange for that investor making a significant investment in the host country, subject to that jurisdiction’s eligibility criteria.

St. Kitts & Nevis operates the oldest CBI programme in the world. As part of their efforts to diversify and attract much needed foreign direct investment, four other Caribbean countries (Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica Grenada and St. Lucia) have since adopted their own programmes.  The British Overseas Territory of Anguilla has also recently established an RBI programme. Outside of the Caribbean, there is now an ever-growing list of CBI or RBI programmes operated across the world.

OECD’s examination of CBI/RBI programmes

Earlier this year, the OECD announced that it would be examining the prevention of abuse of these programmes to circumvent the Common Reporting Standard (CRS).

Nicknamed Global FATCA because it was inspired by the US’ Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the CRS is an information standard approved by the OECD Council in 2014 for the automatic exchange of information among tax authorities. CRS jurisdictions are required to obtain certain financial account information from their financial institutions and automatically share this information with other CRS jurisdictions on an annual basis.

The OECD has argued that CBI/RBI programmes are a risk to the CRS because they can be misused by persons to hide their assets offshore and because the documentation (such as ID cards) obtained through these programmes could be used to misrepresent an individual’s jurisdiction of tax residence.

The OECD used two vague criteria to determine whether a CBI/RBI programme was high risk to the CRS: (1) it gives access to a lower personal income tax rate on offshore financial assets and (2) it does not require an individual to spend a significant amount of time in the host jurisdiction.

Out of the 100 CBI/RBI programmes the OECD analysed, programmes from the following twenty-one jurisdictions were identified as high risk: Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Colombia, Cyprus, Dominica, Grenada, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Montserrat, Panama, Qatar, Saint Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Seychelles, Turks and Caicos, United Arab Emirates and Vanautu.

Caribbean Programmes Identified as ‘High Risk’

The following Caribbean CBI and RBI programmes were identified:

OECDCaribbeanCBIRBI

As a result, the OECD requires that financial institutions “take the outcome of the OECD’s analysis of high-risk CBI/RBI schemes into account when performing their CRS due diligence obligations”.

Why is this development of concern to the Caribbean?

This development is of concern to Caribbean countries which operate these programmes for several reasons. Firstly, it adds to the reputational backlash which Caribbean CBI  programmes have been facing, with implications for these programmes’ attractiveness to investors.  Caribbean CBI programmes are already facing competition not only inter se, but with other programmes around the world, including those in Europe which offer the prospect of free movement within the EU.

Secondly, this seeming blacklist, which is based on vague criteria, casts an unfair shadow on those countries which operate these programmes and may affect their attractiveness as jurisdictions for international business. Moreover, those countries which operate only RBI programmes , which have much less reputational risk, have also been painted with the same brush.

Thirdly, a reduction in CIP revenues would have an adverse economic impact on those countries which have come to depend on these revenues for their macroeconomic stability.

The results of the OECD’s analysis may be found here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

If you take away multilateralism, who will hear us?

Alicia Nicholls

The title of this week’s article is borrowed from the impromptu but impassioned appeal made by Prime Minister of Barbados, the Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, QC, MP, in her maiden address on September 28th during the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). With only one notable exception, support for multilateralism was a common thread linking the speeches given by world leaders during the General Debate.

Perhaps the most compelling case for multilateralism was that made by Foreign Minister of Singapore, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan. While warning that multilateralism was at a crossroads and was facing a crisis of confidence, Foreign Minister Balakrishnan made an articulate case for the indispensability of multilateralism to the global community, especially to small states.

Indeed, multilateralism affords small states a microphone that they would otherwise lack on the international stage. Despite the successes of the rules-based multilateral system, there are widening cracks in the system. These require immediate remedial action to enhance the system’s structural integrity to withstand the threat of creeping unilateralism, and to more effectively serve the needs of the global community in a changing geopolitical and economic world.

What is multilateralism?

Multilateralism, in the most rudimentary sense, refers to cooperation among three or more nation states to achieve a common goal. In contrast to the current isolationist US government stance, previous US governments were central to the establishment of the present-day multilateral system, which bears their footprint.

The modern day multilateral system was fashioned in the wake of the Second World War (1939-1945) with the aim of promoting global peace and stability. It was based on the liberal theory of international relations which posited, inter alia, that states which cooperate would not resort to war. It was in that immediate post-war era that the United Nations, the progeny of the League of Nations (1920-1946), was formed in 1945. The Bretton Woods institutions (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank), the watchdogs of the global economic order, were established at a conference held in Brettons Woods, New Hampshire, US in 1944.

Multilateralism recognizes that no one Government alone can handle the growing plethora of challenges confronting the global community, and that by pooling resources, wisdom and ideas through shared institutions, optimum solutions could be found. In the years that followed, a spaghetti bowl of multilateral organisations has flourished in areas as diverse as health, telecommunications, the environment, migration, international transportation, labour, among others.

With respect to trade governance, an attempt was made by a US-led group of countries to establish an International Trade Organisation (ITO) in the mid 1940s but failed after the US Congress repeatedly declined to approve the ITO Charter. As such, an informal organization known as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) governed world trade from 1945 until January 1995 when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) came into being.

Why Multilateralism Matters to Small States

The majority of today’s developing countries were still colonies when many of these multilateral institutions were birthed. However, upon attaining independence, acceding to these institutions was viewed as a requisite rite of passage. This is particularly true for the world’s small states which have overwhelmingly been supporters of multilateralism.

But why is that? Small states, with their diminutive economies and populations, weak political leverage and inherent vulnerabilities, would be the “bullied kids” in an anarchic global system where “might is right”. The rules-based multilateral system provides a buffer of stability and predictability for small states. Its norms-based system, undergirded by international law, helps to constrain and contain great power aggression. In a general sense, multilateral institutions provide some semblance of accountability for those States which contravene global norms. I say in a general sense as history has proven that this has not always been the case with big countries. In the area of trade, the WTO’s dispute settlement system gives small states the opportunity, at least in theory, to hold hegemons to account.

Multilateral engagement gives small states, which would otherwise be Liliputians in the international system, a voice. Whereas by itself a small states’ voice is a little more than a squeak, by building coalitions small states have managed to achieve a roar on some issues. One of the most notable cases was the success of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in the UNFCCC negotiations leading up to the signature of the Paris Climate Agreement during the COP21 in 2015. Though not perfect, that agreement is an important milestone in the fight against anthropogenic global warming.

Small states have also been able to benefit from capacity building and technical assistance from multilateral institutions. An example is the research done by multilateral financial institutions on the issue of de-risking which has led to the loss of correspondent banking relations, with implications for these states’ financial sectors and commercial relations. In the wake of the financial crisis, several Caribbean countries, and most recently Barbados, have had to enter IMF structural adjustment programmes.

Some small states have also played a key role in the establishment of multilateral institutions. Trinidad & Tobago was instrumental in pushing for the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and small states helped to push for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Moreover, small states have had some success in attaining high positions in international organisations.

Why is Multilateralism Under Threat?

Why is a system which has given the world relative peace and prosperity for some seventy years now facing what Singapore Foreign Minister Balakrishnan called a “crisis of confidence”? Questions about the efficacy and legitimacy of multilateral institutions have long been raised, but rising populism and anti-globalisation sentiment, in the wake of uneven recovery from the financial crisis has led to rising nationalism, xenophobia and unilateralism. Indeed, the recently published UNCTAD Trade and Development Report 2018 noted that trade tensions were a “symptom of a greater problem”, that is, failure to address rising global inequality and imbalances caused by “hyper-globalisation”.

But many of the problems are not the fault of multilateralism but due to inappropriate policy responses by Governments and by disruptive technologies which have replaced labour with machines. As such, as noted by Foreign Minister Balakrishnan in his UNGA speech, it is up to governments to address this through retooling workers and reformulating their education systems to equip the next generation with the tools to exploit these technologies.

Small states in their successive UNGA addresses have often expressed frustration at the slow pace of action on some fronts of concern to them, including financing for climate change. Antigua & Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, voiced disappointment with his country’s inability to receive compensation from the US after the WTO dispute settlement body ruled in Antigua & Barbuda’s favour in the US Gambling dispute. Moreover, Caribbean leaders have frequently bemoaned the lack of support for discontinuing the use of GDP per capita as a basis against which to measure development status. This criterion has excluded middle and high income Caribbean countries from most concessional loans and official development assistance.

Making Multilateralism Work Better

The question is not whether multilateralism works, but how can it work better. There are legitimate concerns about whether today’s multilateral institutions, many of which were forged during different economic and geopolitical times, remain “fit for purpose” for today’s global realities and challenges. Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan recognised this when he asserted in 2002 that “the United Nations exists not as a static memorial to the aspirations of an earlier age but as a work in progress – imperfect as all human endeavours must be capable of adaptation and improvement.”

On the trade front, for example, there have been increased calls for reform of the WTO. Several members, including the US, Canada and the EU, have made proposals for reform. As it stands, the WTO’s negotiation function remains in a state of paralysis, while the US blocking of the appointment of judges to its Appellate Body over the US government’s dissatisfaction with the dispute settlement system risks creating a crisis in that body’s ability to be an arbiter of trade disputes between WTO members. The renewed appetite for WTO reform provides a window of opportunity for small states to redouble their advocacy efforts for their own reform proposals, while making sure they are not excluded from having a seat at the table.

There is the need to address democratic and transparency deficits within multilateral institutions. The configuration and operation of the UN Security Council, for example, stills reflects a geopolitical reality that no longer exists. Decisions made by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), where developing states do not have a seat at the table, have had devastating consequences for the offshore financial services sectors of Caribbean states.

Institutional reform would require, where feasible, strengthening the secretariats of these organisations to better serve the needs of member states, especially the most vulnerable. In addition to fostering a greater space for civil society to be heard in multilateral organizations, there should also be greater emphasis on building the capacity of small states to effectively participate in meetings and the day-to-day operations of these organisations.

The challenges which face the world call for more multilateralism, not less. Multilateralism is important for achieving Agenda 2030, including the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Multilateral institutions also have a pertinent role to play in developing rules to address emerging global issues. Singapore Foreign Minister Balakrishnan, for example, called for the UN to develop norms and rules for cybersecurity.

In the past week alone, several events have further reiterated why multilateralism is needed now more than ever. One of which is the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC which showed that the world was already experiencing the effects of warming of 1.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The devastation caused by Hurricane Michael to the Florida Panhandle in the US this week reiterates the urgency of the need for redoubled climate action. Rising global trade tensions, protectionism and unilateralism have made trade top of mind for global economic leaders. In their communique released following the Annual Meetings of the Boards of the IMF and World Bank, it was specifically noted that the IMF would facilitate multilateral solutions for global challenges.

Carrying on the multilateralism baton

Prime Minister Mottley concluded her UNGA speech by asking “Will we carry and hand over to future generations, the baton left us by those who dreamed of a world of united nations or will we drop it?” For small states, it is important that we do not allow this baton to be dropped.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

CARIBBEAN TRADE & DEVELOPMENT DIGEST – OCTOBER 7 – 13, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of October 7-13, 2018! We are happy to bring you the trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

Trade issues topped the minds of global economic leaders at the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG) held in Bali, Indonesia last week (October 8-14, 2018).  The communique may be read here. The IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC, which was released last week, showed that the world was already seeing the consequences of 1ºC  warming and calling for urgent action to limit the effects of global warming. A summary of the report may be viewed here.

Please see further headlines below:

REGIONAL

Guyana seeks export growth in rice, other commodities to Cuba

Demerara Waves: Guyana is moving to increase trade with Cuba to which millions of dollars in goods have been exported, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday. Read more 

CARICOM needs three shipping hubs for agriproduce

Demerara Waves: The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) needs three regional shipping hubs and slackening paperwork bottlenecks to improve transportation, even as Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Mottley  said producing large amounts of food in Guyana and Suriname would be senseless if the constraint of regional transportation is not removed. Read more 

WTO to impact 20% of (Bahamas) Economy

Bahamas Tribune: The Government will forego $40m in revenue under its first World Trade Organisation (WTO) offer, its chief negotiator suggesting that accession will impact just 20 percent of the economy. Read more 

CARIFORUM DG urges training participants to use what they have learnt in their jobs

CARICOM: Director General of CARIFORUM Mr. Percival Marie has urged participants on a training course that was conducted for implementers of EDF funded projects to utilize the training they have received in their everyday jobs. Read more

St Vincent and the Grenadines on the brink of making medicinal cannabis a legal reality

Caribbean News Now: Since the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) took a step toward the establishment of a modern medical cannabis industry, through the tabling of three draft Bills on September 6, 2018, there has been a flurry of legal activity. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL 

Developing nations wary of WTO reform proposals

Livemint: Several developing countries are concerned over a set of sweeping reforms advocated by the World Trade Organization Secretariat, along with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which seeks to terminate the principle of consensus-based multilateral rule-making for pursuing plurilateral negotiations in new issues, said four people familiar with the development. Read more 

Madagascar launches two safeguard investigations: on pasta and on blankets

WTO: On 8 October 2018, Madagascar notified the WTO’s Committee on Safeguards that it initiated on 20 September 2018 two safeguard investigations: one on pasta and another on blankets. Read more 

Market Access Committee sees considerable increase in activity

WTO: The Committee on Market Access saw a considerable increase inactivity at the meeting held on 10 October. The committee noted the substantial progress made on the updating of WTO members’ schedules, examined a number of notifications on quantitative restrictions (QRs), and considered ten specific trade concerns raised by delegations. Read more 

China Won’t Use Yuan as Tool to Deal with Trade War, Yi Says

Bloomberg: China won’t use its currency as a tool to deal with trade conflicts, central bank Governor Yi Gang said, as a tariff war between the U.S. and the world’s No. 2 economy intensifies. Read more 

BOJ’s Kuroda warns of darkening global prospects as trade tensions weigh

CNBC: Escalating trade tension, emerging market turbulence and huge debt piling up in some countries pose risks to the world economy, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Sunday, his strongest warning to date over a darkening global outlook. Read more 

Indonesia considering “safeguard” tariff on aluminium foil – WTO filing

Reuters: Indonesia is examining the case for an emergency “safeguard” measure to restrict imports of aluminium foil, it said in a regulatory filing published by the World Trade Organization on Friday. Read more

Saving the WTO’s appeals process

CATO: The continued intransigence of the Trump Administration in blackballing the appointment of new judges to the highest tribunal of world trade compels the 163 other countries that are members of the World Trade Organization to unite by resolving their international disputes in a way that cannot be stopped by the United States. Read more

RCEP talks make little headway

Nikkei Asian Review: The 16 members of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade pact on Saturday made some progress in the area of market access at a ministerial meeting in Singapore. But the ministers said further improvements are needed to reach a deal by the end of the year. Read more

No deal Brexit could result in UK losing free trade agreements with more than 70 non-EU countries 

ITV News: The warning came as the government released the last batch of technical papers outlining scenarios and preparations in the event of a no deal Brexit agreement. Read more 

NAFTA talks forced Canada to pick a side in U.S.-China trade war

CBC (Canada): When the Trudeau government agreed to a revised North American free trade deal, the Americans said Canada also agreed to something else: joining Donald Trump’s trade war on China. Read more 

WTO not equipped to deal with China and its industrial policies: US says

Economic Times: China’s economic system is not compatible with the norms of the WTO, the Trump administration has said, asserting that the international trade body is not equipped to deal with Beijing and its industrial policies. Read more

WTO, six others partner to boost trade finance

Ghanaweb: The global trade regulator World Trade Organisation (WTO) has joined six other international organisations – including the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Africa Export-Import Bank – to work collectively on closing the gaps in global trade finance. Read more

Trudeau’s next trade challenge: free trade at home

Maclean’s: A push to break down trade barriers between provinces is on the official agenda for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers later this fall, and a new poll for Maclean’s shows a solid majority of Canadians wants to see those impediments to the free flow of goods and services inside the country eliminated. Read more

Post-Brexit trade deals unlikely to help UK economy much – OBR

Reuters: Britain’s plan to strike trade deals around the world, a key plank of the government’s strategy for life outside the European Union, is unlikely to help the economy much, the country’s official budget forecaster said on Thursday. Read more

Impasse on WTO dispute judges risks ‘fundamental blow’: Azevedo

France24: A bitter impasse over appointing new judges to the World Trade Organization’s appeals court threatens to deliver a “fundamental blow” to its key role in arbitrating trade disputes, the global body’s chief said Wednesday. Read more

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Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – September 30 – October 6, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of September 30 – October 6, 2018! We are happy to bring you the trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

Undoubtedly, the biggest trade news of the week is that after a year of negotiations, we now have the agreed text of an updated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or what it is now officially called, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The Agreement’s text may be found here.

On the multilateral front, the World Trade Organisation this week concluded another successful Public Forum, with this year’s theme being “Trade 2030”. During the Public Forum, the WTO also released its flagship World Trade Report 2018, which focused on the transformative impacts which new digital technologies, such as 3D printing, blockchain and the like, will have on trade, and the challenges they could also bring.

Please see further headlines below:

REGIONAL NEWS

EU Provides Funding to Develop Jamaica’s Forest Sector

Jamaica Information Service: Some 14 million Euros will be spent by the Forestry Department to implement a National Forest Management and Conservation Plan, which is a 10-year blueprint for the building of a vibrant, sustainable and climate-resilient forest sector. Read more 

New energy information portal to boost investments and improve decision-making within the Caribbean’s energy sector

St Lucia News Online: News of an impending natural gas price hike across Europe, and deepening volatility surrounding Middle Eastern Oil, has within the past week been met with a more promising refrain from a region traditionally viewed as a pawn amongst kings and rooks within the global energy sector. Read more 

Businesses equipped with tools to access the European Market

LoveFM: Beltraide aims at tackling the problem of poverty by promoting business growth.  Beltraide in collaboration with the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) held a workshop to sensitize potential exporters as to the requirements of the European Union market. Read more 

“Belizean products have global competitiveness,” says Caribbean Export 

Breaking Belize NewsAccording to the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA), Belizean businesses can hold a competitive space in the world market if greater care is taken in making businesses export ready.  Read more

Central American Agriculture Council Meeting Held in Belize 

Breaking Belize News: On Thursday, October 4, 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Central American Agriculture Council hosted a one-day National Consultation Workshop for the Central American Agriculture Council Regional Agriculture Policy.  Read more 

Mixed Bag for Caribbean tourism

Jamaica Gleaner: With marked reduction from its main source market, the United States, and only a marginal increase out of Europe, tourist arrivals into the region in the last six months has been a mixed bag. Read more 

More Value Added Products Need to be Exported to the EU, says JAMPRO head

Caribbean360: Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) President Diane Edwards says more value-added products need to be exported to the European Union (EU), to reverse the decline in trade with the bloc. Read more

JAMPRO Partners with EU and Caribbean Export on CARIFORUM-EU EPA Workshop

South Florida Caribbean News: The European Union (EU) in Jamaica in collaboration with the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), and the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) hosted a workshop on the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on October 2, 2018, at the Knutsford Court Hotel. Read more

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

USMCA, Trump’s new NAFTA deal, explained in 500 words

Vox: The US, Canada, and Mexico struck a new trade deal to replace NAFTA on Sunday. It’s known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. Read more

WTO issues compliance panel reports regarding Colombian measures on textiles, apparel, footwear

WTO: On 5 October the WTO circulated compliance reports in the dispute “Colombia — Measures Relating to the Importation of Textiles, Apparel and Footwear — Recourse to Article 21.5 of the DSU by Panama and Recourse to Article 21.5 of the DSU by Colombia” (DS461). Read more 

Isolate Trump at WTO, says former top trade judge Bacchus

Reuters: Countries belonging to the World Trade Organization should unite against the bullying of U.S. President Donald Trump, former WTO chief judge James Bacchus said on Wednesday. Read more 

WTO sees technology adding one third to annual trade by 2030

CNBC: Technology and innovation will increase global trade by 1.8-2.0 percentage points annually until 2030, the head of the World Trade Organization wrote in a report published on Wednesday. Read more 

US says its cannot support some of the EU’s ideas on WTO reform

Euractiv: The United States gave the first hint on Thursday (4 October) of its view of attempts to reform the World Trade Organization, rejecting some proposals put forward by the European Union to resolve a crisis at the home of world trade in Geneva. Read more 

Australia questions India’s sugar subsidy bilaterally and at WTO

Economic Times: Australia has raised concerns over India’s sugar subsidy dole out and questioned how the host of financial assistance measures announced this year are within the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).  Read more 

Canada agrees to join U.S. and Mexico in new trade deal to replace NAFTA, say US and Canadian officials

USA Today: Canada has agreed to join the United States and Mexico in a trade deal that will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S. and Canadian officials said Sunday night. Read more 

ACP-EU negotiations: Taking the road to prosperity together

EURACTIV: Talks on a new agreement between the ACP and the EU will only bear fruit if both parties take the road to prosperity together, writes the ACP’s chief negotiator. Read more 

EU to hit Cambodia with trade sanctions, says Myanmar may follow

Channel News Asia: The European Union told Cambodia on Friday (Oct 5) it will lose its special access to the world’s largest trading bloc, and said it was considering similar trade sanctions for Myanmar in a toughening of EU policy on human rights in Southeast Asia. Read more 

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

Human Rights in the context of the International Climate Change Agenda

Stefan Newton, Guest Contributor

snewton

Stefan Newton

In her address to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Prime Minister of Barbados, the Hon. Mia Mottley, abandoned a scripted speech and made a passionate appeal to United Nations (UN) Member states to make good on their commitments to climate change under the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). She urged States to accelerate mobilizing the necessary funding for climate adaptation and mitigation under The Green Climate Fund.

In thinly veiled remarks, she criticized the current position of the United States of America (USA) by refusing to acknowledge the reality of climate change, noting “For us it is about saving lives. For others it is about saving profits”. It is well known by now that the USA has regrettably withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement: which builds upon the UNFCCC and for the first time brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.

Moreover, the Prime Minister pointed to the need for UN Member States to recognize that “mighty or small we must protect each other in this world”. In closing her speech, she appealed to the international community to exercise empathy and care for those States and their citizens who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. I humbly submit that this is perhaps the most significant speech given by a Barbadian leader to the United Nations, as it impinges on Barbados’ very survival as a nation State. Indeed, if climate change ambitions are not met, Barbados and its citizens will face very certain demise due to the effects of climate change.

Climate Change is a Human Rights Problem

While climate change is most often viewed as an environmental problem, it is also very much a human rights problem. Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and former High Commissioner for Human Rights, has described climate change as “probably the greatest human rights challenge of the 21st century”.

Explicit mention of human rights is now being made in international climate agreements. The Preamble to the Paris Agreement to the UNFCCC calls for all States, when acting to address climate change, to “respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights”. The World Bank Report on Human Rights and Climate Change highlights the relevancy of international human rights law to climate change by linking particular social and human impacts of climate change to special human rights standards under international human rights treaties, thereby confirming human rights impacts. For example, the right to life is the most fundamental human right and well enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A number of observed and projected effects of climate change will pose direct and indirect threats to the human right to life. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects with high confidence an increase in people suffering from death, disease and injury from heat waves, floods, storms etc. Equally, climate change will affect the right to life through an increase in malnutrition, cardio- respiratory morbidity and mortality related climate change effects.

Despite the clear human rights implications of failure to act to combat climate change, the international community is not “grasping the baton firmly” enough through decisive policy actions to reach the ambitions of the climate change agenda. The USA- Trump led administration seems to be a lost cause with its view that climate change is a fiction. Heeding Prime Minister Mottley’s call to climate action will most likely be viewed by them as a mere courtesy, not an obligation. However, it can be soundly argued that Prime Minister Mottley’s urging of States to protect each other from the effects of climate change, are not merely aspirational or appeals to international consciousness, but are linked to and grounded in legally binding international human rights principles.

Legal Link between Human Rights and Climate Change

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has set out the essentials of the legal dimensions link between Human Rights and Climate Change. International Human Rights principles to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all people without discrimination gives rise to a wide range of duties for State in acting on climate change. I will touch on three.

First, under these principles is the duty to mitigate climate change and to prevent its negative human rights impacts. Failure to take affirmative action to prevent human rights harms caused by climate change, including foreseeable long-term harms, breaches this obligation. Second is the duty to ensure that all persons have the necessary capacity to adapt to climate change. Falling under this duty States must ensure that appropriate adaptation measures are taken to protect and fulfil the rights of all persons, particularly those most endangered by the negative impacts of climate change e.g. small islands, riparian and low-lying coastal zones. Third, under core human rights treaties, States acting individually or collectively are obliged to mobilize and allocate the maximum available resources for the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the advancement of civil and political rights and the right to development. The failure to adopt reasonable measures to mobilize available resources to prevent foreseeable climate change harm breaches this obligation.

Incorporating Human Rights into Climate Change Policy Discussions

Besides recognizing the legal implications of international human rights law as it pertains to climate change, Caribbean policy makers should also recognize the value added of incorporating human rights into discussions around climate change policy.

Among other things, a focus on human rights law may serve to locate policy within the framework of internationally agreed obligations and acceptance of certain goods, interests or goals as rights. This has the effect of establishing a hierarchy of importance among policy goals, helping to ensure that human rights are not traded off among interests lacking that status. Simply put, human rights place people before profits. This is critical as more firms and investors enter the Caribbean market whose activities may have climate and environmental impacts.

Additionally, human rights offer a normative and institutional framework for strengthened accountability and international co-operation for those responsible for adverse impacts of climate change. It may be argued that states should be encouraged to take climate action on this basis and do more in their capacity to assist and contribute to the financing of climate adaptation programs. This might be a useful bargaining chip in the realm of international relations and negotiations. For small developing states, such accountability can be used as a tool of moral suasion against large carbon emitting States like the USA which have retreated from global actions on climate change, or to spur States who are already implementing climate action targets to redouble their efforts.

Diagonal Environmental Rights

Further to policy, human rights law has an incredible potential to fill in a missing legal gap present in the international legal framework addressing climate change. The carbon emissions from large industrial States have a disproportionate impact on small lesser emitting States. Citizens of small developing States are thus marginalized and face aggravated vulnerability to human rights impacts from climate change. Yet currently there exists no formal legal mechanism for citizens to claim climate justice against large states responsible for impacting on and violating their human rights. This is referred to a Diagonal Environmental Rights; a term coined by John Knox the United Nations Independent on Human Rights relating to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment. Without going into the theory of a State’s extra-territorial human rights obligations, and proving causation, I submit that the ability to claim climate justice is well founded in the principles of international law.

As previously stated, no formal international diagonal environmental rights legal mechanism exists. Given the state of geo- political madness that has taken hold of multilateralism, I also do not see one being created and implemented by UN Member States. As the experience of the Paris Agreement has shown, it is a challenge just to get a critical mass of countries- let alone all countries- to participate in an international environmental agreement.

Therefore, the greatest hope is that existing international human rights mechanisms, such as the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR), and domestic courts are flexible enough to accommodate climate change litigation. There has been jurisprudence emerging from domestic courts that successfully incorporates rights-based arguments to climate change e.g. Pakistan in the case of Leghari v Federation of Pakistan.

Albeit these claims were made in the context of litigation by citizens against their own State for failing to respond to climate change. Nevertheless, such cases do much to add shape and contour to this emerging body of climate justice jurisprudence. They set precedents on which international, and broader litigation may find success.

Stefan Newton is a graduate of the University of the West Indies Faculty of Law.  The views reflected here are entirely his own.

The Sino-American Challenge to Multilateralism

Rasheed J. Griffith, Guest Contributor

Nations don’t trade. Metaphors can both clarify and deceive. Trade is no exception. The current commentary on trade relationships between nations has elevated the commercial profit-loss mechanisms of international trade to an abstract state level apparatus. When we say states trade what we really mean is the firms in different states have commercial relationships. Firms have a singular motive: to make profit. Similarly to making the individual-firm distinction, we must always remember to make the state-firm distinction. This distinction is further amplified when we are discussing large economy states. They too have a singular motive: geopolitical dominance.

The persistent US trade deficit with China implies that US consumers are able to buy cheaper goods from China. But it is also a signal of the erosion of the US global geopolitical dominance caused by economic decline. In the US economy financial goods are replacing physical goods. The chart below shows the increase in the financial component of US GDP relative to manufacturing.

Americasfireeconomy

Stock market capitalization of the US relative to GDP is 153%. For China it is 65% and Germany 54%. I am familiar with arguments that claim this is not problematic because countries trust the US markets most.

The 2008 financial crisis gave a glimpse of what could happen to the US economy if the financial sector collapsed.

The US government was barely able to patch up the financial markets by using excessive money creation and debt redistribution (i.e quantitative easing) in 2008. This was a necessary move but it means the Federal Reserve System balance sheet is now bloated. In another crisis, quantitative easing will likely not be effective. At that point, the money and capital markets of the US will no longer be as attractive in the long term, resulting in the dollar losing its global reserve currency status. At this point, the geopolitical dominance of US will weaken. And the main adversary (which is now China) will strive to make sure the US remains in a weakened position.

Very few people seem to understand this. But the Communist Party of China (CCP) understands. In 1999, two colonels of the People’s Liberation Army published Unrestricted Warfare[1]. The book gave strategies for defeating the USA without direct conventional military engagement. One of the core strategies was the use economic policies to eat away at the US economy. Having China being the core manufacturing hub of the world was one such strategy. This was made explicit with the ‘Made in China 2025’ policy recently launched by the CCP[2].

China did not achieve its spectacular growth through free trade. All of China’s trade is managed by the CCP. When discussing the USA-China trade relationship we must always acknowledge that China has an authoritarian government that will create and implement policies that they believe will benefit China irrespective of what the Chinese citizens think or what multilateral organizations demand. When China ascended to the WTO in 2001 it was naively expected that China would conform to the rules of that organization. Authoritarian governments, however, do not follow neoliberal rules.

Starting around 1978 under Deng Xiaoping, the CCP began their reforms from Soviet style system wide planning to state capitalism directed by large and powerful state owned enterprises (SOEs)[3]. Although China ascended to the WTO in 2001, this model never changed. On the Fortune 500 list of largest global companies, China comes in a close second (120) behind the US (126). Japan (52) is quite far behind. But what is shocking is that 93% of the Chinese firms on the list are SOEs. The CCP heavily subsidies their SOEs, and creates rules specifically favorable to them; to the detriment of foreign entities.

The USTR Section 301 report identified several instances where China has violated the WTO rules to which it signed in 2001. These concern trading rights, import regulations, export regulations, intellectual property rights, technology transfer, foreign investment, and so on[4]. The US has complained to the WTO about China on 22 occasions and China has still persisted in violating the rules. The White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing report goes on the dissect the persistent economic aggressions of China[5].

What choice does the US have if it is not able to deal with China through WTO processes? Multilateral processes only work if everyone agrees to adhere to the same rules. Of course , though, these rules were largely set by the US. In dealing with China, the WTO is absolutely ineffective. There is no democratic fallout if China refuses to acknowledge multilateral rules (as seen explicitly in China’s absolute refusal to acknowledge the Philippine’s win in the Hague in matter of the West Philippines Sea/South China Sea). It is likely that any strong ruling in the WTO against China will similarly fall on deaf ears. (Similarly the US has substantially disregarded a WTO ruling after losing a case to Antigua).

In any case, it has gotten to a point where countries cannot simply halt or significantly decrease trade with China in the form of sanctions. The US, then, is forced to use geoeconomics – the use of economic instruments to further geopolitical goals.

As the President of the United States, Trump is right to engage China directly. His strategy is clever: robe a geostrategic containment engagement in bland terms of trade rhetoric. And this is by no means outside the modus operandi of the US. During the Cold War period the US actively practised a strategy of containment against the Soviet Union. In fact, China has accused the US of trying to economically contain China[6]. But of course, China has been engaging in geoeconomics as well recently.

For example, in 2012 China allowed farmers from the Phillipines to export their bananas to China but when the bananas arrived they were left to rot on the dock. This left the Philippines banana planters with neither stock nor payment (30% of Philippines banana exports go to China). This was used as a tactic to weaken the Philippines position when the tensions over the South China Sea were rising[7]. Another example is when China blocked rare earth metals to Japan almost crippling Japanese tech manufacturing, until Japan finally conceded, over another maritime dispute[8]. In both cases, the WTO was impotent.

What Trump gets wrong is that tariffs are not sufficient. And he failed to properly define a long term strategy to deal with China. Without such a strategy the US will continue ad hoc aggressions.

China has been shown to disregard all multilateral rules if it wants to. But even so, it is difficult being upset with China. China has succeeded in the most comprehensive and rapid poverty alleviation program in all of human history. China was able to lift over 600 million people out of poverty in less than 30 years[9]. Following along this path, it should be expected that the CCP is mounting a restoration of China to compensate for its decline after the late 1850s: the “century of humiliation[10]”. Few commentators remember that for 18 of the last 20 centuries China commanded a greater share of world GDP that any other country. Henry Kissinger reminds us that as recent as 1820 China “produced over 30% of world GDP – an amount exceeding the GDP of Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the United States combines.”[11]

Wang Yi, however, recently attempted to assure the UN that China has no ambition of hegemonic dominance[12]. I believe that is an empty statement given Xi Jinping’s expansive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which has been added to the Party constitution of the CCP[13]. From the perspective of CCP, as Lee Kuan Yew frames it, China is not looking to become dominant; rather, it is looking to restore dominance. It is a different geopolitical mindset.

This to me is the crux of the Sino-American challenge. The US is right that China is not properly following WTO rules because it has disregarded many of those rules to accelerate its economic growth. And it has been exceedingly effective. But if China were to conform to the WTO rules, it would not match the model that has been so successful.

Multilateral trade rules were not designed by China to fit China’s model (authoritarian government, state capitalism). They were primarily designed by liberal democracies – the US in particular. Both of these nations have fundamentally different economic models and justifiable geopolitical reasons for disregarding WTO rules to protect (or increase) their geopolitical dominance.

We are living in a time of multilateralism. But this time is anomalous. Dani Rodrik has explained in detail why “free trade agreements” have little to do with free trade[14]. Those agreements are primarily political documents. In fact, “76 percent of existing preferential trade agreements covered at least some aspect of investment (such as free capital mobility) by 2011; 61 percent covered intellectual property rights protection; and 46 percent covered environmental regulations”[15]. These are political documents that attempt to alter a nation’s domestic policies with the preferences of international actors.

This is not possible with a powerful authoritarian government. It is a grave error to treat China as just another Western country; like how you would treat Japan. China is an ideological adversary to the US that has now become an economic adversary. When at odds with geopolitical motives multilateralism always fails. Geoeconomic escalation is not only justified but it is inevitable.

Rasheed Griffith’s professional interests include Southeast Asian Monetary Policy and AML Compliance. He may be contacted at rasheed.j.griffith AT gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @RasheedGriffith

[1] http://www.c4i.org/unrestricted.pdf

[2] https://supchina.com/2018/06/28/made-in-china-2025/

[3] https://orca.cf.ac.uk/99467/1/Publication_2016_IJEMSc.pdf

[4] https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/Section%20301%20FINAL.PDF

[5] https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/FINAL-China-Technology-Report-6.18.18-PDF.pdf

[6] http://www.atimes.com/article/us-tariffs-are-containment-beijings-message-fed-by-the-white-house/

[7] https://www.asiasentinel.com/society/the-china-philippine-banana-war/

[8] https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/23/business/global/23rare.html

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_China#Poverty_reduction

[10] https://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/10/how-humiliation-drove-modern-chinese-history/280878/

[11] https://www.amazon.com/China-Henry-Kissinger/dp/0143121316

[12] http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201809/30/WS5bafb647a310eff303280520.html

[13] https://idsa.in/idsacomments/what-the-inclusion-of-bri-in-the-chinese-constitution-implies_jpanda_071117

[14]https://drodrik.scholar.harvard.edu/files/dani-rodrik/files/what_do_trade_agreements_really_do.pdf

[15] Limão, Nuno. 2016. “Preferential Trade Agreements.” NBER Working Paper 22138, March

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – September 23-29, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of September 22-29, 2018! We are happy to bring you the trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

World leaders gathered for the 73rd Session of the United Nations’ General Assembly this week where issues of trade and wider multilateralism featured prominently. Economic releases by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and World Trade Organisation (WTO), respectively, have warned of the risks posed by escalating trade tensions to global economic and trade growth. In its flagship Trade and Development Report 2018 released this week, UNCTAD highlighted that the current trade tensions were a symptom of excessive financialisation and imbalances in trade and economic power. This week, the US also blocked the reappointment of a fourth WTO Appellate Body judge, which will reduce that body’s roster of judges to three, the bare minimum needed to hear a dispute.

On the NAFTA front, the promised release of the renewal text agreed to by the US and Mexico has been delayed with hopes that the impasse between the US and Canada will be surmounted as the Sunday (today) deadline for agreement on the updated NAFTA looms.

REGIONAL

Tourism investments under the microscope

The Gleaner: Jamaica Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has put a cork on new approvals of tour businesses, while his Tourism Working Group (TWG) examines the degree to which large hotel groups may be crowding out local destination management companies and tour operators from the market. Read more 

No significant return (on Carnival), says (Trinidad tourism minister)

Trinidad Express: More than $500 million was spent on promoting Carnival over the last ten years and Trinidad and Tobago failed to get a significant return in terms of its investment, says Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell. Read more 

Guyana to sign economic cooperation agreement with Barbados

Caribbean360:  President David Granger has announced that Guyana will soon sign a framework agreement for economic cooperation with Barbados. The announcement came 24 hours after a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago for energy cooperation. Read more 

Producers Seek CET Protection To Launch White Sugar Market

The Gleaner: The sugar sector in the Caribbean is protected from outside competition by a 40 per cent tariff on brown sugar imports, and producers want that protection extended to refined sugar as a predicate to developing a market internally. Read more 

Guyana should be pressing Trinidad & Tobago over artificial trade barriers -Ramkarran

Stabroek: With opportunities now opening up due to Guyana’s advantageous position in the emerging oil and gas sector, it should begin pressing Trinidad and Tobago to remove its artificial barriers to trade, says commentator Ralph Ramkarran. Read more 

T&T to continue restricting trade in honey produced in other CARICOM countries

CNC3: The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has vowed to continue restricting the trade in honey being produced by CARICOM countries to prevent the spread of diseases. Read more 

Caribbean region is the top destination for investors looking for second citizenship

Global Trade Magazine: The 2018 CBI Index—a special report published by the Financial Times’ Professional Wealth Management magazine—has revealed that Caribbean nations remain the top destinations in the world to apply for second citizenship. Read more 

Study: Post-Maria Contracts Go To Mainland, Not Puerto Rico

The Gleaner: A study published last Wednesday found that the bulk of federal funds slated for post-hurricane reconstruction efforts in Puerto Rico are going to mainland companies despite a federal provision that states that local companies should receive priority. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

World trade’s top court close to breakdown as U.S. blocks another judge

Reuters: The supreme court of world trade is close to breakdown after the United States turned down a last-ditch petition to reappoint one of the four remaining judges at the World Trade Organization. Read more

WTO downgrades outlook for global trade as risks accumulate

WTO: Escalating trade tensions and tighter credit market conditions in important markets will slow trade growth for the rest of this year and in 2019, WTO economists expect. Read more

Trade Deals, Multilateralism in the Spotlight as UN General Assembly Gets Underway

ICTSD: Trade has been a high-profile topic both at this week’s UN General Assembly (UNGA), featuring during leaders’ speeches and at meetings in the margins, as officials lay out their visions on trade and multilateralism while also working to advance different negotiating processes at the political level.  Read more

Sustainable Financing, Climate Action Take Centre Stage During New York, Halifax Meetings

ICTSD: Boosting the political momentum for climate action has taken centre stage in multiple high-level meetings across North America this month, including at this week’s UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Read more 

Members conclude first review of Nairobi Decision on export competition, seek details on US farm aid package

WTO: WTO Members approved by consensus the first triennial review of the 2015 Nairobi Decision on export competition during a meeting of the WTO’s agriculture committee on 25-26 September. Read more 

Panels established to rule on US safeguards, Canadian wine measures

WTO: At a meeting of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) on 26 September, WTO members agreed to requests from Korea for the establishment of two panels to determine whether safeguards imposed by the United States on imports of solar cells and washers are compatible with WTO rules. Read more 

Canada unveils plan to strengthen WTO in face of U.S. protectionism

Bloomberg: The proposal, called “Strengthening and Modernizing the WTO,” seeks to forge an alliance of like-minded countries to “restore confidence in the multilateral trading system and discourage protectionist measures and countermeasures,” according to a copy of the eight-page document obtained by Bloomberg. Read more 

Commissioner Malmström visits Canada to take stock of progress with EU-Canada trade agreement

EU: On Wednesday 26 September, the Commissioner met with the Canadian Minister of International Trade Diversification, James Gordon Carr. Together, they attended the first EU-Canada Joint Committee, which is the highest body for the two partners to discuss issues of interest related to the agreement. Read more

Trade conflicts to dampen growth in Asia

Deutsche Welle: Rising debt, US interest rate hikes, but above all simmering trade conflicts will take their toll on Asia’s growth prospects next year, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said in an update of its regional outlook. Read more 

NYTimes: President Trump signed a revised free trade agreement with South Korea on Monday in New York, cementing the first bilateral trade deal of his administration and suggesting the United States could soon win similar agreements with other trading partners. Read more 

EU, Japan and US met at Ministerial level

EU: The three met as a continuation of the trilateral talks launched last year, to address issues such as trade-distortive practices. Read more 

India-South Asia trade has potential to triple to $62 billion, says World Bank 

Economic Times: Deeper regional trade and connectivity has the potential to more than triple India’s trade with its South Asian neighbors, World Bank said in a report on Monday. Read more 

EU, China to meet on WTO reform in October

Reuters: European Union trade officials will travel to Beijing next month for talks with Chinese counterparts on ideas for reform of the World Trade Organization, EU ambassador to the WTO Marc Vanheukelen said on Wednesday. Read more

US, Japan agree to negotiate a free trade agreement

Washington Post: The United States and Japan announced Wednesday they will open negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement between the world’s first- and third-largest economies. Read more 

India sees opportunity in escalating US-China trade war

Livemint: India has spotted an opportunity to boost its exports with the second round of tariff hikes by the Donald Trump administration on $200 billion of Chinese imports putting the US at a disadvantage. Read more 

Courting Canada, U.S. and Mexico cancel plans to publish NAFTA texts: sources

Reuters: The United States and Mexico abruptly canceled plans to publish NAFTA texts on Friday, sources said, as signs of renewed efforts by Canada and Washington to settle differences raised hopes a breakthrough could be made to keep the deal trilateral. Read more 

Brexit costings 500M a week, study says

Politico: The British economy is 2.5 percent smaller today than if the U.K. had voted to remain in the European Union, according to the Center for European Reform, a think tank. Read more 

The closer we get to Brexit, the more polls show Britain wants to remain in Europe

Business Insider: The closer we get to the Brexit deadline in March 2019, the more British people tell pollsters they think their decision to leave the European Union was wrong. Read more 

Economists are severely underestimating the amount of trade between African countries

Quartz Africa: The share of internal trade in Africa remains low, as reflected by official statistics. This is despite numerous regional trade agreements that have led to tariffs removal within the trading blocs. At least in principle. Read more 

UNCTAD releases Trade and Development Report 2018

UNCTAD: The world economy is again under stress. The immediate pressures are building around escalating tariffs and volatile financial flows but behind these threats to global stability is a wider failure, since 2008, to address the inequities and imbalances of our hyperglobalized world. Read more 

African Development Bank Launches first Africa-to-Africa (A2A) Investment Report

AfDB: The report unearths the realities African companies face when investing in the continent, the emerging trends in A2A investment and the steps African policymakers can take to accelerate intra-African investment. Read more 

Africa: Kagame – CFTA Will Help the World Better Relate to Africa

All Africa: The African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Agreement is a bold framework that stands to define the future of relations between the continent and the rest of the world, President Paul Kagame has said. Read more 

ECA emphasizes holistic approach to realize Africa’s ambitions in trade

Xinhua: The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Wednesday called for greater all-rounded involvement in Africa’s trade policy processes, with due emphasis given to the success of Africa’s flagship trade agreements and policies. Read more 

Commonwealth countries back rules-based global trade

Commonwealth Secretariat: Commonwealth members in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreed that despite their rich diversity, including in levels of development, they are united in recognising the importance of the rules-based multilateral system as a common good. Read more

NEW ON CTLD BLOG

US-China Trade Tensions: What may these mean for the Caribbean?

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US-China Trade Tensions: What may these mean for the Caribbean?

Alicia Nicholls

On-going trade tensions between the United States of America (US) and China reached a new low point last week. Beijing cancelled upcoming trade talks with Washington in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s announcement of tariffs on a further $200 billion dollars’ worth of Chinese imports, starting September 24th. The Chinese government announced that it will retaliate with tariffs on a further US$60 billion dollars’ worth of US imports.

US-China relations have had turbulent periods throughout the years, but the Trump Presidency has taken a markedly more aggressive stance to Beijing’s purported unfair trade practices which the US President blames for China’s large merchandise trade surplus with the US, estimated to be US$375 billion in 2017.

With the US as the Caribbean region’s main trading partner and China, a growing economic presence in the region, will the Caribbean be caught in the middle of this spat between the world’s two largest economic superpowers? And is there anyway in which the region could possibly benefit?

China-Caribbean Relations

It must first be noted that Caribbean countries’ policy towards the recognition of either the People’s Republic of China (PRC) or the Republic of China (ROC – Taiwan) is fragmented. Five (Belize, Haiti, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and St. Lucia) out of fifteen Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member States still recognise Taiwan as a sovereign State. Moreover, it was only this week that China opened an embassy in the Dominican Republic after that country severed ties with Taiwan earlier. As such, not all Caribbean countries have diplomatic or economic ties with the PRC, but the majority do.

In the midst of declining US presence in the Caribbean, Beijing has sought to fill the void through mainly bilateral engagement with individual Caribbean governments. China has become an increasingly important source of foreign direct investment, government loans, and development aid and cooperation. A growing number of infrastructure projects throughout the region have been built with Chinese funding and labour. The Chinese Government has also long provided generous government scholarships to Caribbean nationals whose countries recognize the PRC.

China-Caribbean trade flows have increased and China has widened its trade surplus with the region. According to Ambassador Dr. Richard L. Bernal in his insightful book “Dragon in the Caribbean”, while Caribbean countries’ imports from China have grown “substantially and rapidly”, Caribbean exports to China have increased, but not nearly in as robust a manner. The Chinese Ambassador to Barbados has been reported as stating last week that in “the first six months of this year trade volume between Bridgetown and Beijing reached US$79.8 million”, a rapid increase.

US-Caribbean Relations

While China’s deepened economic engagement with the Caribbean is relatively recent, US-Caribbean relations with the region it considers its “backyard” or “third border” are longstanding, dating back to colonial times. The US is not just the region’s largest trading partner, but since the late 1980s many Caribbean countries have benefited from duty-free, quota-free access for most goods to the US market under the Caribbean Basin Initiative, a non-reciprocal goods-only preferences programme.

The US is the major source market for Caribbean tourist arrivals, with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation reporting an estimated 14.9 million US arrivals to the region in 2017. US-Caribbean ties also manifest through the relatively large Caribbean-American diaspora which numbers approximately four million. The US is also a major (though declining) provider of foreign assistance to the Caribbean, and the Trump Administration has sought to scale back its assistance even further.

However, the Caribbean region’s geopolitical significance to Washington has diminished since the end of the Cold War, and so has the level of development assistance in recent years. The US-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act, which had bi-partisan congressional support, was passed in 2016 and signed into law under the then Obama administration as Washington’s attempt to re-engage with the Region. A multi-year Strategy, as required under the Act, was published in 2017.

So, what may US-China trade tensions mean for the Caribbean?

It is still too early to tell whether there will or has been any economic fall-out from the US-China tariff war so far on Caribbean economies. Most Caribbean countries are services-dependent making them generally more insulated from direct fall-out from the tariff hikes on global goods supply chains. Commodities-based economies, however, might suffer from softening commodities prices due to reduced Chinese demand.

President Trump’s calculation may be that a trade war would be more damaging to China’s economy than to the US since it exports more to the US than viceversa. This gives Beijing less American imports on which it could levy tariffs. An already slowing Chinese economy would be further weakened by reduced American demand for its products.

One possible negative consequence of any severe downturn in the Chinese economy may be a reduction in Beijing’s economic largesse in the region. But, the US economy may not be immune either. Though the US economy grew 4.2% in the last quarter and unemployment is low, these fortunes could be reversed due to Washington’s erratic trade policy and recent tax cuts. American farmers in key states are already warning about the possible impact of the tariff hikes. A downturn in the US economy could have a ripple effect on Caribbean economies, especially those dependent on US tourist arrivals. It is also worth pointing out that China is the US’ largest creditor, with a stockpile of over US$1 trillion worth of US Treasury securities. Beijing may see this as a source of leverage in this economic war, but a mass sell-off by China of its US debt could also backfire.

Another possible channel of impact for Caribbean countries could be in the financial markets. Spooked by these trade tensions, investors may revert to less risky investment options, which may make bonds issued by emerging economies, like those in the Caribbean, less attractive, and also affect currency markets. Additionally, any downturn in the global economy precipitated by softening global demand due to the rising trade tensions and reduced investor confidence could have a ripple effect on the small open economies of the Caribbean. In its recently released Interim Economic outlook, the OECD warned that new restrictive trade measures were already impacting global trade flows, resulting in a slowdown in global trade volume growth in the first half of 2018.

An upside to the US-China trade tensions, and this may already be playing out, is that Chinese exporters, faced with these high tariffs in the US market, will be looking at alternative markets for their goods. In light of Washington’s anti-China stance, Chinese firms may also seek out more investment-friendly climates in which to invest. In this case, the Caribbean also hypothetically stands to benefit.

It should be noted as well that China increasingly sees itself as having similar interests to the Caribbean, and also as an ally to the region in multilateral fora. This week the Chinese government noted that it plans to step up its multilateral cooperation with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), to help protect the integrity of multilateral institutions which have been increasingly under attack from the current unilateral stance taken by the Trump administration. WTO reform is one area in which China and the Caribbean could potentially collaborate, although China’s status as a developing country is one of the sore points for some WTO members, including the US.

There may also be greater opportunities for Caribbean countries to meaningfully increase exports to China. However, this is easier said than done. Caribbean firms looking to export to, or invest in China, will need to overcome barriers to market access and penetration, which are not just legal/regulatory in the form of non-tariff barriers, but also linguistic and cultural.

One way in which these barriers may be mitigated is by tapping into those persons who have knowledge of the Chinese market and culture. A growing number of Caribbean nationals have benefited from Chinese government scholarships. These persons not only speak the language, but know the culture and may have built up lasting contacts there. They could be employed as trade and investment liaisons in their countries’ diplomatic missions in China and their expertise used during trade shows to China. Local chambers of commerce, trade and investment promotion agencies, and individual firms looking to scope out the Chinese market, should also view these persons as useful sources of insights on the Chinese market and sources of contacts for exploring possible joint ventures and partnerships as market entry strategies.

Notwithstanding, it is still too early to state definitively what impact the current US-China trade tensions will have for the Caribbean region. As such, Caribbean leaders and the business community should continue to monitor the situation closely, looking for ways to mitigate any possible channels of impact, but also areas where opportunities may arise.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade and Development Digest – September 16-22, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of September 16-22, 2018! We are happy to bring the trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

It has been a busy week in trade news. The European Commission has published a concept paper outlining its initial proposals for WTO reform. On the Brexit front, EU leaders have rejected aspects of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s ‘Chequers Plan’ – post-Brexit economic proposals. China has cancelled upcoming trade talks with the US, as Washington readies to impose another $200 billion dollars worth of tariffs on Chinese imports. And those are just some of the highlights! Please see below for more headlines:

REGIONAL

St Maarten as CARICOM Associate Member “still under consideration”

The Daily Herald: It has been more than half a decade since St. Maarten as well as Curaçao and Aruba have been approved for associate membership to the English-speaking countries dominated Caribbean Community Caricom, and that pending application is “still under consideration.” Read more 

Jamaica gets green light to export mangoes to US

Jamaica Observer: Jamaica has been granted permission to export mangoes to the United States, Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw said here on Monday. Read more 

Interview: Dominican Republic-China ties open “world of opportunities,” says economy chief of Dominican Republic

Xinhua: The newly established diplomatic ties between China and the Dominican Republic have opened a panoply of trade and investment opportunities for the two countries, according to the Economy, Planning and Development Minister of Dominican Republic Isidoro Santana. Read more 

Puerto Rico businesses interested in Trinidad and Tobago

LoopT&T: “These trade missions provide Trinidad and Tobago with opportunities to deepen relations and increase business,” said Trade and Industry Minister, Senator the Honourable Paula Gopee-Scoon at the launch of Trade Mission from Puerto Rico hosted by the United States Embassy, Trinidad on Tuesday.  Read more 

Trinidad and Tobago to examine law prohibiting transshipment of honey from Guyana

Stabroek: Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) has made a commitment to examine the law prohibiting the transshipment of honey from Guyana into the twin-island republic, its Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat says.

The Bahamas reactivates WTO accession process

WTO: WTO members praised The Bahamas’ commitment to reactivate and accelerate its WTO accession process after six years of impasse. Read more 

Guyana seeking to finalise economic cooperation pact with Barbados

Stabroek: Guyana is moving to finalise a framework agreement for economic cooperation with Barbados as part of government’s attempts to pursue economic cooperation in the region to nurture prosperity and global competitiveness, President David Granger said yesterday. Read more 

BVI premier to lead first trade mission to Africa

Caribbean News Now: British Virgin Islands premier and minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith, will be leading a two-week trade mission to Africa in November. Read more

China opens embassy in the Dominican Republic

Golden Times: China’s national anthem was heard in the Dominican Republic on Friday, as China opened its embassy in the country’s capital Santo Domingo. Read more 

China ready to enhance multilateral cooperation with Caribbean Community: Wang Yi

Xinhua: China is ready to enhance cooperation with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in multilateral areas in order to better safeguard the rights and interests of developing countries, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here Saturday. Read more

Barbados to host one-day CSME Meeting

Barbados Today: Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat says it is reviewing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) administrative procedures to recommend ways of making them more simple and harmonised where possible. Read more

Suriname-Indonesia joint commission promotes agriculture, trade and capacity building

Caribbean News Now: The fifth Joint Council Commission between Indonesia and Suriname took place in Paramaribo on September 17-18 and the objective was to “recommit to strengthen cooperation that can translate into concrete results” between the two countries.  Read more 

Haiti’s trade deficit with DR amounts to $816 million US

HaitiLibre: The National Statistical Office (ONE) of the Dominican Republic has revealed that in 2017, trade between the two nations of the island reached 852.53 million US dollars. During this period, imports from Haiti amounted to $ 36.31 million, a positive trade surplus for DR of $ 816.22 million.  Read more 

WTO members review two regional trade agreements covering Africa, the Caribbean and the EU

WTO: WTO members reviewed Seychelles’ accession to the South African Development Community (SADC) trade protocol and the economic partnership agreement between the European Union and Cariforum states at the 18 September meeting of the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements. Members welcomed progress being made in the economic integration of the African region. Read more 

Barbados welcomes skilled CARICOM nationals

CaribbeanLife: While moving to tighten immigration security by introducing a state-of-the-art travel document, Barbados is opening its arms to Caribbean Community nationals who can help further develop the island. Read more 

Wang Yi: CARICOM and China share extensive interests

CGTN: Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called for closer cooperation between China and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to further build a community of shared future between the two. Read more 

UWI a CARICOM integration leader

Barbados Today: In order to assert themselves in the forefront of CARICOM integration, University of the West Indies academics must make their messages clear and easily understandable for both regional decision-makers and ordinary Caribbean citizens. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

Theresa May sticks by Chequers plan for Brexit despite EU warning it ‘will not work’

Sky News: Theresa May is defiantly sticking by her Chequers strategy for Brexit, despite the EU insisting a key element of her plan “will not work” and issuing a four-week deadline to agree a deal. Read more

‘Majority of Cabinet’ now supports move towards Canada-style Brexit deal

The Telegraph: A majority of the Cabinet now supports moving towards a Canada-style trade deal with the EU following the outright rejection of PM Theresa May’s Chequers Plan. Read more 

US-China trade talks stall amid tariff standoff

CNN: Negotiations between the United States and China have stalled after President Donald Trump ordered new tariffs on Chinese goods. Read more 

European Commission presents comprehensive approach for the modernisation of the World Trade Organisation

EU: The EU’s approach to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform outlined in a document published today will be presented to EU partners in Geneva on 20 September during a meeting on that subject convened by Canada. Read more

Mauritania signs the Regional Economic Partnership agreement between West Africa and the EU

European Commission: Mauritania today became the 15th West African country to have signed the region-to-region Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, an agreement negotiated with 16 countries of the region. Read more 

EU-India “fully committed” to move forward on free trade pact: Official 

Economic Times: The European Union and India are “fully committed” to moving forward on the proposed free trade agreement and discussions are on between the two sides on the much-delayed pact, according to an EU official. Read more 

USTR Finalizes Tariffs on $200 Billion of Chinese Imports in Response to China’s Unfair Trade Practices

USTR: As part of the United States’ continuing response to China’s theft of American intellectual property and forced transfer of American technology, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) today released a list of approximately $200 billion worth of Chinese imports that will be subject to additional tariffs. Read more 

One year on, EU-Canada trade agreement delivers positive results

European Commission: Friday 21 September will mark the first anniversary of the provisional entry into force of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada. Early signs show that the agreement is already starting to deliver for EU exporters. Read more 

 

China-Singapore trade agreement upgrade to be concluded by year-end

Channel News Asia: Singapore and China will conclude a substantive upgrade of their free trade agreement, which first came into effect in 2009, by the end of this year, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Thursday (Sep 20). Read more 

South Korean Finance Minister Optimistic About Revised U.S. Trade Deal

Wall Street Journal: South Korean Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon expressed optimism about signing a revised U.S. free-trade pact into law, though lawmakers in Seoul have threatened to block the deal if Washington imposes new tariffs on Korean autos and auto parts. Read more 

Japan mulls bilateral trade deal with US: Nikkei

Reuters: Japan is mulling a bilateral trade agreement with the United States that would lower tariffs on U.S. agriculture imports in exchange for avoiding higher tariffs on Japanese autos, the Nikkei newspaper said on Saturday. Read more 

US very very close to Mexico-US only deal: White House

Global News: The United States is getting “very, very close” to having to move forward on its trade deal with Mexico without Canada, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said on Friday. Read more 

Mexico will seek deal with Canada if NAFTA talks fail: Lopez Obrador

Reuters: Mexico’s incoming government will pursue a bilateral deal with Canada if talks to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement falter, Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday. Read more 

Mercosur Holds First Negotiating Round for Korea Trade Deal, Looks to EU Next Steps

ICTSD: Officials from the South American customs bloc Mercosur held negotiating meetings last week with South Korea and the European Union, respectively, as the coalition looks to cement trade ties with new partners. Read more 

Global Trade is thriving (for some)

Bloomberg: The West has turned hostile to open markets, but trade isn’t in retreat everywhere. In other parts of the world, it’s flourishing. Read more 

The Global Trade System could break down

Project Syndicate:  Ten years after the failure of Lehman Brothers, we know that multilateral action was crucial in preventing the so-called Great Recession from becoming even worse than it was. Back then, it was the global financial system that was tottering. Today, it is the global trade system that is in jeopardy. Read more 

NEW ON CTLD BLOG

This week, we were honoured to have our frequent guest author, Javier Spencer, return to give a critical analysis of what the Trump administration may mean for the WTO in this piece: Trump ‘trumps’ the WTO. You can also follow Javier on Twitter at @jav_d_spencer

The following other articles were posted:

EU makes initial proposals for WTO modernization

Urgent WTO reform needed, says G20 Trade and Investment ministers

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

EU makes initial proposals for WTO modernization

Alicia Nicholls

The European Commission has released a concept paper outlining its initial proposals for making the WTO more relevant and adaptive to current global realities and for strengthening its effectiveness.

The paper originates from a mandate given by the European Council to the European Commission. It was published days after G20 trade and investment ministers called for urgent WTO reform and a month after United States’ President Donald Trump renewed his desire to withdraw the US from the WTO. It also comes against the backdrop of an escalation in unilateralism as Washington readies to impose a further $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods imports.

In the paper, the Commission reiterates the EU’s “staunch” support of the multilateral trading system, noting that the 164-member WTO was “indispensable in ensuring free and fair trade”. It warns, however, that the WTO is under threat. It notes that the organisation’s current marginalisation by some of its key members stem from its failure to “adapt sufficiently to the rapidly changing global economy”.

The 17-page concept paper offers proposals under three key areas and is in effect three papers in one. These areas are: rulemaking and development, regular work and transparency and dispute settlement.

The Commission recommends that the EU continue to the work on the issues under the existing Doha mandate, but also states there is urgent need to broaden the negotiating agenda, building on several initiatives launched at the Buenos Aires Ministerial held in December 2017. Lamenting the current inadequacy of the WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM), the Commission calls for improved transparency and subsidy notifications, rules which better capture subsidies granted by state-owned enterprises and stricter rules for the most trade-distortive types of subsidies.

The Commission recommends updating current trade rules on services and investment, and further reduce existing market access barriers and discriminatory treatment of foreign investors. One issue of which the Commission was particularly critical was the need to tighten rules on forced technology transfer – practices by some States which force foreign investors to directly or indirectly share their technological innovations with the State or domestic investors. Indeed, intellectual property rights issues are a major sore point between US and China trade relations.

The Commission also sounds the alarm about the “grave danger” to the WTO’s dispute settlement system posed by the US’ blocking of Appellate Body judge appointments. By end of September, the Appellate Body would have only the minimum (just three judges on its roster) and by December 2019 will have less than the minimum required to hear an appeal as two more retire. As such, the Commission has made some initial proposals for amendments which would take into account many of the US’ concerns with the WTO dispute settlement system which had been outlined in the President’s Trade Policy Agenda for 2018. For example, the Commission has suggested amending the 90-days rule contained in Article 17.5 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding to provide for more transparency and consultation.

The Commission has made clear that the proposals were meant to be a basis for discussion with the EU Parliament, the Council and other WTO members, and did not prejudice the EU’s final positions on the matters.

The concept paper makes for an interesting read and may be viewed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Trump ‘trumps’ the WTO

Javier D. Spencer, Guest Contributor 

Javier

THE WTO

The 1995 organization has done considerably well to date as an arbiter of international trade. The organization was created as a response to the economic situation in the 1930’s that resulted in global tensions. Its predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), was ostensibly limited in scope and so, the consensual demand was for an inclusive and comprehensive institution to govern and promote international trade.

Achieving inclusive and comprehensive trade was daunting; nevertheless, the organization has attained the aforementioned buzzwords and continues along this trajectory. For instance, the WTO started with only 123 signatories under the Marrakesh Agreement in 1994 and today has over 160 members, with pending ascensions. Additionally, it is remarkable to note that the WTO agreements are comprehensive. They cover trade in goods, services, agriculture, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, intellectual property, rules of origin, subsidies, dispute settlement, and many more.

The WTO rests on its founding principles of non-discrimination, reciprocity, transparency, safety values, and binding and enforceable commitments such as the tariffs commitments in order to liberalize and promulgate free trade as a global public good. With these at its core, it is fair to say that the organization has lived up to its core function and objective.

Having regard to the organization’s core functions and objectives, governing global trade is no easy feat, especially taking into consideration competing political and economic interests among WTO member . The organization is a rules-based organization and these rules are agreed upon by consensus of member states. In this regard, the organization’s Dispute Settlement system remains a feather in the cap and its prized arm. The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) has provided stability to the global economy by ensuring that agreed rules are enforced. Since its existence, the DSB has successfully deliberated on many cases that have maintained the integrity of the WTO rules.

Despite its successes, the future of the WTO remains vulnerable. At present, it is on the receiving end of dire threats from one of its founding members – the United States (US). Interestingly, the US led the global effort to establish the machinery to manage global trade. However, the present President of the United States (POTUS) lashes the organization as the worse deal for the US. POTUS’ actions to date are alarming – from delaying the appointment of members to the WTO Appellate body to dusting off Section 301 of the Trade Act to a brewing trade war with China and other countries to the burial of the NAFTA to public statements of leaving the WTO and much more. We should be worried about the future of the WTO.

TRUMP

The WTO is lauded by many countries as a fair and just organization that seeks to level the playing field and as much as possible promulgate all-inclusivity. However, not all world leaders share these sentiments. One example is the President of the United States, Donald Trump. Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States and has been in office since January 2017. He triumphed over his opponent with his patented and infamous campaign slogan, “Make American Great Again”, a slogan that is purported to usher in better economic times for the United States of America. It was envisioned to focus on military operations and to focus on implementing mechanisms to fillip the job market and ailing industries in the US. The implication of this, of course, is that Trump’s actions would focus on US’ external trade policy. However, at what cost is Trump willing to “Make America Great Again?” Does he mean to make America great again by ruffling the feathers of a peaceful, collaborative, rules-based multilateral trading system?

It is without a doubt that Trump has very little faith in multilateral organizations. To date, the POTUS has adopted many controversial positions in global affairs, with harsh jabs towards the WTO. He has aired that the WTO does not serve the interest of the US and as such, the organization is biased and unfair to the country. He has further iterated that the WTO and the EU are collaborating against the US and as a result, transactions by these organizations are very ‘bad’ for the United States. These sentiments all lead to a threat to withdraw the US from the organization – much like the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights body. The threats and dire warning aimed at the multilateral organization from the POTUS show isolationism, protectionism, nationalism, and I even dare say reverse globalization.

The stance on global trade, in particular, and actions that are taken show that POTUS’  external trade policy remains a mystery. One thing is for certain, he strives to deliver on his campaign promise of remedying the trade [im] balances that the US has with other countries, in an effort to “Make America Great Again”. The achievement of this infamous slogan has led to a trade war with China, sanctions against Turkey, a failed trilateral negotiation of NAFTA and other trade turbulences – with surely more to follow.

In early July, in a claim to fix the unfairness in trade, the US imposed 25% tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. This then extended to steel and aluminium imports from Canada and the European Union. (The move to extend the imposed tariffs to the other countries could be looked at from the lens of ensuring that Chinese firms do not engage in deflective trade strategies by establishing firms in these territories and export under the guise of these territories.) As the US imposed these tariffs on Chinese goods, China returned the favour by imposing tariffs on US goods and as such, a tit-for-tat trade war ensued. For Trump, he deemed that the imposition of tariffs was necessary and served as “national security” interest of the United States. This exemption clause is enshrined in the 1994 GATT Article XXI of the WTO agreement and is certainly one loophole of which the POTUS will take full advantage.

The example of the US-China brewing trade war definitely puts the global rules-based system in peril. It brings into question the authority or jurisdiction of the WTO to advise the US of the legitimacy of “essential” or national security claims. However, on the other hand, supporting Trump will legitimize a major loophole in the global trade rules. At this crossroads, the WTO faces an uphill battle with a world leader’s determination to dismantle decades of the global trade order.

The POTUS’ actions to weaken the organization goes beyond Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which was the US domestic legislation used to spur the trade war. In fact, there is a draft a bill that the POTUS has advanced that would have dire consequences for the WTO and the global trading system. The Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act (FART Act) is de facto a mechanism for the POTUS to completely disregard the WTO rules. In other words, the Act confers rights on the POTUS to adjust tariffs rates with countries outside of the WTO jurisdiction, without much red tape and authorization of Congress.

 WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

With all that is happening now in the global trade environment, the brewing question is what would happen if the WTO were dismantled by the US. As a global hegemon, the US’ exit of the WTO will certainly cause a domino effect. Other countries will follow and move to impose tariffs to their absolute advantage – making the rules-based organization and its decades of work useless.

POTUS certainly has no faith in the multilateral trading system and is reshaping the US’ external trade policy by striving for bilateral trade agreements with countries. There is nothing inherently wrong with negotiating bilateral agreements with third-party states. In fact, there are provisions made within the WTO rules-based system that enables countries to create regional trade agreements. However, it would seem that POTUS’ aim is to completely ignore the rules and create his own rules. Rules that would only advance the economic interest of the US, which may not maintain the integrity and ethos of free and fair global trade. This form of trade policy is one where we will see that the US will use economic pressure to its whims and fancy.

Many cases have proved the WTO’s worth in regulating global trade so that there is an equal opportunity available to all member states. Developing countries and countries of the Global South should make it a priority to save the WTO. In particular, the Caribbean Small Vulnerable Economies (SVEs) should focus on the future of the WTO against the backdrop of POTUS’ withdrawal threat. The US remains the Caribbean’s largest trading partner for both imports and exports.  So, what would a US withdrawal mean for these Member States? An appropriate question considering US-Antigua Gambling Case. Antigua is yet to be compensated and the possibility of the US complying with the WTO’s ruling is unpromising. With the US’ pronounced economic influence on the region, its withdrawal would further subject the Caribbean SVE’s to the US “beggar-thy-neighbour” trade policy.

It would be unfortunate for all if the actions of one President collapse a just and fair trading system.

Javier Spencer, B.Sc., M.Sc., is an International Business & Trade Professional with a B.Sc. in International Business and a M.Sc. in International Trade Policy. His professional interests include Regional Integration, International Business, Global Diplomacy and International Trade & Development. He may be contacted at javier.spencer at gmail.com.

Urgent WTO reform needed, says G20 Trade and Investment ministers

Alicia Nicholls

Trade and investment ministers of the world’s twenty leading industrialised economies (G20) have called for urgent reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ensure its ability to “face current and future challenges”. This is according to the Ministerial Statement released following the G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting held on September 14, 2018 in Mar del Plata, Argentina.

The 164-member WTO serves not just as the only multilateral forum for the negotiation of global trading rules, but is a forum for the orderly and peaceful resolution of trade disputes amongst WTO member countries. While the Ministerial Statement does not detail what specific reforms the G20 Ministers deem necessary, it implores all G20 member countries and other interested parties to explore ideas to safeguard the continued relevancy of the multilateral trade governance organisation. G20 member countries have also ‘stepped up’ dialogue on current international trade developments.

The statement comes in the wake of increased threats to the multilateral rules-based trading system. The most recent are the current escalating trade tensions between the US and China manifested in the imposition of billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs on goods by both sides. It also comes  amidst new threats by United States’ President, Donald Trump, to withdraw the US from the WTO, which he perceives to be inherently biased towards the US. This is, despite independent research showing that the US, which is the most litigious of the WTO member countries, wins about 91% of the trade disputes in which it was the complainant, and 89% of cases as respondent. Despite this positive track record, the Trump administration continues to block Appellate Body judge selections, which threatens to grind the WTO’s once vaunted dispute settlement body system to a halt.

Concerns about the relevance of the WTO predate the Trump administration, with a major concern being the WTO’s consensus-based decision making model which requires agreement by all member countries for progress to be made. Out of frustration with the slow pace of the Doha negotiations and the refusal to include new emerging issues into negotiations, there was a marked shift in the US focus during the Obama Administration from the now defunct Doha Development Round negotiations towards the negotiation of mega regional trade agreements. However, the Trump administration marks the first time a US administration has openly threatened to withdraw from the WTO, an organisation it was instrumental in pushing for and forming.

One positive aspect to the Trump administration’s anti-WTO stance and actions is that they have given new urgency to the need to reform the WTO to secure its relevance, efficiency and effectiveness for all members, including small vulnerable economies (SVEs). SVEs account for only a tiny fraction of world trade, but generally have high levels of trade openness and a narrow range of exports and export partners. As such, any unfair trade practices by one of their major trading partners which prejudices an SVE’s exports, could have a deleterious impact on its economy and development prospects.

Despite the problems inherent with the consensus-based decision making model, the removal of such a system would likely undermine the WTO’s legitimacy and disenfranchise less powerful member countries, such as SVEs. The WTO is of particular importance to SVEs because it is one international organisation in which they have equal voice, and because, at least in theory, it provides a mechanism for small States to hold hegemons to account when they engage in unfair trade practices. This, however, has not always been the case. For instance, Antigua & Barbuda’s inability to receive compensation from the United States following the rulings in the US-Antigua Gambling case is the most glaring example of how power asymmetries affect small States’ ability to hold powerful States to account, even where rulings have been made in their favour.

There have been numerous calls for reform of the WTO over the years, as well as several studies, including this one by Bertelsmann Stiftung, which have posited recommendations. Encouragingly, current Director General of the WTO has expressed support and willingness for reform of the organisation, noting that some countries have already begun talks. It is hoped that CARICOM countries, as well as other SVEs, will demand a voice in these discussions and offer their ideas for reforming the WTO to ensure it meets their needs. The presence of CARICOM at the G20 Trade and Investment Ministers meeting, represented by Jamaica, is a good start.

Despite the WTO’s shortcomings, the fact that non-Members continue to pursue accession to the WTO show that countries generally still see value in the organisation.

In essence, the G20 Statement shows support in principle, at least from a majority of the world’s largest economies, for the continuation of the rules-based multilateral trading system which the WTO affords and states commitment towards making the reform of the WTO an urgent priority. Now these words must be translated into action.

The full G20 Trade and Investment Ministers’ Ministerial Statement may be read here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – September 9-15, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of September 9-15, 2018! We are happy to bring the trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

REGIONAL

Laing appointed Bahamas’ WTO Chief Negotiator

Eyewitness News: Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette held a press conference on Sunday at the Campbell Maritime Centre to provide an update on the country’s current accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Accession. Read more 

Bahamas’ Top Negotiator: ‘WTO’ won’t hurt this economy 

Tribune 242: The Bahamas’ newly-appointed chief negotiator yesterday pledged this nation “cannot join the WTO on terms that injure” its economy or any major industries. Read more 

Guyana, other Caribbean countries searching for new fuel sellers following Trinidad’s refinery closure; regional tax to be waived 

Demerara Waves: In the wake of the closure of Trinidad and Tobago’s state-owned oil refinery, Petrotrin, Guyana and several other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states are scrambling to buy fuel from extra-regional suppliers, Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge said Monday. Read more 

All hands on deck with Windrush

The Gleaner: Article by Jamaica Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, on the Jamaica Government’s approach to the ‘Windrush’ issue in the UK. Read more 

SAC issues position paper for regional integration of sugar market

The Jamaica Observer:  The Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC), which represents sugar producers in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), has disclosed that it issued a position paper on the regional integration of the sugar market on September 7. Read more 

Caribbean banks support CARICOM in regional integration efforts

Caribbean News Now: The Caribbean Association of Banks (CAB) has commended the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP) for reaffirming the commitment towards the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and its significance for the regional financial sector, at the sixth special meeting of the Council on September 4, 2018, in Barbados. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

RCEP Negotiations Reach Critical Stage – Likely to be Inked by Year-End

ASEAN Briefing: In the sixth Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ministerial meeting held in Singapore, the negotiations for the conclusion of the proposed RCEP reached a critical stage; the top leaders from the 16-member coalition came together and pledged to endorse a package of outcomes by year-end. Read more

Trudeau sets out fall priorities, including finalising the Trans-Pacific deal as NAFTA talks continue

The Toronto Star: Canada will try to meet a Sept. 30 deadline to reach a North American free trade pact, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Thursday the most recent timeline set by the U.S. may not be met as NAFTA talks continue. Read more 

Intrigue, impasse persist over NAFTA

Calgary Herald: With trilateral NAFTA talks having been on hiatus for most of the summer, the foreign affairs minister was in Berlin, barely one full day into a week-long diplomatic mission to Europe, when news emerged that the United States and Mexico had forged their own trade alliance in Canada’s absence. Read more

NAFTA negotiations ‘hang over heads’ of Canadian farmers, U.S. counterparts

CBC (Canada): The tough talk between Canada and the U.S. around NAFTA negotiations is having real-life consequences for those working in the industry every day.  Read more 

Canada working on WTO Reform: Report

MoneyControl: Canada is working on a project for the reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and aims to organise international talks on the subject next month, Canadian sources said Friday as US pressure on the body mounts. Read more

Canada-EU trade, one year on; Imports rising faster than exports

CBC (Canada): When the Canadian government talks about trade diversification, the agreement it puts in the window is its wide-ranging trade deal with the European Union, which started to take hold one year ago this week. Read more 

USTR Publishes Agreed Outcomes from US-Korea FTA Amendment and Modification Negotiations

USTR:  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy published the agreed outcomes of the negotiations to amend and modify the U.S.-Korea (KORUS) Free Trade Agreement. Read more 

Japan and Vietnam urge US to rejoin Pacific trade deal

Gulf Times: Japan and Vietnam yesterday urged the United States to rejoin a sprawling Pacific trade deal, almost two years after President Donald Trump’s withdrawal dealt a major blow to what would have been the world’s largest free trade pact. Read more

Canada requests consultations with China on compliance with paper duties ruling

WTO: Canada has requested consultations with China regarding China’s alleged non-compliance with the recommendations and rulings of the Dispute Settlement Body in the dispute concerning Chinese anti-dumping duties on imports of Canadian cellulose pulp (DS483). The request was circulated to WTO members on 12 September. Read more

Azevêdo urges Commonwealth to play full part in strengthening the multilateral system

WTO: Speaking at a meeting of WTO Commonwealth members held at the WTO on 11 September, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said the support provided by Commonwealth members for the multilateral trading system is hugely important. Read more 

Jean-Claude urges EU to offer free trade agreement to Africa

The Punch: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday, urged the European Union to offer a free trade agreement to the whole of the African continent and a new investment alliance. Read more 

‘Moving into the heart of negotiations’ for Africa’s free trade agreement

RFI: The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement makes some big promises about removing barriers to trade and freeing up the flow of goods and services.  Read more 

Totally wrong! Brexit stalemate as EU says NOTHING will be agreed this week

The Sunday Express: EU officials have crushed rising hopes of a breakthrough on the question of the Irish border when leaders meet for Wednesday’s summit in Salzburg, with one dismissing the suggestion as “totally wrong”. Read more 

Can international trade agreements help to introduce labour reforms?

South China Morning Post: Labour advocates have long complained international trade agreements are driven by corporate agendas and pay little attention to the interests of working people. Read more 

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

Caribbean Trade and Development Digest – July 1-7, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of July 1-7, 2018! We are happy to bring the trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

REGIONAL

The major regional news this week was the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of CARICOM held in Jamaica. The full communique from the meeting may be viewed here. Some of the major headlines from the meeting may be found below:

CARICOM Meeting Headlines

President of Chile keen to negotiate a free trade agreement with CARICOM

Jamaica Information Service: President of the Republic of Chile, His Excellency Sebastián Piñera, has expressed interest in entering into negotiations on a free trade-agreement with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). He was addressing the third plenary session at the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM on Friday (July 6), at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, in St. James.Read more

CARICOM must reposition to navigate the new normal

Jamaica Observer: Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell says the Caribbean Community (Caricom) must reposition itself to operate in a global landscape characterised by the “new normal”. Read more

Premier Burt speaks on Fintech at CARICOM

Bernews: During the CARICOM meeting in Jamaica, Premier David Burt made a presentation about Bermuda’s moves in establishing a regulatory platform for fintech and also discussed how “Distributed Ledger Technology more generally can assist with challenges in servicing citizens and increase government efficiency.” Read more 

CARICOM Chairman lobbies Chile for Development Financing

Jamaica Gleaner: Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness has encouraged the Chilean President  to use his country’s “considerable visibility” on the international stage to assist members of the regional bloc to make a strong case for access to development financing. Read more 

Bahamian Prime Minister addresses CARICOM on disaster management

Eyewitness News: Prime Minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis shared with his CARICOM colleagues, a number of initiatives being undertaken by his government in a move to improve his country’s disaster mitigation plan, through the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA. Read more 

CCJ not a priority for St. Lucia at this time

Jamaica Observer: St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet says while signing on to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is a critical issue, it is not a priority for his Government at this time. Read more 

CARICOM leaders propose that measures be put in place for easier travel

Jamaica Information Service: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders are proposing that measures be put in place to facilitate easier travel within the community. Read more

CCJ’s New President hopes CARICOM nations will join Court’s Appellate Jurisdiction

Jamaica Observer: Justice Adrian Saunders who was yesterday installed as the third president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is disappointed that more Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations have not yet signed on to the court’s appellate jurisdictions. Read more 

PM Browne calls on CARICOM to address the “disproportionate movement of people”

Antigua Observer: Prime Minister Gaston Browne has called on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to address the unbalanced movement of people that is borne by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Read more 

Other Regional Headlines

FDI in Latin America and the Caribbean falls for third consecutive year

St. Lucia Online: Despite an international context characterised by stronger growth in the global economy, abundant international liquidity, high corporate returns and optimism in financial markets, the flows of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Latin America and the Caribbean fell for the third year in a row last year. Read more

Cuba seeks to increase non-conventional agricultural exports

Xinhua: Cuba seeks to increase exports of non-conventional agricultural products like honey, charcoal, coffee and pine resin to various markets around the world and contribute to the government’s strategy of diversification of foreign markets. Read more

TT#1 in Cuba

Newsday: TT exported an estimated $456 million worth of goods to Cuba in 2016 while it imported $37 million of products from the island that same year. Read more 

DT World to create new trade portal in Dominican Republic

Saudi Gazette: A new electronic trade portal that will enable trade and make life easier for business has been launched in the Dominican Republic by Dubai Trade World (DT World). Read more 

Commissiong is Barbados’ new ambassador to CARICOM

Nation News: Controversial attorney David Comissiong will be Barbados’ next Ambassador to CARICOM. Read more 

CARICOM Day in London pays tribute to Windrush Generation

The Daily Herald: The Caribbean Community CARICOM diplomatic missions in London celebrated CARICOM Day on Wednesday with a special thanksgiving service and exhibition in tribute to the Windrush generation. Read more 

Haiti Risks Losing Thousands of Jobs

Haitilibre: As of Saturday, July 7, 2018, will end the derogation granted to Haiti, pending the ratification of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) – European Union – Cariforum. Recall that the countries of the region that signed this agreement, did it to attract foreign investment in their country and to have better access to the EU market. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

Russia initiates WTO dispute complaint against US steel, aluminium duties

WTO: The Russian Federation has requested WTO dispute consultations with the United States regarding US duties on certain imported steel and aluminium products. The request was circulated to WTO members on 2 July. Read more 

Support remains solid for Aid for Trade financing, WTO members told

WTO: Support for projects intended to help poor countries expand their participation in global trade continues to be solid, with low income countries garnering the most support on a per-capita basis, WTO members were told on 3 July. The latest update was delivered to the Committee on Trade and Development’s session on Aid for Trade. Read more

Rate of new trade restrictions from G20 economies doubles against previous period

WTO: The WTO’s nineteenth monitoring report on Group of 20 (G20) trade measures covering the period from mid-October 2017 to mid-May 2018, issued on 4 July, shows that new trade-restrictive measures from G20 economies have doubled compared to the previous review period. The report also shows that G20 economies continue to implement trade-facilitating measures, with the rate increasing slightly.  Read more 

WTO issues panel report regarding US duties on Canadian paper

WTO: On 5 July the WTO circulated the panel report in the case brought by Canada in “United States — Countervailing Measures on Supercalendered Paper from Canada” (DS505). Read more 

David Davis resigns as Brexit secretary

Independent: His resignation as Brexit secretary deals a heavy blow to the stability of the prime minister’s administration, with two other ministers almost immediately following suit. Read more 

BONUS

The Closing Press Conference of the Thirty-Ninth Heads of Government meeting may be viewed here on CARICOM Today’s Blog.

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – June 24 – July 1, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of June 24-July 1, 2018! We are happy to bring the trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

REGIONAL

The major regional trade headlines this week

Barbados and IMF to begin negotiations this week

BarbadosToday: Barbados has put together a strong negotiating team and is ready to engage in discussions with the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) representatives from July 2 to 12. Read more

Over 200 heads of State and officials to attend CARICOM Meeting in Jamaica 

Telesur: Over two hundred foreign officials from the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, are preparing to make their way to Jamaica for the organization’s 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government. Read more

Premier takes OT-UK fight to CARICOM

Cayman27: Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin is taking his case to Caricom leaders to enlist the help of Cayman’s regional partners. This as he continues his battle against the UK’s imposition of public beneficial ownership registries on Overseas Territories. Read more

Cuba’s President will be special guest at CARICOM Summit

Prensa Latina: Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel will be one of the special guests of the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the regional entity reports today. Read more 

CARICOM Meeting in Jamaica is time for frankness, says Holness

Jamaica Observer: If Prime Minister Andrew Holness fails to represent us well at the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) meeting he will merit the anger of many yet unborn. He was not among West Indian students in London who took oaths to merge our islands, so he may speak frankly. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

RCEP on track for substantial agreement by year-end in big win for free trade: Chan Chun Sing

Strait Times: Trade ministers of 16 countries that account for 30 per cent of global trade have re-affirmed their resolve for a regional trade deal that will benefit economies at different levels of development.  Read more 

South Africa to sign African free trade agreement

Fin24: South Africa on Sunday will sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) agreement, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies confirmed. Read more

Canada retaliatory tariffs on US come into force

BBC: Canada’s countermeasures against the Trump administration’s steel and aluminium levies have come into effect. On Sunday, the day the country celebrates its national holiday, Canada imposed a 25% tariff on assorted US metals products. Read more 

Japan PM Shinzo Abe says Asia-Pacific can fly flag for free trade  

Strait Times: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in an impassioned rallying cry for free trade, on Sunday (July 1) urged Asia-Pacific countries to take the lead to further the free, fair and rules-based economic order. Read more 

Japan passes bills to ratify Trans-Pacific deal

Nikkei Asian Review: Japan’s parliament passed bills ratifying a comprehensive trans-Pacific trade deal on Friday, paving the way for the pact to take effect, which its backers say will create a “trade deal for the 21st century.” Read more

Trade barriers: EU removes record number in response to surge in protectionism

EU: The annual report on Trade and Investment Barriers, released today, shows that the European Commission has eliminated the highest number ever of trade barriers faced by EU companies doing business abroad. European exporters reported a major increase in protectionism in 2017. Read more 

AU Summit focused on challenges, progresses

Prensa Latina: The African Union (AU) today highlighted the progress made this year on several fronts, when the continent seeks to achieve peace, development and unity. Read more 

WTO issues panel report on tobacco plain packaging 

WTO: On 28 June the WTO circulated the panel report in the cases brought by Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Indonesia in “Australia — Certain Measures Concerning Trademarks, Geographical Indications and Other Plain Packaging Requirements Applicable to Tobacco Products and Packaging” (DS435, DS441, DS458 and DS467). Read more 

Hong Kong will pursue more free trade agreements, says official

Strait Times: Hong Kong will continue to pursue free trade agreements (FTAs) as trade is not a zero-sum game, said its secretary for commerce and economic development. Read more

Namibia signs Continental Free trade agreement

NBC (Namibia): Namibia has joined the Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) agreement worth over US$2 trillion. Read more

Turkey, EFTA expand free trade agreement

Hurriyet Daily News: Turkey and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries—Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland—signed an agreement on June 25 to enlarge their free trade agreement (FTA). Read more

Experts applaud intra Africa trade

ENCA: Experts say intra-Africa trade has the greatest potential for building sustainable economic development and integration on the continent. Read more 

Trump reportedly wants the US to withdraw from the WTO

CNBC: President Donald Trump is not a fan of the World Trade Organization. Axios is reporting that Trump has told several top White House officials he wants to withdraw the United States from the WTO. Read more

Trump to delay signing NAFTA deal until after mid-term elections

The Guardian: Donald Trump intends to delay signing a revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) until after the midterm elections, a move aimed at reaching a better deal with Canada and Mexico. Read more 

Mexico’s presidential forerunner could shake up NAFTA and Trump

CNBC: Mexicans will head to the polls Sunday in an election that’s set to bring a paradigm political shift to the country. Read more

EU withdrawal bill officially becomes law

BBC: The government’s flagship Brexit legislation has officially become law, Speaker John Bercow has announced. Read more 

NEW ON CTLD BLOG

5 things the UK’s EU (Withdrawal) Act of 2018 does

The Golding Report Adopted by Jamaica Government: What Next?

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

 

5 things the UK’s EU (Withdrawal) Act of 2018 does

Alicia Nicholls

After months of heated debate, the United Kingdom’s European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, more colloquially called the ‘Brexit Bill’, received the Royal Assent on June 26th, transforming it into law.

Here are five quick things the EU (Withdrawal) Act of 2018 does:

1.Defines Brexit or ‘Exit day’

The UK’s official ‘exit day’ from the EU is now defined in statute as March 29, 2019 at 11:00 pm. However, the Act allows amendment of this date via regulation to ensure it conforms with the date on which the EU treaties are to cease to apply to the UK as per Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union (Lisbon Treaty), that is, from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification of withdrawal unless the European Council, in agreement with the UK, unanimously decides to extend this period.

2.Repeals the European Communities Act, 1972 on ‘exit day’

The European Communities Act (ECA), 1972 provided for the UK’s accession to the European Communities. Per the EU (Withdrawal) Act, the ECA will be deemed repealed on March 29, 2019 at 11:00 pm (Exit Day).

3.Saves EU-derived domestic legislation and direct EU legislation with exceptions

The Act saves EU-derived domestic legislation and direct EU legislation which is in operation immediately before exit day, meaning it continues to have effect in domestic law on and after the exit day, but does not include any enactment in the European Communities Act, 1972 (which would be repealed). It also provides a guide for the interpretation of EU derived law.

But there are important exceptions. For instance, the rule of supremacy of EU law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights will obviously no longer apply on and after exit day. Additionally, while there is nothing preventing UK courts from having regard to EU courts’ interpretation of retained EU law, they will no longer be bound to principles decided by the European Court and will no longer refer matters to the court.

4.Parliamentary Approval Required for Outcome of EU Negotiations

The Act mandates parliamentary approval for the ratification of the withdrawal agreement and outlines a detailed process at section 13(1) for same.

5.Makes some prescriptions

With respect to the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the Act requires the Government to lay before both Houses of Parliament before the end of October 31, 2018 a written statement outlining the steps taken towards negotiating a customs arrangement as part of the post-Brexit EU-UK relationship. Another example is the requirement placed on the Government to seek to negotiate on the UK’s behalf an agreement with the EU dealing with family unity for those seeking asylum or other protection in Europe.

The full text of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act may be viewed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

The Golding Report Adopted by Jamaica Government: What Next?

Alicia Nicholls

Last week the Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks, commonly referred to as the “Golding Report” after the Commission’s distinguished Chairman, the Honourable Bruce Golding, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, was debated and adopted by the Jamaica House of Representatives. We now finally have some idea of what is the official position by the Government of Jamaica on the report which was commissioned by the Most Honourable, Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica and completed nine months later in March 2017.

Initial fears that the report would serve as the basis for a Jexit (Jamaica’s exit from the CARICOM), akin to the country’s withdrawal from the West Indies Federation in 1961, have been allayed somewhat. Official statements from the Jamaican Government do not evince an intention to leave CARICOM and the Government appears convinced, at least for now, that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is the best raft for navigating increasingly uncertain global economic and policy waters.

The 51-page report sought to examine Jamaica’s relations within CARICOM and CARIFORUM, but has presented another opportunity for introspection by CARICOM leaders and other stakeholders on what has been achieved, where we have failed and what is needed to move forward. The fact that consultations were held with persons not just from Jamaica, but also from across the wider CARICOM shows that the Report was not solely insular in focus.

The Holness Government has indicated that it would not push for the five-year deadline for full CSME implementation recommended by the Report, calling the timeline “unrealistic”. Instead, Mr. Holness stated that the Government would “get commitments from the various heads for the full and effective implementation of the Common Market, which are things that we can do within the five years.”

The Holness Government has also thrown its support behind a review of the CARICOM contribution scale of fees payable to the Secretariat and other bodies. Jamaica is currently the second largest contributor (23.15%) and is working to reduce its arrears of just under $500 million. Jamaica is not the only Member State to owe arrears, but the lack of information on the level of arrears owed by Member States was one of the transparency issues raised in the report.

In his contribution to the debate on the Report in the Lower House, Mr. Holness further noted that some of the report’s thirty-three recommendations were more immediately implementable than others, and there was need for some flexibility. The Leader of the Opposition, PNP Leader, Dr. Peter Phillips, also supported the report.

Disappointingly, there has been no public reaction by CARICOM leaders to the report so far, aside from the comments made by Prime Minister of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves. No reference was made to the Report in the Communique from the 29th Intersessional Meeting, but the report is likely to be one of the agenda items at the upcoming 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) carded for July 4-6 in Jamaica.

At the two-day Stakeholder Consultation on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) held at the Ramada Princess Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana June 8-9, the Honourable Bruce Golding, who was one of the presenters, noted that the CARICOM Secretariat was not to blame for the implementation deficit.

The Jamaica Government should be lauded for this effort. The Report, which has been the most comprehensive report on CARICOM since the Ramphal Commission’s Time for Action Report of 1992, also addresses issues such as transparency, financing and accountability. The report’s recommendations, most of which are not new, are however, far-reaching. Among the more novel recommendations are the proposed establishment of an Office of an Auditor-General, a Central Dispute Settlement Body, and greater involvement of the private sector.

More could have been said in the Report about ensuring buy-in by future generations by increasing youth participation and engagement in the regional integration process, such as through the expansion of the CARICOM Young Ambassadors Programme, the establishment of a CARICOM Young Professionals Programme at the CARICOM Secretariat or across its institutions, or at least providing greater opportunities for young persons to see first hand the work of the Secretariat through internships.

Like the many reports and studies before it, the Golding Report presents an important opportunity for conversation and dialogue, but talk must be parlayed to action. Jamaica will assume chairmanship of the Conference of Heads of Government under its rotational system from July 1-December 31, 2018, and Mr. Holness will have an opportunity within his six month chairmanship to hopefully influence how much attention is paid to the report and its recommendations, and what should be the next steps.

It is hoped that the Golding Report will not suffer the fate that so many previous studies on CARICOM suffered, that is, being relegated to “File 13”. The report should provoke serious introspection about whether the CSME is really what we want. What concrete steps are we willing to take to implement the commitments made under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas?

Leaders of CARICOM countries must not just be willing to make commitments but be champions for their implementation domestically. The election result in Barbados, which under the quasi-cabinet has lead for the Single Market (including Monetary Union), presents some cause for hope. The new Prime Minister, the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, has taken a more pro-integration stance than seen in the previous administration, and one of her first acts was to remove the visa requirement for citizens from Haiti, which is not yet a CSME participatory but is a CARICOM Member State.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – June 17-23, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of June 17-23, 2018! We are happy to bring the trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

REGIONAL

The major regional trade headlines this week focused on the debate  and adoption in the Jamaica House of Representatives of the Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Networks (commonly referred to as the Golding Report after its chairman, former Jamaican Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding).

Golding Report Headlines

These headlines may be found here:

Jamaica House of Representatives Adopts Report on CARICOM

JIS: The House of Representatives on Tuesday (June 19) adopted the Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks. Read more 

Jamaica will Continue Relations with CARICOM– PM Holness

JIS: Prime Minister Andrew Holness has reiterated that Jamaica will continue its relationship with the CARICOM. Read more 

Does Caricom need a WTO-type dispute-resolution system?

Jamaica Observer: It cannot be gainsaid that an effective dispute-settlement system is required in any regional trade agreement to ensure the legitimacy of the trade arrangement. Read more 

Jamaica PM Supports Review of CARICOM Contribution Scale

St. Kitts & Nevis Observer: Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness has embraced the Bruce Golding-led Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Review Commission’s proposal for greater equity in the assessment and calculation of fees payable to the CARICOM Secretariat and agencies by member states. Read more

Jamaica Isn’t Accepting Recommendation to Give CARICOM Ultimatum on CSME Implementation

Caribbean360: Jamaica’s Parliament has adopted the report of the commission set up to review the country’s relations within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), but Prime Minister Andrew Holness says government will not insist on the five-year timeline for the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), as recommended in the document. Read more

Minister Shaw Calls for Fair and Rigorous Application of Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas

JIS: Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Audley Shaw, says that the provisions of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas must be applied fairly and rigorously in order to result in increased economic development in the region. Read more

Other Regional Headlines 

EU – African, Caribbean and Pacific countries future partnership: Council adopts negotiating mandate

EU: On 22 June 2018, the Council adopted the negotiating mandate for the future agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. Read more

EU and 79 ACP Countries Aim at New Partnership to Address Global Challenges

InDepthNews: The heads of state or government of the 28 EU member states, constituting the European Council, have authorized the European Commission to open negotiations for a new partnership agreement with 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). The Group’s Secretary-General Dr. Patrick I. Gomes has greeted the decision. Read more

(Trinidad) Exports up, imports down

Newsday (T&T): T&T Exports rose by 11 per cent in the last quarter of 2017, while imports decreased by 1.5 per cent, year on year, the latest data from the Central Bank has shown, and as expected, the uptick in the energy sector is the reason. Read more 

Fewer Jamaicans Denied Entry to T&T

JIS: The number of Jamaicans being denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) continues to decline. Read more 

More engagement needed between CARICOM and Caribbean Diaspora 

South Florida Caribbean News: Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States Dr. Riyad Insanally has suggested that there be a more structured process of engagement between the Caribbean Diplomatic Caucus  in Washington DC and the Caribbean diaspora to ensure that efforts to advance the cause of the region and its people are well defined and co-ordinated. Read more 

Implications for the Caribbean… as US imposes tariffs on steel, aluminium

The Guardian: The Trump administration imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union effective June 1, 2018. The implementation of the tariffs are designed to protect the US steel and aluminium industry from foreign producers that undercut domestic prices. Read more

City chamber launches trade councils with India, Canada and Cuba

Stabroek: The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) yesterday launched three trade facilitation councils in efforts to operationalize memoranda of understanding (MoU) signed with Cuba, India and Canada. Read more 

Cuba Seeking Trade, Investment from Wider Caribbean

St Kitts & Nevis Observer: Businesses in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean are being encouraged to explore opportunities for trade and investment with Cuba. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Cuba, Rogelio Sierra Diaz, said his Government is seeking to widen cooperation with countries in the region under its foreign investment law. Read more 

T&T reaffirms trade ties with Cuba

Sunday Express: Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon recently met with Cuba’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Rogelio Sierra Diaz to discuss, among other things, opportunities for increased trade with Cuba. Trinidad and Tobago is currently Cuba’s largest Caricom trading partner, recording 80 per cent of trade in the region. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

It was another rollercoaster week in international trade policy news. Norway added itself to the growing list of countries challenging the US’ steel and aluminium duties. Meanwhile, the tariff war between the US, EU and China continued to escalate. 

Norway initiates WTO dispute complaint against US steel, aluminium duties

WTO: Norway has requested WTO dispute consultations with the United States regarding US duties on certain imported steel and aluminium products. The request was circulated to WTO members on 19 June. Read more 

NAFTA’s fate could change timing of 2019 federal election: expert

Global News: An expert on Canada-U.S. relations says he could see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau triggering a federal election earlier than planned next year if the trade war with the United States continues to escalate and NAFTA falls to pieces. Read more

Negotiators must redouble efforts as clock ticks on NAFTA

The Hill: After a short cooling off period, the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) negotiators need to redouble efforts to forge an agreement this summer that all three countries find beneficial. Read more 

WTO members intensify discussions on standards

WTO: WTO members continued their three-year review of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement, proposing ideas on how to improve implementation of the Agreement at a TBT committee meeting on 19-21 June. Read more 

Brexit: PM urged to speed up no-deal Brexit plans

BBC: Theresa May must prepare to exit the EU with no deal to have “real leverage” in Brexit negotiations, a letter from 60 politicians and business figures says. Read more

US unveils new veto threat against WTO rulings

CGTN: The United States ramped up its challenge to the global trading system on Friday, telling the World Trade Organization that appeals rulings in trade disputes could be vetoed if they took longer than the allowed 90 days. Read more

Commission reports on progress in trade talks with Chile and Mercosur

EU: As part of its commitment to a transparent trade policy, the Commission today published reports from the latest negotiating rounds with Chile and Mercosur. Read more 

EU and New Zealand launch trade negotiations

EU: Today, in the capital of New Zealand, Wellington, Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström and New Zealand’s Minister for Trade David Parker officially launched talks for a comprehensive and ambitious trade agreement. Read more 

EU adopts rebalancing measures in reaction to US steel and aluminium tariffs

EU: The European Commission adopted today the regulation putting in place the EU’s rebalancing measures in response to the US tariffs on steel and aluminium. The measures will immediately target a list of products worth €2.8 billion and will come into effect on Friday 22 June. Read more

EU Pushes for a Revamp of the World Trade Organization

Bloomberg: European Union leaders plan to push for improvements in the way the World Trade Organization operates, saying it’s important to uphold the global commercial order amid “growing” tensions prompted by U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs. Read more 

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Caribbean Trade and Development Digest – June 10-16, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of June 10-16, 2018! We are happy to bring the trade and development headlines from across the Caribbean Region and the world from last week:

REGIONAL

‘Tremendous Anxiety” over (Bahamas) WTO Accession

The Bahamas Tribune: The Chamber of Commerce’s chairman yesterday warned there was “tremendous anxiety” over the WTO accession amid the absence of analysis on its likely impact. Read more 

CSME necessary; Consultation raises concerns over architecture

CARICOM: Stakeholders at the just-concluded Stakeholder consultation on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) agree that there is value in, and benefits to be derived from the CSME. Read more 

ECLAC chief calls for ‘new narrative’ on international cooperation for C’bean development

Jamaica Observer: The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, has called for a “new narrative” on international cooperation for the region’s development. Read more 

CARICOM, Cuba to strengthen cooperation

Jamaica Gleaner: The Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Government of Cuba have both pledged to continue to strengthen relations in matters related to trade and the arts. Read more 

Jamaica, other CARICOM countries to benefit from new Mexico-FAO initiative

Jamaica Observer:  At least 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries will design multiple projects to mobilise resources from international sources allowing them to improve the resilience and adaptation of their agriculture, food systems and rural communities to change climate. Read more

Blame Governments, not CARICOM

Barbados Today: Blaming the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat for the gaps in implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is unfair, former Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding has argued. Read more 

Integrity Commissions of Guyana, other Caribbean countries want corruption on CARICOM agenda

Demerara Waves: Guyana’s Integrity Commission is among several other similar bodies in the Caribbean that have called on the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to put  graft and corruption on their agenda and craft Commissioner harmonised legislation to tackle the scourge. Read more 

CARICOM unhappy with single market and economy system

New Amsterdam News: Leaders, former leaders and top officials from across the Caribbean assembled in Guyana last week to review the state of play, progress and problems associated with the decades-old Caribbean Single Market and Economy system, and most said the slow pace of implementation was frustrating them terribly. Read more 

Minister Greene pleased with CARICOM meeting

Antigua Observer: Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade Minister Chet Greene is pleased with the outcome of a CARICOM Council meeting for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in Guyana, which concluded yesterday. Read more

New fund launched to assist CARPHA deal with outbreaks and health emergencies

Jamaica Observer: A fund has been launched to provide financial support and assistance to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to manage outbreaks and emergencies with health and humanitarian consequences across the risk management cycles. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

WTO chief warns of global downturn if trade dispute escalates 

The Economic Times: If the trade conflict between the United States and other countries intensifies, it could negatively impact the global economy and there are indications this is already happening, the head of the World Trade Organization warned in newspaper. Read more 

Opportunities beckon as Singapore and Rwanda ink agreements

The Straits Times: More business and investment opportunities are under way for Singapore and Rwanda, as both countries signed a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) and an air services agreement (ASA) on Thursday. Read more 

India moves ahead with tariffs on US goods

CNN Money: The country has proposed hiking tariffs on 30 US products in order to recoup trade penalties worth $241 million, according to a revised World Trade Organization filing. Read more 

USTR Issues Tariffs on Chinese Products in Response to Unfair Trade Practices

USTR: The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released a list of products imported from China that will be subject to additional tariffs as part of the U.S. response to China’s ‘unfair’ trade practices related to the forced transfer of American technology and intellectual property.  Read more 

 

EU-Mercosur Trade Talks Resume in Montevideo, Though 2018 Timeframe Remains Unclear

ICTSD Bridges: Trade negotiators for the EU and Mercosur resumed formal talks last week, with officials announcing “constructive progress” thereafter while stopping short of announcing a timeframe for concluding the long-awaited trade deal. Read more 

American businesses brace for pain from trade fight with China

CNN Money: President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods are intended to help American companies that have been hurt by Beijing’s industrial policies. But in the short term, at least, many American businesses may be the ones feeling pain. Read more 

Japan enacts law to ratify Trans-Pacific trade deal

Nikkei Asian Review: The Japanese Diet on Wednesday enacted a law to ratify the 11-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, moving a step closer to completing domestic procedures. Read more 

Colombia has made request to join Pacific trade pact: Mexico

Reuters: Colombia has formally requested permission to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Friday. Read more

Liberals (Canada) table legislation to ratify Trans-Pacific free trade deal

CBC: The Liberal government introduced legislation Thursday to ratify a free trade deal with 10 other Pacific nations that it says would see Canada get preferential access to some of the biggest and fastest-growing economies in the Asia-Pacific region. Read more 

Australia to start free trade agreement negotiations with the EU

Bloomberg: Australia will begin negotiations with the European Union on a free-trade agreement covering a market with 500 million people and worth $17.3 trillion, making it one of the country’s biggest potential deals. Read more 

Italy won’t ratify EU free-trade deal with Canada: farm minister

Reuters: Italy will not ratify the European Union’s free trade agreement with Canada, its new agriculture minister said on Thursday, ratcheting up an international trade spat and potentially scuppering the EU’s biggest accord in years. Read more

NAFTA talks to continue in tense atmosphere

CNBC: The U.S. and Canada agreed on Thursday to continue negotiating a new NAFTA deal, amid a tense trade environment that includes an announcement Friday of new U.S. tariffs on China. Read more 

EU and Mercosur complete latest talks

EU: The Parties achieved progress on several issues such as services and exchanges were constructive overall but there is still work to be done, notably on cars and car parts, geographical indications, maritime transport and dairy. Read more 

WTO members focus on subsidies for fishing in overexploited stocks at June meetings

WTO: WTO members in the Negotiating Group on Rules on 11-14 June held their second cluster of meetings on fisheries subsidies this year, where they exchanged views and information on subsidies for fishing in overexploited stocks.  Read more 

EIF symposium looks at how to make trade more inclusive for LDCs

WTO: Representatives from 42 least-developed countries (LDCs) met at the first Global Forum on Inclusive Trade for LDCs taking place at the WTO on 13-14 June 2018 to seek ways to further integrate the world’s poorest countries into the multilateral trading system. Read more 

Trade Policy Review: Colombia

WTO: The fifth review of the trade policies and practices of Colombia took place on 12 and 14 June 2018. Read more 

Merkel and leaders of six multilateral agencies call for enhanced global cooperation

WTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted a meeting with the heads of six multilateral agencies on 11 June in Berlin to discuss ways to foster international economic cooperation to address global challenges and improve the prospects for inclusive and sustainable growth. Read more 

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

FDI inflows to SIDS grow for second consecutive year: UNCTAD Report

Alicia Nicholls

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) rose to $4.1 billion in 2017, representing the second consecutive year of growth and buoyed by an 9% increase in inflows to the ten Caribbean SIDS which grew to $2.7 billion. This is according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in the recently released 2018 edition of its World Investment Report.

Although the majority of countries in the region saw declines in FDI inflows, robust increases in Barbados (+25 per cent to $286 million), Saint Kitts and Nevis (+50 per cent to $127 million), and Trinidad and Tobago (from -$17 million in 2016 to $179 million in 2017) were responsible for the growth of 9%.

In total $5 billion in FDI flowed to the Caribbean subregion in 2017. The Dominican Republic was the main recipient of these flows ($3.6 billion) thanks to trade-related investments and its telecommunications and energy sectors, and to a lesser extent, a modest increase in free trade zone activity, UNCTAD Reports. Inflows to Haiti tripled to $375 million, which though still modest may be a sign of positive things to come as several infrastructure and other projects are in the pipeline.

UNCTAD cautioned, however, that FDI inflows to SIDS remain fragile and noted that several projects previously announced had not yet come to fruition. The intergovernmental body further noted that while policy developments to facilitate renewable energy projects were positive, the concentration of these might mean not all SIDS would reap the benefits.

Outflows

Four Caribbean countries also led SIDS globally with regard to FDI outflows, despite those countries each seeing declines in outflows. The Bahamas topped with outflows of $132.3 million, despite a 63.1% decline. In second place was Trinidad & Tobago which saw outflows of $84.2 (-143.6%). The Indian Ocean SIDS of Mauritius was third place ($61.5m, an increase of 1020%). In fourth and fifth place were Jamaica ($42.7m representing a 80% decline) and St. Lucia ($22.1m and a 208.1% decline).

Regional and global contexts

In the wider Latin America and Caribbean region, economic recovery buoyed an 8% increase in FDI inflows to $151 billion, reflecting the first increase in six years but still well below levels in 2011 during the commodities boom. Moreover, UNCTAD further tempered its prospects for FDI in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2018 due to macroeconomic and policy uncertainties.

The global scene is also much more subdued. Global FDI flows dropped 23% in 2017, a three-year low owing to a drop in cross-border mergers and acquisitions and despite growth in global trade and GDP. UNCTAD noted this negative outlook was of concern to policy makers, especially given the importance of FDI to many emerging economies’ sustainable industrial development.

FDI flows to developed economies were $712 billion, representing a fall of one third. FDI flows to developing economies, which accounted for 47% of global FDI inflows, up from 36% in 2016, remained steady rising to $671 billion in 2017.

The full report may be viewed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – June 3-9, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of June 3-9, 2018! What a difference a week makes in the world of trade policy, it seems! From the CARICOM High Level Stakeholders’ Consultation on the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market to the tumultuous G7 Leaders’ Meeting, we are happy to bring the trade and development headlines from across the Caribbean Region and the world from last week:

REGIONAL

(Belize) Trade Minister Responds to CARICOM Sugar Call

Channel 5 Belize: On Tuesday, Briceño said G.O.B. should be doing more to export all Belizean sugar to CARICOM. According to Panton, Belize’s sugar has market access at duty free rates but what is lacking is market penetration. Read more

CSME implementation deficit not Secretariat’s fault – Golding

InewsGuyana: To blame the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat for the gaps in implementation of the CARCIOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) was unfair, a former Prime Minister of Jamaica has said. Read more

St Vincent PM says T&T extracts most from CARICOM

Stabroek News: Stating that outstanding issues such as free movement of people and a co-ordinated foreign policy have to be resolved before CARICOM can move to a Single Economy, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves also cited Trinidad for drawing the most from the integration movement in an uneven relationship. Read more

Regional leaders have lost faith in CSME realisation

St. Lucia Times Online: CARICOM members have to become more practical in their approach to the concepts of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said Friday. Read more

Statement at the Conclusion of an IMF Staff Visit to Barbados

IMF: At the request of the newly elected Government of Barbados, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) team led by Bert van Selm visited Bridgetown on June 5-7, to have discussions on economic policies and possible IMF financial support of the government’s economic plan. Read more

Price hike expected due to trade tariffs

The Reporter: The cost of living in Belize could be taking another hit, as the price of various imported goods are in danger of going up due to an ongoing trade war among the United States, Mexico and Canada. Read more

Barbados pledges to play greater role in regional integration

CMC (via Jamaica Observer): Barbados on Tuesday said it would seek to play a greater role in the revitalisation of the regional integration movement, as the new government of Prime Minister Mia Mottley outlined its priorities for the next 12 months.  Read more

INTERNATIONAL 

Malaysia’s Mahathir calls for review of Trans-Pacific trade pact

CNBC: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called for a review of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, saying smaller economies like Malaysia were at a disadvantage under the current terms. Read more

Trump against Rwanda in trade war over used clothes

Deutsche Welle: When East African countries announced a ban on the import of secondhand clothes to help their own textile industries, this irked US President Donald Trump. All but Rwanda have now backtracked. What’s at stake? Read more

Trump Wants Bilateral Nafta Talks But He Won’t Quit Accord

Bloomberg: President Donald Trump is seriously considering separate trade negotiations with Canada and Mexico but he doesn’t plan to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said. Read more

EU trade defence: stronger and more effective rules enter into force

European Commission: The changes which came into force last week are aimed at modernising the EU’s trade defence toolbox. Read more

EU-US Trade: European Commission endorses rebalancing duties on US products

European Commission: The College of Commissioners endorsed today the decision to impose additional duties on the full list of US products notified to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as part of the EU’s response to the US tariffs on steel and aluminium products. Read more

EU and Chile complete third round of negotiations

European Commission: Negotiators met in Brussels from 28 May to 1 June for the 3rd round of negotiations for a new, modernised trade agreement between the EU and Chile. Read more

Azevêdo highlights ‘significant progress’ on trade finance, outlines further actions

WTO: Speaking at a meeting of the WTO Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance on 8 June, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo highlighted the significant progress made in improving access to trade finance, in response to the persistent gaps in provision which affect small businesses and poorer countries in particular. Read more

Mexico initiates WTO dispute complaint against US steel, aluminium duties

WTO: Mexico has requested WTO dispute consultations with the United States regarding US duties on certain imported steel and aluminium products. The request was circulated to WTO members on 7 June. Read more

EU, Canada initiate WTO dispute complaints against US steel, aluminium duties

WTO: The European Union and Canada have requested WTO dispute consultations with the United States regarding US duties on certain imported steel and aluminium products. The requests were circulated to WTO members on 6 June. Read more

European Union files WTO complaint against China’s protection of intellectual property rights

WTO: The European Union has requested WTO consultations with China concerning certain Chinese measures which the EU alleges are inconsistent with China’s obligations under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The request was circulated to WTO members on 6 June. Read more

EU initiates new WTO compliance proceedings over Airbus subsidies

WTO: The European Union has requested WTO dispute consultations with the United States to address the EU’s claim that the EU and its member states have complied with the WTO ruling on subsidies to Airbus which was adopted by the Dispute Settlement Body on 28 May. The request was circulated to WTO members on 06 June. Read more

South Africa Looks to Deepen Trade Ties with Canada Following G7 Summit

Footprint to Africa: South Africa is looking to deepen its trade relations with Canada following discussions at the G7 Summit, an annual high profile event that brings together seven of the wealthiest nations in the world. Read more

Africa bids to unlock trade finance potential

Africa Business Magazine: Efforts to create a free trade grouping date back to the establishment of the African Economic Community under the Abuja treaty in 1991. In this context, therefore, the CFTA should be celebrated. Nonetheless, it remains more of a beginning than an end to overcoming intra-African trade barriers. Read more

UNCTAD launches World Investment Report 2018 

UNCTAD: Global flows of foreign direct investment fell by 23 per cent in 2017. Cross-border investment in developed and transition economies dropped sharply, while growth was near zero in developing economies and with only a very modest recovery predicted for 2018. Read more

COMESA, IOM sign cross border trade agreement

Africa Business Communities: COMESA and International Organization for Migration (IOM) have signed a co-delegation Agreement on the implementation of the small scale cross border trade initiative in five border posts within the region. Read more

BONUS – Trade Tensions Escalate 

The leaders of the Group of 7 (G-7) wealthiest countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) met in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada on June 8-9 against a backdrop of escalating trade tensions between the US and major allies, Mexico, Canada and the EU over the former’s imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs and threats of retaliation by the latter.

The official communique was signed by six countries, the US excepted. Specifically, the six signatories to the communique expressed their support for free trade and the rules-based multilateral trading system and denounced protectionism as follows:

“We acknowledge that free, fair and mutually beneficial trade and investment, while creating reciprocal benefits, are key engines for growth and job creation. We recommit to the conclusions on trade of the Hamburg G20 Summit, in particular, we underline the crucial role of a rules-based international trading system and continue to fight protectionism. We note the importance of bilateral, regional and plurilateral agreements being open, transparent, inclusive and WTO-consistent, and commit to working to ensure they complement the multilateral trade agreements. We commit to modernize the WTO to make it more fair as soon as possible. We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies.”

The full text of the communique may be accessed here.

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

IMO Member Countries adopt pathway to reduce shipping carbon footprint

Alicia Nicholls

Member countries of the United Nations specialised agency charged with regulating the shipping industry, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), adopted the first greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction framework for the shipping industry. This decision came at the 72nd session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) held in London from April 9-13.

The Initial Strategy adopted by IMO member countries has set a target of halving greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships by 2050 vis-a-vis emissions levels in 2008. This move brings the shipping industry closer in line with the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement signed by over 190 countries in 2015, but to which the shipping industry (like the aviation industry) is not bound.

Some 80% of the volume of global trade is carried by ships. The phenomenon of mega-ships has seen a doubling in container ship capacity, and improvements in engine efficiency have increased the ability to travel longer distances in shorter time. However, the industry is estimated to account for 2-3% of global GHG emissions, including carbon dioxide and sulphur. A study entitled “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Shipping: 2013-2015” found that CO2 and other emissions from ships were increasing, despite increases in efficiency. Aside from the very real climate impact, emissions  from ships have public health risks for persons who live on or near the coast.

So what was decided?

Under the Initial Strategy, IMO States agreed:

  • To reduce total annual GHG emissions from international shipping by at least 50% compared to 2008
  • The peak and decline of GHG shipping emissions completely by the end of the century
  • To reduce the carbon intensity of ships through implementation of further phases of the energy efficiency design index for new ships
  • A working group will develop a program of follow-up actions to the Initial Strategy, and will consider ways to reduce shipping GHG emissions in order to advise the committee and will report at the next session of the MEPC in October 2018
  • The Initial Strategy is to be revised by 2023.

As noted by the IMO, achievement of these targets will require continued innovations in shipping design and technology to maximise energy efficiency and decarbonisation through use of alternative and renewable energy sources.

Agreement on the Initial Strategy did not come easy and reflects a compromise. Small Island Developing States, China and the European Union for example, had advocated for a more ambitious emissions reduction target of at least 70%, which scientists argue would put the sector more on track to meeting the Paris Agreement goal to limit global temperature increases to well-below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.  Others like the US, Saudi Arabia and Brazil had argued for lower targets.

Some environmental groups have posited that the compromise target of 50% is not enough to bring shipping emissions in line with the target set out by the Paris Agreement.

Nonetheless, the Initial Strategy is an important milestone as, after years of delay, it represents the first pathway forward for reducing the shipping industry’s carbon footprint. In March this year, a  mandatory data collection system for fuel oil consumption of ships also came into force.

The full IMO press release may be viewed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

IMF: Trade tensions could derail global growth prematurely

Alicia Nicholls

Currently strong global growth could be derailed by escalating trade tensions and retaliation. That is the word from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its latest World Economic Outlook (April 2018) entitled “Cyclical Upswing, Structural Change”. The lending agency has forecast global growth of 3.9% both for this year and the next, up from 3.8% in 2017, which was the most robust since 2011. Increased trade and investment has been a major propeller of this growth, according to IMF economists, which makes the current trade tensions between the United States and China a cause for concern.

GDP growth for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is projected to be 2.0% in 2018 and 2.8% in 2019, up from 1.3% in 2017, but still below the projected global average. The IMF projects positive growth for all LAC countries (to varying degrees), with the exceptions of Dominica (-16.3%) which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria last year and Venezuela (-15%), which is currently in the throes of a deep economic crisis.

Longer-term prospects not as bright

However, it was not all positive news. While near-term global growth prospects remain positive, the IMF projects a slowing of growth in the medium-term. It was noted that ageing populations, lower rates of labor force participation and low productivity growth all made it unlikely that advanced economies would return to their pre-crisis per capita growth rates any time soon.

According to the IMF, some emerging and developing economies are likely to achieve longer-term growth rates comparable to their pre-crisis rates, but the outlook for commodities exporters was not as positive even though the outlook for commodities prices had improved somewhat. The IMF emphasised that economic resilience of these economies would be contingent on their diversification.

The IMF has also again sounded alarm about the rise in global private and public debt levels and the prospect of repayment difficulties due to monetary policy normalisation. This is an issue which is of particular relevance to the region, as some Caribbean countries are among the most indebted in the world.

Trade tensions could undermine current growth trajectory

During the press conference launching the report, IMF Economic Counsellor and Director of the Research Department, Mr. Maurice Obstfeld cautioned that while a slowing of growth is predicted in the longer term, “the prospect of trade restrictions and counter-restrictions threatened to undermine confidence and derail growth prematurely”.

Acknowledging the political imperatives driving the protectionist turn taken by some countries, namely public skepticism about the benefits of free trade and economic integration, Mr. Obstfeld noted that technology as opposed to trade was to blame. He further warned that fights over trade distracted from, rather than advanced the agenda of promoting growth whose benefits were more broad-based.

Multilateral system  in danger of being torn apart

In the report, the IMF warned that the multilateral system was in danger of being torn apart. Making the case against unilateral action, the IMF Economic Counsellor argued that inequitable trade practices were best coped with through “dependable and fair dispute resolution within a strong rules-based multilateral framework”.

He acknowledged that there was room to strengthen the current trading system and that plurilaleral agreements could be used as a “springboard” to more open trade. He also noted that multilateral cooperation was essential “to address a range of challenges in addition to the governance of world trade.”

The full press conference may be viewed here and the report may be downloaded here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Global Governance: Why isn’t it working and what can be done?

Javier

Javier D. Spencer

By Javier D. Spencer, Guest Contributor

At an exponential rate, the world is convulsing into a single space, which heightens the interconnectivity and interdependence of countries. As a result, it is evident that issues such as climate change, security, human rights among others, instantaneously alter global relations. It can be scary when you think about it, especially since matters arising are becoming more and more complex.

Our human response to address the complex issues at a global level is to increase the robustness of global governance through multilateralism. We could say that for almost every global issue (sometimes overlapping), there may be at least two or three global institutions created to address that one issue. This, evidently, creates a new global society that is constructed to bring order, reliability, predictability and transparency.

The New Global society eliminates a central authority and places emphasis on collaboration among states which will seek to encourage common practices and goals. However, as there is growing interdependence for economies to integrate into the global economy, we observe that global governance has acquiesced to the limitations and challenges of multilateralism. It is designed to promote international peace, stability and co-operation; but unfortunately, it does not work, as it should. For this reason, there are challenges arising in the dynamic global economy that undermines the effective institutional outcomes of global governance, including democratic deficits and accountability; representation and power; and compliance.

Democratic Deficits & Accountability

Democratic deficits are prevalent in global governance when nothing holds the institutions and regimes accountable to a democratic electorate. There is a divergence between ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be’ in respect of trust by the masses in the governance regimes and institutions. For example, we have seen a proliferation of trade agreements, like the now defunct negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (which was replaced by the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) after the US withdrew from the TPP), that were being negotiated in secrecy. Secrecy violates the very basic concept of democracy. Citizens have the fundamental right to be aware and to be able to air their concerns on policies and legislation. The absence of this right results in the deficit as the perception of governance goes beyond the influence of the citizenry.

There is also a growing concern about lack of accountability at the global governance level.  Accountability includes transparency, consultation, evaluation, and correction. Transparency means that there is visibility present; eliminating decision-making done in secrecy. Additionally, consultation purports an explanation of intentions by one party, and flexibility to adjust plans that will negatively affect another party. Consultation then ushers in evaluation where there is an independent monitoring and assessment of activities; and in the final analysis, there is correction, which means that there are provisions for redress or reform.

Representation and Power

An overwhelming question on the issue of representation is, “whose interest do these organizations represent?”   Global Governance regimes were created by and for the most influential states that were too important to fail. Therefore, the goals and objectives are partially beneficial to the major actors in global system. For example, voting at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) remains weighted, which means that one state is does not equal to one vote. How is finance for economic development expected to be achieved? It automatically disenfranchises the global south in crucial development decisions.

Another case in point is the daunting process of ensuring that developing countries, more specifically Least Developed Countries, are able to participate in international trade at the multilateral level. Although the Nairobi Decision on Rules of Origin and Export competition enables greater LDC participation, facilitation remains elusive. Interestingly, the Nairobi round is a successor to the Doha Round. The Doha Round, which was coined a being ‘development’ oriented failed miserably after many years of negotiations. The main aim of the Doha Round was to further liberalize trade, invest more in development, and address complex global issues. However, the rounds’ failure illumes the shortcomings of global governance regimes, especially for developing and least developed countries.

There are, however, proposed problems of increased representation at the global governance level. There will be an increased inefficiency, as more participants in the decision-making process could hinder coming to a single decision, due to the diversity of interests and goals. However, inadequate representation results in skewed authority and power within the governance regime. Ultimate power is given to whom it favourably represents and vice versa, representation reflects to the economies with economic dominance and power. It becomes a case where “the strong will do what they can and the weak must accept what they must”.

Compliance

If all states are sovereign, who ensures that states comply with these rules to yield an ideal outcome in the governance of the international system?   The enforcement problem arises because that is no authoritative international government since states value their autonomy. For instance, the United States has iterated its right to ignore any rulings from the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body. Therefore, to what extent are states willing to sacrifice their political autonomy for a well-functioning international economy? None.

So, what’s next? Reform? How?

In order to align with the original mandate of international stability, peace, and cooperation, issues of democratic deficits and accountability; representation and power; and compliance must be addressed through speedy reform. The start of attaining reform is by identifying an effective global mechanism that provides strategic guidance. Global issues today are closely knitted into a web. Therefore, strategic guidance must view the international system as a whole.

At present, there are sufficient agencies created to tackle emanating issues. As such, there is no need to recreate the global governance regime. Instead, the existing structure needs to be appropriately matched to issues, in order to strengthen its efficacy.

This will certainly result in a change in the global agenda. An agenda that is inclusive, modern, flexible, agile, and resilient.  This envisioned modern-day agenda will mitigate the democratic deficit and increase accountability, linking leadership, vision and institution. An inclusive agenda fosters participation, which balances representation and power. Reform needs to happen faster.

Javier Spencer, B.Sc., M.Sc., is an International Business & Trade Professional with a B.Sc. in International Business and a M.Sc. in International Trade Policy. His professional interests include Regional Integration, International Business, Global Diplomacy and International Trade & Development. He may be contacted at javier.spencer at gmail.com.

WTO: Trade tensions could sabotage global trade growth momentum

Alicia Nicholls

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has predicted that global merchandise trade growth will remain strong in 2018 and 2019, but has cautioned that this momentum is contingent on the policy choices taken by governments.

This forecast was disclosed by WTO Director General, Roberto Azevedo, in a press conference held last week. According to Mr. Azevedo, global merchandise trade grew an estimated 4.7% in 2017 and is forecast by WTO economists to grow 4.4% in 2018 and by a more modest, 4.0% in 2019.

He noted that trade volume growth in 2017 was the most robust since 2011, with Asia being responsible for much of the recovery. He noted that South and Central America and the Caribbean made a positive contribution for the first time since 2013 due to Brazil’s economic recovery. The ratio of trade growth to GDP growth will be slightly lower in 2018 at 1.4 in 2018, down from 1.5 in 2017. Commercial services trade experienced strong growth in 2017 after two years of lacklustre growth.

The escalating global trade tensions, particularly between the US and China, cast a shadow over the forecast, as Director-General Azevedo strongly cautioned that continued positive trade growth could be “quickly undermined” if Governments turned to trade restrictive policies and engaged in retaliation. Mr. Azevedo pointedly stated that “a cycle of trade retaliation is the last thing the world economy needs”, noting that trade tensions may already be impacting business confidence and investment decisions. He further warned that missteps on trade and monetary policy “could undermine economic growth and confidence”.

In an appeal to WTO Member States to resort to the rules-based system as opposed to unilateral action, Mr. Azevedo added that “pressing trade problems confronting WTO Members is best tackled through collective action”.

The full WTO press release may be viewed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

 

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – April 8-14 , 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of April 8-14, 2018! We are pleased to share some of the major trade and development headlines and analysis across the Caribbean region and the World. We hope you enjoy this edition.

REGIONAL

Poultry producers complain to CARICOM over non-adoption of standards

Stabroek News: Regional poultry producers have expressed concern at the non-adoption of specifications for their meat and feeds which had been developed by the standards body, CROSQ and approved. Read more

Trinidad and Tobago judge rules homophobic laws unconstitutional
 
The Guardian (UK): The ruling, which declared sections of the Sexual Offences Act unconstitutional, may soon lead to decriminalising gay sex. Read more 

Canada’s PM, Justin Trudeau, meets with CARICOM States

Breaking Belize News: This afternoon, representatives from CARICOM met with Prime Minister of Canada  Justin Trudeau to discuss trade and the situation with Venezuela. Read more 

CARICOM Secretary General says CSME is a “work in progress”

Nation News: The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General , Irwin La Rocque says while the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) continues to be a work in progress, it is sufficiently advanced to be used more effectively by the regional private sector. Read more 

CARICOM busy laying the groundwork for restructuring

Antigua Observer: CARICOM is pressing ahead with plans to ensure the restructuring of the governance of West Indies cricket, undeterred by the International Cricket Council’s request to have Cricket West Indies president, Dave Cameron, present at any meeting between the two bodies. Read more

Harmonised Cross Border Trade Needed for CARICOM Economic Integration

St Kitts & Nevis Observer: Harmonised approaches to conducting trade across borders in the Caribbean and effective customs valuation are among the steps that must be taken towards full economic integration within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Read more 

WTO

Strong trade growth in 2018 rests on policy choices

WTO: World merchandise trade growth is expected to remain strong in 2018 and 2019 after posting its largest increase in six years in 2017, but continued expansion depends on robust global economic growth and governments pursuing appropriate monetary, fiscal and especially trade policies, WTO economists said. Read more 

WTO members discuss ways of improving the transparency of regional trade agreements

WTO: WTO members discussed how to improve work on enhancing the transparency of regional trade agreements (RTAs) at a meeting of the Committee on RTAs on 9-10 April at the WTO. They reviewed five RTAs covering countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. The new chair of the committee, Ambassador Julian Braithwaite of the United Kingdom, presided at this first committee meeting of 2018. Read more

China initiates WTO dispute complaint against US tariffs on steel, aluminium products

WTO: China has requested WTO dispute consultations with the United States concerning certain US duties imposed on imports of steel and aluminium products. The request was circulated to WTO members on 9 April. Read more 

WTO establishes two panels to rule on US lumber duties

WTO: At the request of Canada, the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) agreed on 9 April to establish two panels to examine Canada’s complaints regarding anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed by the United States on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. Read more 

Korea files appeal against WTO panel ruling regarding Japanese food import restrictions

WTO: Korea filed an appeal on 9 April against a WTO panel report in the case brought by Japan in “Korea — Import Bans, and Testing and Certification Requirements for Radionuclides” (DS495). The panel circulated its report on 22 February 2018. Read more 

WTO issues panel report regarding Korean duties on pneumatic valves from Japan

WTO: On 12 April the WTO circulated the panel report in the case brought by Japan in “Korea — Anti-Dumping Duties on Pneumatic Valves from Japan” (DS504). Read more

INTERNATIONAL

(New Zealand) PM looking to start EU trade negotiations

News ZB: Trade will be top of the agenda for the PM when she meets with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris later today. Read more

The five biggest threats to the WTO

Bloomberg: The World Trade Organization is facing the greatest crisis of its 23-year existence. President Donald Trump doesn’t believe the WTO can handle the problems created by China’s rapid economic ascent and is fundamentally challenging the rules that govern international trade. Read more 

Mexico Pushes to Finish Trade Deal With EU This Month

Bloomberg Politics: Mexican trade negotiators are pushing to finish work on an updated free-trade agreement with the European Union ahead of a trip by President Enrique Pena Nieto to the region later this month, according to three people familiar with the plan. Read more 

IMF warns about trade war

CNN Money: Calling on countries to steer clear of protectionism, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a speech that the “system of open trade based on rules and shared responsibility is now in danger of being torn apart”. Read more 

Kenya makes strong bid to host global trade chambers conference

The Standard (Kenya): Kenya has put up a strong bid to beat its fiercest competitors, including Dubai, in hosting the largest global commerce congress in 2021. Read more

Trump Proposes Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership

New York Times: President Trump, in a sharp reversal, told a gathering of farm-state lawmakers and governors on Thursday morning that the United States was looking into rejoining a multicountry trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal he pulled out of days after assuming the presidency. Read more

Main-streaming blockchains in global trade

Hindu Business Line: Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), a concept of recording and sharing data across multiple data stores, or ledgers as they are popularly called, is an idea whose time has come. The concept of DLT was introduced through block chains in the famous paper by the elusive author known only as Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008.Read more

More than half of the UK wants public vote on Brexit deal: survey

Euronews: The majority of people in the UK want a “people’s vote” on the final Brexit deal, according to a new survey in which some 52% of respondents expressed support for the idea. Read more 

Britain eyes former colonies to plug post-Brexit trade gap

NBCNews: With Britain less than a year away from leaving the European Union, but yet to secure any new trade deals, London is eyeing former colonies for help fill its post-Brexit trading hole. Read more 

U.S. Offers Compromise on Autos, Boosting Hopes for Nafta Deal

Wall Street Journal: The Trump administration is hammering out a compromise on auto-industry rules at the center of the North American Free Trade Agreement, increasing the chances that the U.S., Mexico and Canada can reach a deal this spring to revise the pact. Read more 

Brussels mulls offer of trade deal to Trump, if he drops tariff threat

Politico: The European Commission is developing a plan to offer Donald Trump the prospect of a trade deal with the EU in exchange for a permanent exemption from U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, according to five EU officials and diplomats. Read more 

BONUS

WTO Press Conference on Trade Outlook

Audio available here.

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

Plastic Waste Emergency in Caribbean Sea: What is the Region Doing About It?

Alicia Nicholls

The 2.75 million square km Caribbean Sea’s ecological value is perhaps only outweighed by its economic value to the countries and territories, many of which are small island developing states, whose major industries and the livelihood of their populations depend on the health of the marine environment.

A 2016 World Bank Report entitled Toward a Blue Economy: A promise for Sustainable Growth in the Caribbean estimated the total gross revenues of the Caribbean ocean economy at US$407 billion based on 2012 data. Considering only the Caribbean small island States and territories, these gross revenues were estimated at US$53 billion, equivalent to over 18 percent of the total GDP for all Caribbean Island States and Territories in 2012″, according to this report.

Threats to the Caribbean Sea are numerous, but one of the biggest is the accumulation of plastic waste material.  The above-mentioned World Bank Report noted that the Caribbean Sea “is estimated to have relatively high levels of plastic concentrations compared with many other large marine ecosystems”.

Major culprits are plastic shopping bags, as well as Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery which are commonly used by street food vendors, food establishments and at festivals and parties. These materials take hundreds of years to decompose, while in the meanwhile clogging drains and being blights on the beaches and other landscape. Plastic waste is often transported through waterways into the ocean via normal rainfall or flooding, and poses serious danger to marine life and coral reefs, with knock-on effects for fisheries, food security and tourism.

Legislative approaches

Several countries in the Caribbean have taken steps to tackle the plastics problem. Haiti was among the first, banning the importation, marketing and sale of plastic products in 2012 by presidential decree, with mixed results.

In 2016 Guyana banned the importation, sale and manufacture of expanded polystyrene products (styrofoam) and its regulations have served as a model for several other countries. Bans on the importation, sale and/or manufacture of various plastics have also been done in Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the US Virgin Islands.

In Antigua & Barbuda, for instance, the External Trade (Shopping Plastic Bags Prohibition Order) of 2017 prohibited after June 30, 2016 the importation, distribution, sale and use of shopping bags, except for those set out in the schedule. Another order, the External Trade (Import Prohibition) Order of 2017 takes a phased approach to banning certain polystyrene items, such as food service containers, utensils and the like. However, airline carriers, private charters and passenger cruise vessels are exempted from these rules. According to news reports, while larger retailers have been generally adhering to the ban, achieving compliance by some small retailers has been more challenging.

Some other Caribbean countries are also contemplating similar measures. In 2017 the Government of Jamaica appointed a multi-stakeholder committee to make recommendations regarding plastic and Styrofoam. A petition has been launched by activists in Trinidad & Tobago for banning plastics.

Market-based approaches 

Market-based approaches have also been used to a limited extent, such as imposing point of sale charges for plastic bags as a disincentive to consumers. In Barbados, for example, a well-known environmental charity lobbied to have retailers charge consumers extra for plastic bags, and to encourage consumers to opt for reusable bags, with some limited success.

Lessons Learnt So far 

  1. Strong enforcement and monitoring are needed to ensure compliance with the regulations. Under the Guyana Regulations, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency is empowered to conduct inspections and investigations to ensure compliance with the ban.
  2. Fines should be high enough to serve as a deterrent to non-compliance. In the US Virgin Islands, businesses found to be in violation are liable to a civil fine of not less than US$500 nor more than US$1,000 for each day of violation.
  3. Fines collected should be allocated towards some kind of environmental fund, environmental or waste management improvement agencies or programmes. Under the US Virgin Islands’ legislation, the monies collected are to be allocated as follows: 75 percent to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority; and 25 percent to the General Fund of the Treasury of the Virgin Islands.
  4. The penalty for non-compliance is generally fines or a term of imprisonment. However, community service is another option which could be used.
  5. Resistance by consumers and some business owners has delayed the implementation of the bans in some cases. Retailers incur losses from unused stock, and some consumers see the measures as an inconvenience or just another  tax. A phased approach is, therefore, preferable to allow retailers, wholesalers and the like time to get rid of as much of the stock, and shift to more environmentally-friendly products, while also giving the relevant implementing agency and civil society time to educate the public about the importance of the measures to be introduced. A possible option is also the issue of incentives, such as tax waivers for the importation of environmentally-friendly substitutes.
  6. As such, legislative and/or market-based approaches have to be married with strong stakeholder engagement, public education and sensitisation campaigns to change ingrained cultural behaviours and attitudes towards the use and disposal of plastics, to educate the public about the environmental harm caused by marine waste, to encourage public buy-in and to show persons more environmentally-friendly alternatives. To this effect, the Guyana Regulations mandate the Environmental Protection Agency to “offer guidance on, promote and encourage the utilisation of recyclable, biodegradable and other environmentally friendly products as containers, or packaging for food products”. The St. Vincent & the Grenadines Regulations also provide for the same.
  7. On-going monitoring of the impact of these measures is crucial in order to determine their effectiveness and what adjustments are needed in ensure the desired results are being  obtained. This requires conducting an adequate baseline study before the measures are implemented and collecting data on a regular basis.
  8. Besides curbing plastic consumption, another problem is proper waste management. Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for 12% of waste generation by region per year, according to a World Bank publication. According to the publication, “the total amount of waste generated per year in this region is 160 million tonnes, with per capita values ranging from 0.1 to 14 kg/capita/ day, and an average of 1.1 kg/capita/day.” Within this grouping, the largest per capita solid waste generation rates are found in the islands of the Caribbean, the Report notes. As such, encouraging individuals, households and businesses to reduce their waste, recycle and to find more environmentally sustainable ways of managing waste is vital.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – March 18-24, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of March 18-24, 2018! We are pleased to share some of the major trade and development headlines and analysis across the Caribbean region and the World. We hope you enjoy this edition.

REGIONAL

CDB programme to support increased trade among CARICOM states

St. Kitts & Nevis Observer: The Board of Directors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has approved USD$750,000 in funding for a programme that will assist the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) with strengthening intra-regional trade. Read more 

Is Guyana ready for an oil boom?

Eurasia Review: Guyana’s story shares many similarities with the story of the ugly duckling. One of the poorest countries in South America, it has historically been entirely dependent on oil imports. Read more 

Catfish exports

Stabroek (Guyana): It is incomprehensible that the government here was given notification by the US government in November, 2015 of new regulations for Siluriformes (catfish) and failed to take all of the required steps to enable continued exports from Guyana. Read more 

North America continues to dominate imports into the TCI -Gov’t makes moves to improve trade with Caribbean neighbours

Turks & Caicos Weekly News: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) continues to dominate imports into the Turks and Caicos Islands, accounting for $394.1 million or 91.1 percent of the total import bill for 2017. Read more 

What is the value of CARICOM to Curacao and Sint Maarten (and to ALL Caribbean nations)?

St. Lucia Star: Earlier in March news broke that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was officially assessing the application of Curacao and Sint Maarten for associate membership. These two islands are separated by 900 km of water but they share a cultural heritage, central bank, and a view that within CARICOM a brighter future awaits them. Read more 

Lessons from EPA must inform Post-Cotonou Agreement – Trade Expert

Business Ghana: Mr Tetteh Hormeku, Head of Programmes at the Third World Network, has advised governments in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to use lessons from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) for the post-Cotonou possible framework. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

Forty-four countries sign historic African Union free trade agreement

Africa News: Forty-four African countries have signed up to a historic trade agreement aimed at paving the way for a liberalized market for goods and services across the continent. Read more

Fiji-PNG discuss trade relations with UK post-Brexit 

Fiji Times: The United Kingdom has begun the process of exiting the European Union (EU) and in this endeavour, it is working with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries to avoid any trade disruptions, during and post-withdrawal. Read more 

Brexit: Government still planning for no deal scenario

The Independent: David Davis has said the Government will continue to plan for a no-deal scenario despite reaching an agreement with Brussels on the transition period last week.  Read more 

Mercosur “blocks” talks on auto exports and government procurement contracts, claims EU

Mercopress: European officials said this week that significant obstacles remain to a long-delayed trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur, even as South American officials expressed optimism a deal would be finalized soon. Read more

Heatwaves, hurricanes, floods: 2017 costliest year ever for extreme weather and climate events, says UN

Mercopress: Hurricanes, monsoon floods and continuing severe drought made 2017 the costliest year ever for severe weather and climate events, according to a new report by the United Nations weather agency launched on the eve of World Meteorological Day. Read more 

India Hosting Mini-Ministerial meet to break WTO impasse 

Economic Times: Taking a lead to break the impasse, India is hosting a two-day informal meeting of 50 WTO members here which would deliberate upon ways to create a positive atmosphere for carrying forward the mandate of the global trade organisation.  Read more

G20 pushes for free trade as U.S. vows to defend national interest

Reuters: World financial leaders pleaded for an endorsement of free trade on Monday amid worries about U.S. metals tariffs and looming trade sanctions on China, but Trump administration officials said they would not sacrifice U.S. national interests. Read more

 

China threatens to raise tariffs on about $3 billion of U.S. imports

Washington Post:  President Trump embarked Thursday on the sharpest trade confrontation with China in nearly a quarter-century, moving toward imposing tariffs on $60 billion in Chinese goods and limiting China’s freedom to invest in the U.S. technology industry. The Chinese government fired back hours later, threatening to hit $3 billion in U.S. goods with tariffs. Read more 

US and South Korea Reach Agreement on Trade, Steel Tariffs

Bloomberg: The U.S. and South Korea reached an agreement on revising the allies’s six-year-old bilateral trade deal and President Donald Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on imported steel, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. Read more 

EU Commission welcomes adoption of negotiating directives for a multilateral investment court

EU: The Commission welcomes today’s adoption by the Council of the negotiating directives for a multilateral investment court, as well as the fact that for the first time the Council makes its negotiating mandate public right at the time it is adopted. Read more 

WTO members raise concerns over US tariffs on steel and aluminium at Goods Council

WTO: WTO members expressed concern over the United States’ imposition of higher tariffs on steel and aluminium imports and the impact they may have on the global trading system at a meeting of the Council on Trade in Goods on 23 March, the same day the new US measure came into effect. The US responded by saying that the tariffs are necessary to address the threat these imports pose to national security. Read more 

Appellate Body issues report regarding Russian duties on vehicle imports from Germany, Italy

WTO: On 22 March 2018, the WTO Appellate Body issued its report in the case “Russia — Anti-Dumping Duties on Light Commercial Vehicles from Germany and Italy” (DS479). Read more 

WTO issues compliance panel report regarding US countervailing duties on Chinese imports

WTO: On 21 March a WTO panel issued its compliance report in the dispute “United States — Countervailing Duty Measures on Certain Products from China — Recourse to Article 21.5 of the DSU by China” (DS437). Read more

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

Brexit: Provisional Transition Deal Struck between EU and UK

Alicia Nicholls

A provisional agreement has been struck between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom with regard to the terms of the latter’s withdrawal from the EU.

The 129-page provisional withdrawal agreement touches on a wide number of areas from  residence, employment rights and social security systems to public procurement and cooperation in criminal and civil matters. The Agreement provides for a transition period lasting from the date of entry into force of the Agreement until 31 December 2020.

Most of the provisions have been agreed to, with some remaining areas still subject to further negotiation. One of these unresolved areas is the Draft Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

A key concession is that the UK will be able to negotiate trade deals with third States during the transition period.

Some aspects of the provisional deal, however, have received some push back in the UK. A particular sore point is that UK fishing policy will continue to be Brussels-controlled during the transition period, although the agreement provides for the UK to be “consulted”.

More details to come

The text of the provisional agreement may be found here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – March 11-17, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of March 11-17, 2018! We are pleased to share some of the major trade and development headlines and analysis across the Caribbean region and the World. We hope you enjoy this edition.

REGIONAL

Work to begin on new CARICOM Strategic Plan

Barbados Advocate: By year end the CARICOM Secretariat will be hard at work getting the framework in place for the new strategic plan for the Caribbean Community. Read more

CSME MER Framework Workshop 

Barbados Advocate: It is imperative that systems be put in place to more effectively monitor and evaluate the CARICOM integration journey. So says Dr. Richard Brown, Director, CARICOM Single Market and Sectoral Programmes. Read more 

CARICOM observer mission releases preliminary statement on Grenada elections

CARICOM: At the invitation of the Government of Grenada the CARICOM Secretariat constituted an eleven-member team to observe Grenada’s Parliamentary Election held March 13, 2018.The full statement may be read here.

Protecting consumers in the CSME

CARICOM: It is important to consider the protection of the consumer as many persons now engage suppliers in a different jurisdiction. This was posited by a senior official from the Caribbean Community (CARICOMSecretariat during the Barbados Fair Trading Commission’s (FTC) annual lecture series held in Barbados. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

EU Lists US Exports it could hit 

CNNMoney: The EU has published a list of hundreds of American products that it could target if President Donald Trump moves forward with new tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. Read more 

EP wants to include gender equality in free-trade agreements

EURACTIV: The European Parliament has adopted a resolution to better account for gender equality in trade agreements. The commission could follow up on the resolution in its agreement with Chile, which would be the first to integrate such a chapter. Read more 

India-EU trade: India, EU to decide fate of trade agreement next month

Economic Times: New Delhi: India and the European Union will discuss next month resumption of the much-delayed Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) that hasn’t progressed much over the past five years. Read more 

Vietnamese farmers expect higher profits with CPTPP

Vietnam Net: At least $40 billion worth of export turnover from farm produce in 2018 is within reach, some experts believe. Read more 

Trade deals a priority at ASEAN-Australia summit 

Australian Financial Review: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is pushing for free trade deals with Indonesia and the wider region to be signed by the end of this year, as he insisted there were “no protectionists” around the table at the ASEAN-Australia summit in Sydney. Read more 

Buhari cancels Rwanda trip, reconsiders signing African trade agreement

Premium Times: President Muhammadu Buhari has cancelled his trip to Kigali, Rwanda scheduled for Monday. Mr. Buhari was expected to attend an Extraordinary Summit of the African Union (AU) on Tuesday, March 21, to sign the framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area. Read more 

Top five trade deals that changed history

World Finance: Today, the global trading network is well established, but it has taken multiple decades and various trade agreements to reach the current degree of complexity. Read more 

Jordan suspends free trade agreement with Turkey

Ahval: The Jordanian government suspended a free trade agreement with Turkey, citing unfair competition, the Jordan Times reported. Read more

Winners and Losers in an EU-UK agreement

Financial Times: Read the article here.

Indonesian President Widodo wants a free trade agreement with Australia

Sydney Morning Herald: Indonesian President Joko Widodo will push to sign off an Australia-Indonesia free trade agreement when he meets Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this weekend, declaring that only “technical” details were delaying the deal. Read more 

The Globe and Mail: Now that International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne has put Canada’s signature on the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement, the doors to the Asia-Pacific are about to crack open for Canadian businesses. Read more 

Severing NAFTA ties harms much more than trade

The Hill: U.S. ties with Mexico and Canada touch the daily lives of more Americans than ties with any other two countries in the world. Trade, border connections, tourism, family ties and mutual security concerns link us closely, but we are endangering those links and our wellbeing by a contentious modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Read more 

What impact will trade agreements have on global food markets?

Devex: The political uncertainty surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and North American Free Trade Agreement, as well as the implications of Brexit, has left experts struggling to understand what their impacts will have on markets — particularly in developing countries. Read more 

BONUS

Trade War Bad for Region

My commentary in the Business Authority of March 18 (page 15) on the possible fall-out of any trade war between the US and other major trading powers on the Caribbean.

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – March 4-11, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of March 4-11, 2018! We are pleased to share some of the major trade and development headlines and analysis across the Caribbean region and the World. We hope you enjoy this edition.

REGIONAL

CARICOM Institutions talk CSME Free Movement of Persons

CARICOM: The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat this week engaged regional institutions based in Barbados on the processes for Free Movement of persons under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Read more 

Trade Stakeholders from the Public and Private Sectors in St. Kitts and Nevis to Explore Importance of Trade in Services

WINN FM: Trade stakeholders from the public and private sectors are currently participating in a three day Seminar on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in St. Kitts and Nevis with the aim to better understand the importance of services sectors from an international trade perspective. Read more 

CARICOM Reviews Dutch Territories’ Applications For Membership

Curacao Chronicle: Even as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) continues to examine the issue of an enlargement policy, heads of government have mandated the secretary-general to begin negotiations for associate membership by the Dutch territories of Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Read more 

CARICOM seeking to step-up implementation of building codes

St Kitts & Nevis Observer: Recognising that implementing building codes is still a significant challenge to the region’s efforts to build resilience, CARICOM heads of government have asked the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to provide recommendations to expedite implementation of the codes. Read more 

Regional Standards to be set for quality and safety of coconut water 

Barbados Advocate: Given concerns about food safety issues in relation to the quality of coconut water sold at retailers in Barbados and across the region, efforts are being made to establish regional coconut water quality standards and protocols, to better protect consumers. Read more 

Chastanet supports OECS oversight of Citizenship by Investment

St Lucia Times: Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, has said that Saint Lucia supports the idea of the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) being run out of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Read more 

Consumer Protection in Digital Era is CARICOM goal

St. Kitts & Nevis Observer: It is important to consider the protection of the consumer as many persons now engage suppliers in a different jurisdiction. This was posited by a senior official from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat during the Barbados Fair Trading Commission’s (FTC) annual lecture series held 8 March at the Accra Beach Hotel & Spa in Barbados. Read more 

Exports down in January

Breaking Belize News: Belize’s exports got off to a rough start in 2018, falling by more than 20 percent when compared to January 2017, according to the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB). Read more 

New trade dispute brewing with Jamaica 

Trinidad Guardian: Jamaican manufacturers say they intend to approach the island’s Anti-Dumping and Subsidies Commission after accusing their T&T counterparts of dumping flour onto the local market. Read more 

Barbados No.1 with travellers

Nation News: Seventy thousand travellers across the world have chosen Barbados as their place to visit in the 2017 Destination Satisfaction Index (DSI). Read more

Concern that Caribbean women are still being marginalised

Barbados Today: The economic progress of women in Barbados and the Caribbean as a whole continues to be thwarted, despite gains made in some areas, a senior Jamaican trade official has said. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

11 countries sign revamped TPP trade deal without US

The Star (Malaysia): Eleven nations signed a slimmed-down version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, moving to lower tariffs just as US President Donald Trump seeks to raise them after withdrawing from the deal. Read more 

In full: Theresa May’s Speech on future UK-EU Relations

BBC: Here is the full text of Theresa May’s Mansion House speech setting out her vision for the UK’s relationship with the EU after Brexit. Read more 

Africa: Women-Friendly Trade – What Can Governments Do Better?

AllAfrica: Informal cross-border trade is one of the oldest forms of economic survival for women. Prevalent across Southern and Eastern Africa, the plight of women traders are well-documented, but policies still tend to overlook their specific needs.  Read more

2018 USTR Trade Agenda Highlights WTO Reform, FTA Talks

ICTSD Bridges: US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer released the latest version of the annual President’s Trade Policy Agenda last week, outlining the administration’s plans for the coming year. Read more 

Brexit: EU rejects Theresa May’s trade plan

The Independent (UK): The EU has rejected Theresa May’s vision for a post-Brexit trade relationship, laying out its own plans and warning that her choices will have “negative economic consequences” for Britain. Read more 

Report shows extent of endangered animal trade between Africa and Asia

CNN: The report says that almost 1,000 at risk but legally exportable species have been transported from dozens of African nations to countries in East and Southeast Asia between 2006 to 2015. Read more 

Theresa May’s Brexit plan to register millions of EU citizens risks descending into ‘chaos’

Business Insider: Theresa May’s plan to register 3 million EU nationals ahead of Brexit risks failure due to under investment and government fears of a backlash by the Daily Mail, a senior former Home Office official has told Business Insider. Read more 

Trump tariffs: China warns trade war would be ‘disaster’

The Guardian: Any trade war with the United States will only bring disaster to the world economy, the Chinese commerce minister Zhong Shan has said, as Beijing stepped up its criticism of metals tariffs introduced by the White House. Read more 

Canada, Mexico Stick to Nafta Plan After Trump’s Tariff Reprieve

Bloomberg: While Donald Trump ’s tariff gambit spared his NAFTA partners for now, Canada and Mexico are pledging it won’t make them budge at the bargaining table. Read more 

NAFTA termination could result in loss of 85k jobs in Canada: report

Global News: The Conference Board of Canada is predicting a 0.5 per cent decline in the country’s economy resulting in the loss of about 85,000 jobs within a year if the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is terminated. Read more 

Donald Trump signs order for metals tariff plan, prompting fears of trade war

The Guardian (UK): Trump pushes forward with plan for 25% tariff on imports of steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum, but says exceptions will be made. Read more 

Trump threatens with tariffs on European cars as trade war looms

Deutsche Welle: US President Donald Trump has once more attacked the EU over trade barriers and threatened to slap a tax on imports of European cars. His comments come amid fears of a trade war over new US steel and aluminum tariffs. Read more 

Commission extends anti-dumping measures on Chinese steel products

EU: The Commission today prolonged the existing anti-dumping measures on Chinese imports of seamless pipes and tubes of stainless steel for another five years. Read more

EU halts trade barrier investigation after Turkey lifts restrictions on paper

EU: The EU officially halted its probe into trade barriers in Turkey after the country removed measures concerning imports of a particular variety of paper. Read more 

European Commission outlines EU plan to counter US trade restrictions on steel and aluminium

EU: The College of Commissioners discussed today the EU’s response to the possible US import restrictions for steel and aluminium announced on 1 March. Read more 

European Commission responds to the US restrictions on steel and aluminium affecting the EU

EU: The European Commission takes note of the announcement by the President of the United States of the imposition of restrictions in the form of an import surcharge on EU exports to the US of steel and aluminium. Read more 

Members adopt catalogue of instruments for managing food safety, animal, plant health issues

WTO: WTO members successfully concluded almost four years of discussion by adopting the “Catalogue of Instruments” available to WTO members for managing sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues, at an SPS Committee meeting on 2 March. Read more

Azevêdo calls on members to avoid triggering an escalation in trade barriers

WTO: DG Azevêdo warned of the risks posed by such measures, calling on members to reflect and avoid escalation. Read more 

Least-developed countries urge WTO members to facilitate use of services waiver

WTO: At a meeting of the Council for Trade in Services on 2nd of March chaired by Ambassador Julian Braithwaite (UK), least-developed Countries (LDCs) called on WTO members to undertake capacity building measures that would enable their suppliers to take advantage of preferential treatment notified under the LDC Services Waiver. Read more

NEW ON CTLD BLOG

ECJ rules arbitration clauses in Intra-EU BITs contrary to EU Law

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

ECJ rules arbitration clauses in Intra-EU BITs contrary to EU Law

Alicia Nicholls

In a landmark and much-anticipated judgement delivered on Tuesday, March 6th, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that arbitration clauses in bilateral investment treaties (BITs) concluded between European Union Member States were incompatible with, and had ‘an adverse effect’ on EU law.

The background to the judgement involved a claim brought against the Slovak Republic by a Dutch private sickness insurance services subsidiary, Achmea, after the former had briefly prohibited the distribution of profits generated by private sickness insurance activities. This prohibition was later ruled unconstitutional by that country’s Constitutional Court, and Achmea subsequently brought a claim for damages under the Agreement on encouragement and reciprocal protection of investments between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia (Netherlands- Slovak Republic BIT), to which the Slovak Republic had succeeded upon Czechoslovakia’s dissolution.

In 2012 an arbitral tribunal established in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, pursuant to Article 8(2) of the Netherlands-Slovak Republic BIT found in favour of Achmea and ordered the Slovak Republic to pay 22.1 million euros in damages. As German law applied (since Frankfurt am Main was the chosen place of arbitration), the Slovak Republic turned to the German courts to have the arbitral award set aside.

The Slovak Republic argued that the arbitration clause in Article 8 of the Netherlands-Slovak Republic BIT was compatible with Articles 18, 267 and 344 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Given the importance of this question and its implications for the many remaining intra-EU BITs in force, the German Federal Court of Justice referred this question to the ECJ

In its judgment, the ECJ held that

Articles 267 and 344 TFEU must be interpreted as precluding a provision in an international agreement concluded between Member States, such as Article 8 of the BIT, under which an investor from one of those Member States may, in the event of a dispute concerning investments in the other Member State, bring proceedings against the latter Member State before an arbitral tribunal whose jurisdiction that Member State has undertaken to accept.

The ECJ came to its decision based on the fact that arbitral tribunals established under such treaties may be called on to interpret and apply EU law, but could not be classified as a court or tribunal ‘of a Member State’ within the meaning of Article 267 of the TFEU. The tribunals had no power to refer matters to the ECJ and could stop disputes from “being resolved in a manner that ensures the full effectiveness of EU law even though they might concern the interpretation or application of that law”. The Court went further by stating that Article 8 of the BIT in question “has an adverse effect on the autonomy of EU law” and was not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation.

Unlike state to state dispute settlement, ISDS allows an investor of a party who believes its rights have been violated to bring a claim directly against the host State before an arbitration tribunal. The rationale was that it precluded investors from having to convince their home State to bring a claim on their behalf, and was also borne out of distrust of the courts in host States (usually mainly developing countries).

ISDS has come under much fire, particularly due to inconsistent arbitral rulings (which are final under most BITs with these clauses), the lack of transparency in the process, and the concern about the system’s implications for States’ regulatory flexibility and authority in the public interest, particularly with regard to the protection of public health and the environment. Moreover, for small States, such as those in the Caribbean, the financial and reputational burdens of an adverse judgement are magnified.

In the EU context, intra-EU BITs have long been a controversial issue due to treaty shopping; investors have often favoured the ISDS provisions in intra-EU BITs over EU judicial channels for the settlement of disputes. This is costly for EU Member States having to defend themselves against claims and has implications for the uniform interpretation of EU law.

Newer investment agreements, including BITs,  have increasingly included express language regarding a party’s right to regulate in the public interest,  have considerably narrowed the scope of applicability of ISDS clauses, or have abandoned ISDS altogether. In light of the growing backlash against ISDS within the EU, the European Commission has already signalled that it is moving away from the ISDS model of dispute settlement in favour of an investment court as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada shows.

Implications for Caribbean BITs with EU countries  

The ECJ ruling is clear that the ISDS clauses in the nearly 200 BITs currently in force between EU member states inter se are incompatible with EU law. What is not so clear-cut is whether this also applies to BITs concluded between individual EU member countries and third States, such as those in the Caribbean. In such cases, the governing law in such disputes might not be EU law but the law of the third State.

While there is little evidence that the existence of a BIT is a major factor in a European investor’s decision to invest in the Caribbean, given that the BITs existing between European and Caribbean countries are generally of an older vintage and in need of modernisation, the time is ripe to have a relook at the regime for the protection and promotion of investment between the EU and CARIFORUM countries which is currently fragmented. Such a review is provided for under Article 74 of the Agreement.

At the time of the negotiation of the CARIFORUM-EC Economic Partnership Agreement, the European Commission only had competence to negotiate market access for investment, which explains why the investment chapter (Chapter 2: Commercial Presence) of the EPA is limited mainly to market access, national treatment, most favoured nation treatment, with some provisions on investor behaviour and a requirement that parties do not lower standards to attract FDI. More extensive investment protection provisions, such as the controversial fair and equitable treatment clauses, are covered in the BITs between individual EU and Caribbean States, many of which were signed before the EPA and also lack the more development friendly provisions of newer BITs.

Conclusion

The ECJ’s ruling is significant and may be considered another nail in the ISDS coffin. It is worth considering what, if any, impact this ruling may have for EU Member States’ BITs with third States, such as those in the Caribbean, and whether it is time to re-examine the regime for EU-CARIFORUM investment as provided for under Article 74 of the EPA.

The full judgement may be viewed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

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