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

Alicia Nicholls

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.

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

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 – 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 

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 – 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

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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.

CARICOM Heads to meet this week for 29th Intersessional HoG Meeting

Alicia Nicholls

Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will meet this week, February 26 & 27, 2018, in Port au Prince, Haiti for their 29th Intersessional Meeting. The meeting will be chaired by current chairman of the Conference of the Heads of Government, Haitian President, His Excellency Jovenel Moise.

Chairmanship of the Conference of Heads of Government rotates every six months. Haiti, which became a full member of CARICOM in 2002, will hold chairmanship from January 1st to June 30th. Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness will assume chairmanship on July 1st.

Major agenda items for the intersessional meeting include building climate resilience, crime and violence, the impact on CARICOM Member States of blacklisting actions and de-risking actions by global banks.

Additionally, according to the official press release, the meeting “will seek to advance plans to further strengthen key elements of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME)  including those related to travel and trade”.

CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque; the immediate-past CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada and current Chairman, President Moise of Haiti, will make remarks at the Opening Ceremony carded for February 26 and which will be live streamed on CARICOM’s website.

In anticipation of the meeting, Haiti’s Ministry of Trade held a Public Forum last Friday to discuss “Integration of Haiti in CARICOM: Challenges and Opportunities”.

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 – February 18-24, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of February 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

Building a climate-resilient Community among matters for CARICOM 29th Inter-Sessional Meeting

CARICOM: The Caribbean Community’s push to build a more climate-resilient Community following the devastating 2017 hurricane season is among matters for deliberation by CARICOM Heads of Government at their Twenty-ninth Inter-Sessional Meeting in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 26 – 27 February 2018. Read more 

Ralph Gonsalves: Golding Report ‘Unworkable’

Jamaica Gleaner: This is an edited address delivered on February 22 at St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Kingstown. Read more 

Growing trade deficits in the Caribbean Netherlands

Netherlands Central Statistics Bureau: In 2017, the trade deficits of Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba were higher than in the previous year. In relative terms, St Eustatius saw the sharpest increase in annual deficit. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures. Read more 

World Trade Center Arkansas to Lead Trade Mission to Caribbean

Arkansas Matters: The World Trade Center Arkansas is leading a trade mission for Arkansas companies interested in exporting to Caribbean countries. The mission will go to the Trade Americas – Business Opportunities in the Caribbean Region Conference in Miami, Florida, from May 6-7. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL 

South Korea launches WTO trade challenge against U.S. duties

Reuters: South Korea has launched a wide-ranging complaint at the World Trade Organization to challenge the U.S. use of anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties, citing their use on steel and transformers, a WTO filing showed on Tuesday. Read more 

India, 37 others seek WTO dispute body’s aid to fill up Appellate Body vacancies

Business Line: A formal submission has been made by 38 World Trade Organisation members including India, the EU, China, Russia, Brazil, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam to the Dispute Settlement Body seeking a decision on launching of a selection process to fill the three vacancies in the seven-member Appellate Body pending for long. Read more 

United States tells WTO of concerns over China’s new web access rules

Reuters: The United States told the World Trade Organization on Friday that Chinese internet access rules coming into force next month appeared to create significant new restrictions for cross-border service suppliers and should be discussed at the WTO. Read more 

Canada To Open Free Trade Talks With Mercosur Group Of South American Countries

Huffpost Canada: The Canadian government plans to open free trade talks with the four-nation Mercosur trading bloc in South America, an official said on Friday, at a time when the future of NAFTA is facing increasing uncertainty. Read more 

India Calls for Changes in WTO to Transform World Economy

News18: India on Sunday called for bringing changes in Geneva-based World Trade Organisation (WTO) to transform the global economy. Read more 

Egypt passes 4th WTO Trade Policy Review

AllAfrica: Egypt managed to pass the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s fourth review of the trade policies and practices of Egypt that took place on February 20-22. Read more

Full text of CPTPP released

Newsroom New Zealand: The Government has released the full text of the controversial CPTPP trade deal, along with a national interest analysis touting its importance in fighting growing protectionism around the world. Read more

French farmers hold tractor protests in Mercosur warning to Macron

Independent (Ireland): French farmers drove tractors through town centres and blocked highways on Wednesday to oppose extra agricultural imports from South America, raising pressure on President Emmanuel Macron in the run-up to a politically sensitive Paris farm show. Read more 

New NAFTA talks aim to clear pathway to toughest issues

Reuters: Mexico and Canada aim to finish reworking less contentious chapters of the NAFTA trade deal with the United States in new talks beginning on Sunday, hoping to clear the path for a breakthrough on the toughest issues before upcoming elections. Read more 

NAFTA talks go into their seventh round. Canada isn’t optimistic

Washington Post: When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the United States this month, he didn’t go to the White House. Instead, he visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where he was presented with pages of the original U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement, signed by President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago. Read more

KPMG executive says businesses not using free-trade benefits

The Australian: Australian businesses are not substantially increasing their use of the Asian free-trade agreements each year and the Coalition needs to overhaul its trade policies, a KPMG executive says. Read more 

Press release: CEPA EU – Indonesia trade agreement round

TNI: Today, over 20 representatives from civil society organisations from the Indonesia and the European union, had a long meeting with negotiators of the new trade agreement between the EU and Indonesia (CEPA – Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement).  Read more

Korea initiates WTO complaint against US anti-dumping, countervailing duties

WTO: Korea has requested WTO consultations with the United States concerning the use of “facts available” by US investigating authorities in anti-dumping and countervailing investigations. The request was circulated to WTO members on 20 February. Read more

WTO members agree on timetable to review use of Bali tariff quota mechanism

WTO: At a meeting of the Agriculture Committee on 20 February, WTO members agreed on a timeline to review the operation of the 2013 Bali Ministerial Decision on tariff rate quotas and discussed a review of the landmark Nairobi Decision to eliminate farm export subsidies. Norway, Israel and Canada reported they had submitted revised schedules, formalizing their promises to eliminate these subsidies. Read more

WTO issues panel report regarding Korean restrictions on Japanese food imports

WTO: On 22 February the WTO circulated the panel report in the case brought by Japan in “Korea — Import Bans, and Testing and Certification Requirements for Radionuclides” (DS495). Read more 

Trade Facilitation Agreement marks first anniversary since entry into force

WTO: The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) marked its first anniversary since its entry into force on 22 February 2017 with WTO members making significant strides towards its implementation. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said members continue to work to fully implement the Agreement, which will benefit particularly developing and least developed countries. Read more

Move aside, NAFTA: New fear on the Canada-U.S. front involves steel tariffs

CTV News: A new concern about Canada’s relationship with the United States is emerging in the foreground, with threats of global steel and aluminum tariffs now competing with NAFTA uncertainty as a source of economic anxiety. Read more

Cabinet okays trade agreement with Canada

The Slovak Spectator: Slovakia’s government greenlighted the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) at its February 21 session. Read more 

NEW ON CTLD BLOG

US House of Representatives passes GSP Renewal Bill; on to Senate

Golding Commission concerned about Caribbean Citizenship by Investment Programmes

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Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – February 11-18, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of February 11-18, 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

Lack of financial transparency at CARICOM Secretariat – Golding Report

Antigua Observer: The lack of transparency surrounding the finances of the CARICOM Secretariat has found its way into the “Golding Report,” which examines relations between Jamaica and CARICOM and CARIFORUM, with a call for the revamping of the institution’s accountability procedures. Read more

(Caribbean) Region hits 30 million visitor mark

CTO:  The catastrophic hurricanes that devastated some Caribbean destination last September slowed down tourism’s progress but did not stop it, according to figures released by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the authority on regional tourism statistics. Read more 

Gov’t explores new system to track and boost tourist spend

Barbados Today: Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy has disclosed that a new system was being developed to better capture and monitor tourist spend in Barbados as Government continued to seek ways to grow the sector. Read more

Government looks to boost CSME access for Jamaicans

JIS: The Government will be intensifying efforts for Jamaican skilled workers and businesses to have greater access to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Read more 

Barbados trade mission to Guyana

CBC (Barbados): Barbados is hoping to increase its trade relations with Guyana as a 10-member trade mission opens a two-day visit here Monday. Read more 

Holness to assume chairmanship of CARICOM

Jamaica Observer: Prime Minister Andrew Holness is to assume the Chairmanship of CARICOM from 1st July to 31st December 2018. Read more 

‘Deathly afraid’ for local ownership under WTO

Tribune242: Arawak Homes’ chairman is “deathly afraid” that WTO membership will undermine Bahamian economic ownership because many locally-owned firms cannot compete internationally. Read more 

SLCSI introduces new executive board

St. Lucia News Online: The Saint Lucia Coalition of Service Industries (SLCSI) is one of the twelve national service coalitions within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic (CARIFORUM collectively) and also the Caribbean Network of Service Coalitions (CNSC). Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

Azevêdo joins ACP brainstorming session: ‘we need to explore innovative ways forward’

WTO: Speaking at a meeting of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) at the WTO’s headquarters on 15 February, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo urged members to be ready to explore fresh perspectives and new pathways which may help move negotiations forward at the WTO. Read more 

Commentary: Temper expectations about RCEP free trade agreement

Channel Newsasia: It looks like India may be dragging its feet on some key issues within the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership but there’s good reason for all parties to manage their expectations, says one observer from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. Read more 

After the WTO’s Ministerial Conference, Where Next for Africa?

ICTSD Bridges: In the aftermath of the December WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, pessimism about the future of the institution has been reaching record levels and no clear plan has emerged yet on where to take the WTO next. In this rather bleak environment, what are the possible options for African countries to advance their trade and development priorities? Read more 

Mnuchin says Washington studying possible return to TPP through renegotiation

The Japan Times: President Donald Trump’s administration is actively discussing the possibility of rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal on condition that the United States renegotiate it to secure better terms, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday. Read more 

(US) House passes GSP renewal legislation

American Shipper: The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4979 Tuesday under an expedited floor procedure, which would renew the Generalized System of Preferences program through 2020. Read more 

‘Big boys’ causing delays in conclusion of RCEP

Business Mirror: The Philippines is demanding its fellow negotiating-countries in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to seriously commit to a speedy conclusion of their trade deal, as the latest round of talks still failed to progress beyond trade in goods modalities. Read more 

Next Nafta Talks Scheduled to Start With Auto Content Rules

Bloomberg: Rules for automotive content, one of the most contentious issues in Nafta, will be among the first tackled at the upcoming seventh round of talks in Mexico City. Read more

Australia says yes to post-Brexit free trade agreement with the UK

BBC: Australia say they would like to be able to negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK after Brexit. Read more 

Trade growth to sustain momentum in first quarter of 2018, latest trade indicator suggests

WTO: The WTO’s latest World Trade Outlook Indicator (WTOI), released on 12 February, suggests that the trade recovery of 2017 should continue, with solid trade volume growth in the first quarter of 2018. Read more

BONUS

CTO State of the Industry Outlook

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation(CTO) held its State of the Industry 2017 and Outlook for 2018 last week. Please feel free to check out the report and other content 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.

US House of Representatives passes GSP Renewal Bill; on to Senate

Alicia Nicholls

The first hurdle in the renewal of the United States’ Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) was overcome last week Tuesday when the US House of Representatives passed  H.R.4979 – To extend the Generalized System of Preferences and to make technical changes to the competitive need limitations provision of the program. This is welcomed news for the 120 countries and territories which benefit under the GSP, but just the first step towards the programme’s renewal.

The US GSP lapsed on December 31, 2017. This Bill provides a three year extension through to December 31, 2020. H.R. 4979 requires there be an annual report on the enforcement of eligibility criteria to ensure that countries designated as beneficiary developing countries are meeting the eligibility criteria.

Exporters would also be refunded for the duties collected during the lapse period. This is not the first time the GSP has expired, a fact which has created some uncertainty for exporters from GSP beneficiary countries seeking to make use of the programme. Other sources of uncertainty are that the President may graduate any country, remove products from GSP eligibility and remove products for an individual country which has exceeded competitive need limitations (CNLs). There are also a number of criteria for GSP eligibility which reflect the geopolitical  and other objectives underpinning the programme, for example, the ineligibility of communist countries.

The US GSP was instituted by the Trade Act of 1974 and it is one of several US government trade preference programmes which allow designated goods from certain disadvantaged countries to enter the US market at preferential rates of duty. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) fact sheet on the GSP, some 5,057 8‐digit U.S. tariff lines are eligible for duty‐free entry under the GSP, of which 1,519 are eligible for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) only.

The fact sheet further notes that in 2016, total US imports under the GSP was $18.7 billion, with the top five GSP beneficiary countries being 1. India ($4.7 billion), 2. Thailand ($3.9 billion), 3. Brazil ($2.2 billion), 4. Indonesia ($1.8 billion) and 5. Philippines ($1.5 billion).

As of March 2017, the GSP-eligible countries in the Caribbean include: Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while the following non-independent Caribbean territories are eligible: Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Montserrat.

Caribbean countries do not feature among top US GSP countries and there is a good reason for this. Most Caribbean countries are beneficiaries of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), while Haiti is a beneficiary of the HOPE Acts. As such, according to the 2015 Report on the Operation of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), in 2014, US imports under the GSP from CBI beneficiaries were just 0.02% of the total imports from those countries. As such, CBI countries’ exports under the GSP are quite small, though some countries like Belize, Jamaica and Dominica make more use of the GSP than others.

The GSP renewal Bill received bipartisan support in the House and is now before the Senate. For HR 4979 to become law, the identical bill would have to be passed in the US Senate. Failing this, there must be reconciliation of the bills passed in both houses before being signed into law by President Trump.

The text of the House Bill 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.

 

 

Golding Commission concerned about Caribbean Citizenship by Investment Programmes

Alicia Nicholls

The CARICOM Review Commission, whose report was tabled in the Jamaica Parliament last week, has expressed concern about the administration of Citizenship by Investment programmes (CIPs) currently operated by five CARICOM Member States, and has called for the establishment of a CARICOM framework agreement on their operation.

CIPs were among the many diverse issues examined by the Commission whose mandate was to review Jamaica’s relations within CARICOM and CARIFORUM. CIPs are currently operated by five CARICOM Member States: namely, Antigua & Barbuda,  Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis and St. Lucia, and have been the subject of much scrutiny regionally and internationally.

Though recognising the economic importance of CIPs to these countries, the Commission, chaired by former Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding, raised several issues with their current administration:

  • The programmes are driven more by short-term revenue benefits than long term investment gains
  • The lack of a minimum period of residency
  • The lack of a regional agreement on the operation of such programmes, especially given the national security and other implications for non-CIP operating CARICOM territories
  • While referrals to the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) are made, the State is not obligated to accept the advice of IMPACS
  • Concerns raised by third States (namely the US and Canada) about Caribbean CIPs and the fact that two CIP-operating Member States (St. Kitts & Nevis and Antigua & Barbuda) have already lost visa-free access to Canada due to these concerns
  • Cases of persons granted citizenship under these programmes who were later found to be less than savoury characters
  • The risks to the Community in light of ever more sophisticated trans-national crime
  • The alleged issuance of diplomatic passports to some new citizens
  • Varying due diligence procedures used by CIP-operating Member States

As such, one of the thirty-three recommendations made by the Commission in its Report is for the establishment of “an agreed framework with appropriate protocols and safeguards regarding the terms, conditions, qualifications and restrictions in relation to the operation of Citizenship by Investment programmes including prior consultations or sharing of information with other Member States”.

The full report of the Golding Commission 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 – February 4-10, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of February 4-10, 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 reports Regional development gains in 2017 despite catastrophic Atlantic Hurricane Season

CDB: Despite major setbacks caused by a destructive 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is reporting a year of several developmental gains for the Region. Read more 

Positive economic growth expected for Caribbean Region in 2018, but resilience-building measures needed

CDB: The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is projecting regional economic growth of 2% in 2018. This follows a return to positive figures last year, during which the Region experienced overall growth of 0.6%–despite the devastation caused by the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Read more 

Barbados ratifies Trade Facilitation Agreement

BGIS: Barbados has ratified the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) on Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Read more 

Jamaica Prime Minister Tables Report on CARICOM

JIS: Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, tabled a copy of the Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks in the House of Representatives,  yesterday (February 6). Read more

CDB President announces up to US$800M for disaster recovery, amid strong Bank performance in 2017

CARICOM: President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Wm. Warren Smith, today announced that the institution is making USD700 to 800 million (mn) available to help Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) recover from the impact of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

Brazil Circulates Proposal for WTO Investment Facilitation Deal

ICTSD Bridges: Brazil submitted an extensive draft proposal for a potential agreement on investment facilitation to the WTO’s General Council last week, in a bid to jumpstart more “structured discussions” on the subject. Read more 

EU-Chile trade talks: Commission releases its proposals and reports about progress

EU: The Commission also published a report of the second round of talks that took place in Santiago (Chile) from 15 to 19 January 2018. These were the first substantive discussions on trade following the launch of talks in November last year. Read more 

Commission imposes definitive anti-dumping duties on Chinese corrosion resistant steel

EU: The investigation confirmed that Chinese producers were dumping the product on the EU market, a finding that already led to imposition of provisional duties in August 2017. The measures that will be in place for the next 5 years range from 17.2% to 27.9%. Read more 

African Leaders Prep for Summit on Continental Trade Deal

ICTSD Bridges: African national leaders concluded the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union last week, with the summit adopting a series of decisions on issues related to continental economic integration – including on the next steps for the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), as well as the free movement of people and air travel. Read more 

No blanket EU trade ban, says Mustapa

The Star: As Malaysia is an open economy, the government cannot impose a blanket ban on trade with the European Union (EU), but it can collaborate with government-linked companies to determine where to buy and sell goods amid the economic bloc’s threat to palm oil, said International Trade and Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.
Read more 

Mozambique joins the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Southern African States

EU: Mozambique was the last piece of the SADC-EPA jigsaw to fall into place. The other five countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South-Africa, and Swaziland – have been implementing the agreement since October 2016.  Read more

Ministers admit almost 65 existing trade deals with non-EU countries are ‘at risk because of Brexit

The Independent: Ministers have admitted for the first time that about 65 existing trade deals with non-EU countries are at risk because of Brexit, it has been claimed. Read more 

This doesn’t help the little guy! Trader reveals why Germans are furious at EU trade deal

The Express: The European Union has not learned lessons from its trade deal with Canada and the public will slowly start to resent Brussels bureaucrats and turn against the bloc, an expert has warned. Read more 

How can East Asia defend the WTO?

East Asia Forum: A confident, rules-based environment for international trade has made possible the remarkable improvements in East Asian living standards over the past 50 years. This environment — created by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and its successor in the World Trade Organization (WTO) — remains essential for the future. But its survival cannot be taken for granted. Read more 

BiH near membership in the WTO

IBNA: Bosnia and Herzegovina can reach full membership in the World Trade Organisation till summer this year, and is on the right path to finish negotiations. Read more 

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s WTO accession negotiations advance towards conclusion

WTO: At the 13th meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina held on 7 February, WTO members supported the swift conclusion of the negotiations and welcomed the strong commitment and desire by Sarajevo to finalize this process in the coming months. Read more 

US blocks India’s request for WTO compliance panel on solar dispute

Hindu Business Line: Moving on expected lines, the US, on Friday, blocked India’s first-time request for the establishment of a panel to settle a dispute on whether the country complied with a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling against domestic sourcing of solar cells and modules mandated in its national solar power generation programme. Read more 

FM: Belarus has no plans to slow down WTO accession talks

BELTA: In 2017 Belarus considerably intensified the talks on joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is intended to keep the pace, Belarus’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei said in an interview to the Russian newspaper Izvestia, BelTA has learned. Read more 

Italy eyes stronger ties with ASEAN countries

Indian Express: “Italy wants to strengthen relations with ASEAN and will organise the 2nd High Level Dialogue ASEAN-Italy Economic Relations in Singapore in April,” said Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano. 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.

Barbados ratifies WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement

Alicia Nicholls

On January 31, 2018, Barbados became the 130th World Trade Organisation (WTO) member to ratify the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.

According to the press release from the Barbados Government Information Service (GIS), “the instrument of ratification was formally handed over by Ambassador to the United Nations and Other International Organisations, Bentley Gibbs, to Secretary General of  the WTO, Robert Azevedo, in Geneva, Switzerland”.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement came out of the WTO’s Bali Ministerial in 2013 and entered into force in February 22, 2017 after two-thirds of the WTO’s membership ratified the Agreement. It aims to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders by reducing red tape, improving transparency and facilitating cooperation among customs authorities.

The benefits of these provisions, once implemented, include reducing trade costs for businesses, increasing participation in global value chains and improving trade flows. Ratification of the Agreement is, therefore, an important signal to investors of a country’s commitment to improving its business environment for trade.

In keeping with the principle of Special and Differential Treatment, there are implementation flexibilities in Section II for developing and least developed countries, recognising they may need more time to implement the provisions of the Agreement. Like other developing and least developed countries, Barbados has access to the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility which provides assistance for notification, capacity-building support and grants.

The following other Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have already ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement: Trinidad & Tobago, Belize, Guyana, Grenada  and St. Lucia (2015), Jamaica and St. Kitts & Nevis  (2016), St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic and Antigua & Barbuda (2017).

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.

Golding Report on CARICOM-Jamaica Relations Tabled in Jamaican Parliament

Alicia Nicholls

The long-awaited report of the CARICOM Review Commission chaired by former Jamaican Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, has been tabled in the Jamaica Parliament by Prime Minister, the Most Excellent Andrew Holness, O.N. The CARICOM Review Commission, which was commissioned by Mr. Holness in July 2016 to review Jamaica’s relations within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and CARIFORUM (CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic) frameworks,  submitted its report in April 2017.

For those who may have feared that the Review was intended to pave the way towards a Jamxit (Jamaica exit from CARICOM), these have been allayed to some extent. In giving its support for regional integration, the Golding Commission noted that “the value of regional integration…is as relevant and useful and perhaps, even more urgent today than it was at [CARICOM’s] inception”. However, it lamented the limited progress on many of the commitments signed on to by CARICOM Member States.

In this vein, the Commission made thirty-three timely, pertinent and wide-ranging proposals aimed at addressing the structural and organisational deficiencies in CARICOM. Many of the Commission’s recommendations include things which most CARICOM Member States have already committed to under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy but have yet to be fully realised, while others are reminiscent of those made by the Ramphal Commission in its A Time For Action Report in 1992.  Other recommendations were more novel and include instituting sanctions for wilful non-compliance with commitments made, as well as the establishment of a Central Dispute Settlement Body similar to that of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which would offer non-judicial options for settlement of disputes.

The Commission also recommended that Jamaica establish closer ties with Northern Caribbean countries, namely the Dominican Republic and Cuba, including in the negotiation of trade agreements with third States.

To address CARICOM’s implementation deficit, the Golding Commission has called for time-bound commitments and public progress reports on  Member States’ advancement towards meeting the various commitments. It also called for greater engagement of the private sector and the people of CARICOM.

Failing commitment by Member States to make the commitments outlined in the report, the Commission recommended that Jamaica should withdraw from the CSME, but remain a member of CARICOM.

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 – January 28 – February 3, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of January 28- February 3, 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

Caribbean Integration Too Slow, Too Weak – High-Ranking EU Diplomat Cautions Region Against Segmented Trade Market

Jamaica Gleaner: The region’s attempt at integrating into a single market is taking too long and the progress is moving too slowly, Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development Stefano Manservisi has charged. Read more 

Some CARICOM Countries To Benefit From PAHO Agreement

Jamaica Gleaner: Seven Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are to benefit from a new multi-country strategy for technical cooperation in health through 2024. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

23 African nations sign major aviation trade agreement

ENCA: Africans have for years paid sky-high airfares when travelling within the continent but a major aviation trade agreement launched Monday by the African Union aims to change that. Read more 

Trump stance on Korea-US free trade agreement softening

Asia Times: Observers are optimistic the Trump administration will take a pragmatic approach to renegotiating KORUS, partly due to national security considerations. Read more 

WTO members discuss how to organize work on fisheries subsidies negotiations after MC11

WTO: WTO members meeting as the Negotiating Group on Rules on 30 January discussed how to organize work on fisheries subsidies to fulfil the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) decision to continue negotiations with a view to adopting an agreement by the next Ministerial Conference in 2019.  Read more 

Russia initiates WTO compliance proceedings over pig products import restrictions

WTO: The Russian Federation has requested WTO consultations with the European Union to address Russia’s claim that it has complied with a WTO ruling regarding its import restrictions on live pigs, pork and other pig products from the European Union. The request was circulated to WTO members on 30 January. Read more 

UAE initiates WTO complaint against Pakistan over film duties

WTO: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has requested WTO consultations with Pakistan concerning certain anti-dumping measures on imports of biaxially oriented polypropylene (“BOPP”) film from the UAE. The request was circulated to WTO members on 29 January. Read more 

European Commission’s new expert group on EU trade agreements holds first meeting

EU: The European Commission’s new expert group on EU trade agreements held its first meeting today in Brussels. Read more 

European Commission imposes measures on cast iron products from China

EU: The Commission has today imposed definitive anti-dumping duties on iron castings from China. The measures range from 15.5% to 38.1%. Read more 

Joint communique from Ghana-EU Interim EPA Committee 

EU: The first meeting of the EPA Committee under the Interim Economic Partnership
Agreement (IEPA) between Ghana and the EU was held in Accra, Ghana on 24 January
2018. Read more 

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Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – January 21-27, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of January 21-27, 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

China looks forward to deepening trade with CARICOM

St. Lucia News Online: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have indicated a willingness to work with China regarding the socio-economic development of the 15-member grouping. Read more

IMF predicts improvements in economic prospects for Caribbean/Latin America in 2018

Jamaica Observer: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says economic prospects for the region are generally improving and modest growth is expected in 2018 and 2019. Read more

Bees are All the Buzz in Guyana

St. Kitts & Nevis Observer: There’s a new buzz in Guyana, known in the agricultural sector for its sugar and rice. The Government of Guyana, with support from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), is aiming to add honey to the list, and in the process, provide a sustainable pathway out of poverty for Guyanese. Read more

Sugar production up but concerns linger over changes in EU market regime

The Reporter (Belize): Sugar production at the Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) at Tower Hill in Orange Walk is up by roughly 10%, with cane quality also better than the same time last year. Read more

CARICOM signals interest in One Belt, One Road

Stabroek: The Caribbean Community (Caricom) has signalled its interest in working with China to ascertain how its goals and priorities can be best linked with existing, new and emerging development initiatives from the East Asian country. Read more

Barbados amongst eight jurisdictions removed from EU Tax list

Barbados Advocate: Barbados has been named amongst eight jurisdictions that have been removed from the EU’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes. This follows commitments made at a high political level, to remedy EU concerns. Read more

Barbados International Business Ministry comments on blacklist removal

Nation News: The Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development says Barbados’ removal from the European Union’s “blacklist” of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions augurs well for the island. Read more

INTERNATIONAL

AU, UN-ECA underscore continental free trade area for Africa’s development

The New York Times: The African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA) on Thursday stressed the need to keep the momentum going in the realisation of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) for Africa’s development. Read more

Trans-Pacific trade deal to go ahead without the US

Financial Times: Pacific Rim nations aim to sign a new deal in March, without the US. Read more

Australia unveils plans to become one of the world’s top 10 arms exporters
The Guardian: Australia is set to become one of the world’s largest arms exporters under a controversial Turnbull government plan. Read more
Singapore and Sri Lanka sign free trade agreement
Channel NewsAsia: The Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement will see Singapore companies enjoying potential tariff savings of up to S$10 million each year, among other benefits. Read more

Former New Zealand MP says Canada’s new trans-Pacific trade deal may leave Indigenous Peoples defenceless

CBC Canada: On the cusp of Canada’s signing of the resurrected Trans-Pacific Partnership, a former Maori parliamentarian from New Zealand is warning First Nation peoples that the deal could leave nation-to-nation treaties vulnerable to foreign interests. Read more

West Africa should learn better trade and integration from its great ancient empires

Quartz Africa: The dream of the founding fathers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was, among others, to foster trade and development among member states. But the integration dream will only be realized if institutional barriers to trade are addressed. Read more

Crunch time for NAFTA as negotiators open round of talks in Montreal

CNBC: U.S., Canadian and Mexican negotiators opened a key week-long round of talks to modernize NAFTA on Tuesday amid persistent concerns the Trump administration is preparing to walk away from the trade deal, a move that could roil financial markets. Read more

Uruguay to push for free trade agreement with China in Mercosur

Xinhua: Uruguay plans to push for a free trade agreement (FTA) between China and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), the largest South American trade bloc, a top Uruguayan official said Wednesday. Read more

Africa: free trade zones to boost trade

Al Jazeera: Trade across Africa is about to get an overhaul with measures aimed at cutting the cost of doing business. It is hoped that a digital free trade zone will make connecting online easier for export and import companies. Read more

What’s the deal with global trade? The view from Davos 2018

WEF: World leaders came to the defence of free trade and global cooperation at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos this week. Speeches by Narendra Modi, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau declared their countries “open for business.”Read more

US, Korea continue modification and amendment negotiations on KORUS FTA

USTR: United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced today negotiations on amendments and modifications of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) will be held in Seoul, Korea on January 31 and February 1, 2018. Read more

Commission reports on progress in EU-Mexico trade negotiations

EU: The Commission today published the report from the latest round of talks for a new, modernised EU-Mexico trade agreement that took place in Brussels from 12 to 22 December 2017. Read more

UN Environment and WTO launch dialogue on healthier environments through trade

WTO: UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim and World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevêdo announced today that their organizations would join forces to launch a new dialogue on promoting innovative ways of using trade to generate greater opportunities to strengthen our economies and our environments at the same time. Read more

WTO issues panel report regarding EU duties on biodiesel from Indonesia

WTO: On 25 January the WTO circulated the panel report in the case brought by Indonesia in “European Union — Anti-Dumping Measures on Biodiesel from Indonesia” (DS480). Read more

Argentina ratifies the Trade Facilitation Agreement

WTO: Argentina, host of the 11th Ministerial Conference recently held in Buenos Aires, has completed its ratification process for the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Read more

Trilateral symposium to examine how innovative technologies can promote health-related SDGs

WTO: The WTO, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will convene a symposium on 26 February 2018 to discuss challenges and opportunities to ensure that innovative technologies are developed in order to realize the right to health and the health-related UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Read more

Korean request for retaliation against US in washers dispute referred to arbitration

WTO: A Korean request for retaliation against the United States in a dispute over US anti-dumping and countervailing duties on large residential washers from Korea was referred to WTO arbitration. The matter was discussed at a 22 January meeting of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). Read more

BONUS

CARICOM States and the WTO Dispute Settlement System: the case for greater engagement

Paper by distinguished University of the West Indies law lecturer and trade attorney, Mrs. Nicole Foster published in the Commonwealth Law Bulletin. This paper “examines the participation of member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in the World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s dispute settlement system and its associated negotiations”. 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 – January 14-21, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of January 14-21, 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

LaRocque: EU assistance crucial to sustainable development

St. Kitts & Nevis Observer: CARICOM and CARIFORUM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque said in his remarks at the launch of the 10th EDF CARIFORUM Crime and Security Programme Jan. 17 in Barbados that the “strength of cooperation” between the European Union (EU) and the Caribbean” is critical. Read more

United effort needed to fight crime

Barbados Advocate: Now more than ever, CARICOM countries need to remain united in their efforts to fight crime in all its dimensions. Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and CARIFORUM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, shared the above sentiments as he delivered remarks at the launch of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) CARIFORUM Crime and Security Cooperation Programme. Read more

Spotlight: CELAC eyes enormous benefits from China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative

Xinhua: With the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative grabbing headlines around the world over the past years, Latin America and the Caribbean is giving special attention to how the Initiative could be extended to the region. Read more

Commercial activity seen as main boost for CAL-Cuba route

LoopNews: Commercial activity is being seen as one of the motivating factors to fill Caribbean Airlines seats from Cuba. Read more

St. Vincent & the Grenadines to launch medical cannabis industry

LoopNews: St Vincent and the Grenadines is joining the emerging global market of medical cannabis with plans to amend legislation to allow for the export of the drug. Read more

CARICOM should ‘free up’ the herb

Antigua Observer: Given the global push to decriminalise marijuana, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, is saying that CARICOM countries should consider doing the same, looking at the laws of developed countries to customise them to suit the Caribbean environment. Read more

INTERNATIONAL

Malaysia trade ministry to approach WTO on EU move to limit palm oil use

Reuters: Malaysia, the world’s second-largest palm producer, said on Monday it would work with other producing countries to voice “strong concerns” to the World Trade Organization, following the European Union’s move to back a ban on using palm oil to make biofuels. Read more

Rona Ambrose: Trump nixing NAFTA is just a matter of ‘when’

CTVNews: Canada’s trade insiders say they are preparing for the worst when it comes to the fate of NAFTA, with one top adviser saying it’s only a matter of time before U.S. President Donald Trump pulls out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Read more

Australia and Japan committed to signing Asia Pacific trade pact by March, Turnbull says

Todayonline: Australia and Japan are committed to signing an Asia Pacific trade deal by March with countries in the region ready to forge a pact to replace the derailed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Thursday (Jan 18). Read more

USTR Releases Annual Reports on China’s and Russia’s WTO Compliance

USTR: The reports, delivered to Congress, are required by law and assess China’s and Russia’s implementation of their respective WTO commitments. Read more

Report: EU trade schemes promote economic development and human rights

EU News: The report published today jointly by the European Commission and the European External Action Service shows the positive impact of the European Union’s duty-rebate schemes on developing economies. Read more

WTO Arbitrator determines “reasonable period of time” in US-China anti-dumping dispute

WTO: On 19 January an Arbitrator issued his award regarding the “reasonable period of time” for implementing the recommendations and rulings of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) in the dispute “United States – Certain Methodologies and Their Application to Anti-Dumping Proceedings Involving China” (WT/DS471).  Read more

Trump says terminating NAFTA would yield the ‘best deal’

CNBC: Trump’s comments come less than a week before trade negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico meet in Montreal for the sixth of seven scheduled rounds of negotiations to update NAFTA. Read more

France would have voted to leave EU too if in UK’s situation, French leader Macron says

CNBC: France would likely have followed the U.K. and also voted to leave the European Union if the opportunity had presented itself, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview Sunday. Read more

WTO compliance panel issues ruling regarding Chinese duties on US

WTO: On 18 January a WTO panel issued its compliance report in the dispute “China – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duty Measures on Broiler Products from the United States — Recourse to Article 21.5 Of The DSU by the United States” (DS427). Read more

WTO: Australia has requested WTO consultations with Canada regarding measures maintained by the Canadian government and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia concerning the sale of wine. The request was circulated to WTO members on 16 January. 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.

Trump’s obscene remark confirms administration’s orientation on US-Caribbean/African Relations

Alicia Nicholls

Much of the international news coverage this weekend has surrounded a reported obscene remark made by United States President Donald Trump about Haiti, El Salvador and the fifty-four internationally recognised countries of the African continent (countries with majority non-white populations) during a bi-partisan meeting last week on immigration. He was further reported as stating, on the contrary, that immigrants from countries like Norway (majority white population) would be preferred.

The vulgar phrase attributed to the US President has been widely reported ad nauseum and there is, therefore, no need for me to repeat it here. Both the African Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have released statements strongly condemning the President’s reported choice of words. President Trump eventually denied using the obscenity, though conceding he had used ‘strong language’ in the meeting. However, the incident was confirmed by several persons who had been present at the meeting, including one Republican senator.

The underlying assumption that immigrants from the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa have nothing to offer the US is erroneous and unfortunate for several reasons.

  • It ignores the fact that the US is a land of immigrants and that the majority of immigrants to the US are law-abiding citizens who make sterling contributions to their adopted land. From colonial days to present, one can cite countless examples of Caribbean, Latin American and African immigrants who have made sterling contributions to US society, in fields from the arts, medicine, engineering, law, academia, the Armed Forces, and the list goes on.
  • The assumption that immigrants from these countries are overwhelmingly low-skilled is also not borne out in the data. For instance, data from the 2015 American Community Survey show that some 13.5% of the estimated 4.165 million Caribbean born US immigrants had a Bachelor’s degree and 6.7% had a graduate degree
  • Turning to Haiti in particular, President Trump’s comment shows a fundamental ignorance of the critical role Haiti played in the American colonies’ struggle for their own independence. A favour which was not returned when Haiti attained theirs given the fear that a successful black independent republic would inspire other slaves, including in the US, to follow suit.
  • The statement forgets that migration is not a one-way street. Americans too have migrated to, and made their home, in some of these same countries.

The second fundamental flaw with the statement is that it is grossly incorrect and ignores the fact that all countries have their challenges. War, conflict, Mother Nature and other factors could change a country’s fortunes at any time. The prosperous countries of today all underwent periods of time when they too could have been described in such a manner as President Trump used to describe the countries concerned. The Germany which President’s Trump grandfather fled in order to migrate to the US is not the prosperous Germany of today.

It also ignores the role external political actors have played in shaping the fate of many of these countries. For all the development aid given to countries in the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, history is replete with examples of western powers’ interference in the domestic politics of these countries, from supporting corrupt governments to overthrowing democratically-elected left-leaning governments. These foreign interventions have undoubtedly contributed to many of the problems faced by some of these countries, including corruption, poverty and inequality.

Haiti, no doubt, is perhaps one of the more tragic examples. It is a country which is rich in culture, beauty, spirit and natural resources, and occupies a unique position in history as the world’s first majority black republic.  The colony of Saint Domingue  was the crown-jewel of the French West Indian Empire, but was almost condemned to poverty from the beginning of its post-independence life after being forced to pay France reparations for decades. And if that were not bad enough, how can one overlook US government support for the brutal Haitian dictator Francois Duvalier (Papa Doc) and his son Jean Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc) or more recently, the foreign-orchestrated removal of democratically elected leader Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004? Moreover, the island has had more than its fair share of natural tragedy, from hurricanes to earthquakes.

The racially-charged slur attributed to the President of the United States should shock no one given his suspect history on race relations, and his ethnonationalist worldview.  It has revealed yet again the ideology underlying an increasingly more isolationist US foreign policy and immigration policy which has seen travel bans, increased deportations and the threat of ending once and for all the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme.

The biggest take-away, however, is that the inflammatory rhetoric used by the President to describe these countries is further evidence that US-Caribbean relations and US-Africa relations will not be a priority for this administration, outside of narrow US national security concerns.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is a 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 – January 7-13, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of January 7-13, 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

Venezuela Extends Suspension of Air and Sea Travel, Trade with ABC Islands in Continued Fight Against Smuggling

Telesur: Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami has announced that President Nicolas Maduro has extended the suspension of air and sea traffic as well as trade with the Caribbean countries of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. Read more

CARICOM condemns Trump’s reported statements on Haiti

Barbados Today: The 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) says it is deeply disturbed by reports about the use of “derogatory and repulsive language” by the president of the United States with respect to its member state, Haiti, and other developing countries. Read more

 

Belize votes to indefinitely end all oil exploration in its waters

Inhabitat: Belize has decided to indefinitely end all new oil exploration in its waters. Belize only produces 3,000 barrels of oil a day, in contrast to the 1.5 million barrels that the United States produces each day in the Gulf of Mexico. Read more

Trade attorney warns of the need for compliance with new EU data rules

Barbados Today: Local businesses are being told to prepare themselves for new data protection regulations that will affect trade with the European Union (EU). Read more

EU to target UK ‘tax haven’ territories as trade negotiations begin

The Independent: Demands to open up Britain’s shady network of overseas tax havens are set to be used by the EU as leverage to force concessions during Brexit trade talks, The Independent understands. Read more

CAL makes triumphant first trip to Cuba

LoopTT: Caribbean Airlines landed at the Jose Marti airport in Cuba ten minutes ahead of schedule on Saturday morning as it made its first flight to the Spanish island. Read more

INTERNATIONAL

Viet Nam files WTO complaint over US anti-dumping duties on fish

WTO: Viet Nam has requested WTO consultations with the United States concerning certain US anti-dumping laws, regulations, administrative procedures, practices and methodologies, as well as certain anti-dumping determinations in administrative reviews on fish fillets from Viet Nam. The request was circulated to WTO members on 12 January. Read more

Canada takes US to WTO in wide-ranging trade complaint

CBC (Canada): Canada has launched a wide-ranging trade dispute against the United States, challenging Washington’s use of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties, according to a World Trade Organization filing dated Dec. 20 and published Wednesday. Read more

Trump’s ‘Shithole’ Countries Are Worth $46.6 Billion in Trade to America

Newsweek: During a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform Thursday President Donald Trump fumed about the U.S. accepting immigrants from “shithole” countries. Yet the countries—and indeed continents—that angered him are worth billions in trade to America. Read more

Canadian officials believe that Trump is going to yank the US out of NAFTA

Business Insider: Canada is increasingly convinced that US President Donald Trump will soon announce that the United States intends to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), two government sources said on Wednesday. Read more

Brexit shock: No deal will cost EU £500billion

Sunday Express: Pressure was last night mounting on the EU to sign a free-trade agreement with Britain after a report revealed that a “no deal” scenario could cost the bloc more than £500billion. Read more

Preparations, but no NAFTA plan B yet, says trade minister

CTVNews: With the next round of NAFTA talks approaching, and uncertainty about where the U.S. stands from one day to the next, Canada’s International Trade Minister said there’s no clear “plan B” if the trilateral deal gets torn up. Read more

US looking at free trade agreement with India

Hindu Business Line: The US government is planning a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India in an effort to boost two-way trade that currently stands at $115 billion. Read more

Philip Hammond: Brexit trade deal without services not ‘realistic’ for UK

Politico: It is not a “realistic proposition” for the U.K. to accept a post-Brexit trade deal that does not include services and the EU would be “crazy” to cut itself off from London’s financial center, the British chancellor Philip Hammond said Saturday. Read more

Commerce submits steel imports report to Trump

Global Trade Mag: The United States Department of Commerce announced that it had submitted its report on the Section 232 investigation of steel imports to President Donald Trump. Read more

South Korea, Vietnam seek redress from US through WTO

CBC (Canada): South Korea has asked the World Trade Organization for authorisation to impose annual trade sanctions worth at least $711 million on the United States, a filing published by the World Trade Organization showed on Friday. Read more

Booming Global Trade helped China Exports Surge Last Year

Bloomberg: China’s exports rose in December, capping a year of stronger trade growth buoyed by a robust global economy. Read more

China eyes new stage of cooperation with Africa

Xinhua: With a key cooperation forum and the Belt and Road Initiative, China hopes to raise its cooperation with Africa to a new stage, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said. Read more

US says Vietnam should have notified eight state firms to WTO

Reuters: The United States has notified the World Trade Organization of eight Vietnamese firms it says should have been registered as state trading enterprises under the global trading rules, a U.S. filing published by the WTO showed on Thursday. 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 – January 1-6, 2018

Happy New Year! Welcome to the Caribbean Trade and Development Digest for the week of January 1-6, 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

Cuba’s Raul Castro Meets Top EU Diplomat to tighten relations

TeleSur: Cuban President Raul Castro met with the European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, at the end of her two-day visit to the country, seeking to construct and reinforce ties between EU member countries and Cuba. Read more

Exxon Mobil reports Oil Discovery off Guyana

Fox Business: Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) on Friday said it made another positive oil discovery off the coast of Guyana.  Read more

2017 gold declarations below target

Stabroek News: The Guyana Gold Board has recorded total gold declarations of 652,000 ounces for 2017, which is below the target of 720,000 ounces. Read more

Hurricane-hit Caribbean countries slash cost of Citizenship by Investment programs, says report

Nation News: Caribbean nations ravaged by recent hurricanes are selling citizenship at dramatically discounted prices in an effort to raise emergency funds, sparking concerns that the programmes may be vulnerable to abuse, according to reports here. Read more

Arrivals of US tourists to Cuba tripled in 2017

Caribbean News Digital: U.S. tourism to Cuba grew nearly threefold in 2017 over the previous year, mainly due to relaxation of travel ban, a Cuban official said Saturday. Read more

CARICOM moving to create first climate-resilient region

Jamaica Observer: Incoming chairman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse, says the regional grouping is moving towards creating the world’s first climate-resilient region this year. Read more

INTERNATIONAL

Will intra-African trade flourish in 2018?

The Herald: Overcoming the barriers for intra-African trade to double in a decade can feel like a Sisyphean task – impossible to complete. But that is the objective of the Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT) action plan, which targets to double flows between January 2012 and January 2022. Read more

Rwanda: AU Summit to discuss Continental Free Trade Area

AllAfrica: The upcoming 30th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Assembly of Heads of State and Government is expected to receive a progress report on the status of negotiations of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), an official has told Sunday Times. Read more

US Trade deficit hits $50.5 billion, biggest since 2012

ABCNews: The U.S. trade deficit rose to $50.5 billion in November, the largest imbalance in nearly six years, as imports and exports both hit records. Read more

Canada’s NAFTA charm offensive kicks into high gear

CBCNews: The new year begins with Canada relying on an old strategy for saving the North American Free Trade Agreement. Read more

UK seek free trade agreement covering goods and services in Phase Two

RTE: British Prime Minister Theresa May has said the UK will be looking for a free trade agreement with the EU that will cover goods and services in Phase Two of the Brexit negotiations this year. Read more

Tariffs to be slashed as China-Chile free trade agreement kicks in

China.org.cn: Nearly 98 percent of products traded between China and Chile will have zero tariffs attached when the new China-Chile free trade agreement is implemented in 2018, according to the Guangdong Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, reports Chinanews.com. Read more

Will 2018 be the year of protectionism? Trump alone will decide

New York Times: The Trump administration will soon face several major trade decisions that will determine whether the White House adopts the type of protectionist barriers that President Trump campaigned on but that were largely absent during his first year in office. Read more

Will global trade survive 2018?

Foreign Policy (Blog): The future of the global trade system faces more risk and uncertainty than at any time since it was created after World War II. Read more

Macron pursues ambitious agenda on first official China visit

RFI: French president, Emmanuel Macron’s heads to China Sunday hoping to forge closer ties with President Xi Jinping. During the three-day trip which begins Monday, Macron plans to seek a “strategic partnership” with Beijing, notably on terrorism and climate change, an official in the president’s office said. Read more

Why Britain should be allowed to join the TPP

The Strait Times: Analysis by James Crabtree Read more

US-Korea trade talks pit pickup trucks against nuclear threat

Reuters: The United States and South Korea on Friday completed the first round of review talks on a bilateral trade deal with Washington saying there was “much work to do” to reach a new pact.  Read more

Will there be a Pacific trade war in 2018?

Nikkei Asian Review: Analysis by Glen Fukushima Read more

New Chinese consul general talks tough on trade

Business in Vancouver: China is eager to conclude a free-trade agreement with Canada, but not at the expense of a set of “baseline” political principles seen as untouchable by Beijing, said the new top Chinese diplomat in the Western Canada region. Read more

How Nepal’s trade costs could be minimised

The Himalayan Times: A recent report jointly prepared by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP) titled ‘Trade and Transport Facilitation Monitoring Mechanism (TTFMM) in Nepal’ has suggested the government to set up the TTFMM institutional mechanism to monitor processes in certification, customs, transit and cargo transportation to bring down the cost of trade. Read more

Brexit: UK Government considers joining TPP trade agreement to help bolster economy after leaving EU

The Independent: Britain is exploring the possibility of joining a trans-Pacific trade bloc after Brexit in a bid to find alternative markets for exports that currently go to Europe, it has emerged. Read more

Brexit: May urged to stay in the single market by 20 British MEPs

The Guardian: Theresa May is being urged to change course and seek full membership of the European single market and customs union by 20 British MEPs, including three Tories and the majority of Labour politicians based in Brussels. Read more

Pressure grows for UK to bring ban on ivory trade

The Guardian: Consultation by the government shows huge public support for ending all sales. Read more

More than 2,300 EU academics resign amid warning over UK university ‘Brexodus’

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How can Caribbean CIPs survive increased global and regional competition and scrutiny?

Alicia Nicholls

Citizenship by investment programmes (CIPs) operated by five Caribbean small island developing States have been receiving increased international competition and scrutiny, with some arguing that a veritable “race to the bottom” has begun. Indeed, these programmes face increased competition not just inter se, but globally as more countries worldwide are turning to citizenship or residency programmes for attracting much needed investment.

The CIP-operating countries in the Caribbean are currently St. Kitts & Nevis (the world’s longest running), Dominica, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda and most recently, St. Lucia. As all five of these countries are part of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), investors who obtain citizenship under one of these countries’ CIPs are also entitled to the freedom of movement privileges under the CSME, which has caused legitimate national security concern in some non-CIP operating CARICOM countries.

  1. Eliminate price as a factor

Although Caribbean CIPs are already the most affordable in the world, there are irrefutable signs of increased price competition among Caribbean CIPs.  In January of this year, St. Lucia amended its regulations to, inter alia, reduce the minimum qualifying investment to US$ 100,000 to the National Economic Fund. In the wake of the passage of Hurricane Irma, St. Kitts & Nevis added a lower cost option (US$150,000 plus applicable fees) in the form of the temporary hurricane relief investment option (until March 2018), whereby the invested funds would be earmarked for assisting hurricane-affected areas. This latter change was sharply criticised. Even more recently, Antigua & Barbuda cut the investment threshold for the National Development Fund by 50%.

Any semblance of price competition among Caribbean CIPs is problematic for several reasons.  Although the majority of persons seeking alternative citizenship do so for the ease of business and travel a good quality passport brings, lowering the minimum investment threshold makes Caribbean CIPs more accessible to those persons who may seek alternative citizenship for nefarious purposes. Even if the due diligence processes remain unchanged, a perceived price war could cause third States to either reimpose visa restrictions or apply more scrutiny to passport holders of those States  (or of other Caribbean States!), which diminishes the value and attractiveness of those CIP-countries’ passports. It lessens the perceived value of the citizenship offered by those countries which may actually be a turn-off to some High Net Worth Individuals who may be more attracted to exclusivity.

What this speaks to is the need for CIP-operating Caribbean countries to eliminate price as a factor of competition by harmonising their minimum investment threshold, a point I made in a paper I delivered on this topic earlier this year.

2. Increase due diligence cooperation

Cooperation among CIP-operating Caribbean countries should also extend to cooperation on issues of due diligence to ensure that an applicant who fails one country’s due diligence requirements is not accepted under another’s. Based on my research, it appears that there is some due diligence cooperation already occurring, but more can be done. Additional options could be to harmonise due diligence requirements and to formulate a harmonised list of excluded countries instead of national lists as currently obtains in some CIP-operating Caribbean countries.  This would also address some of the national security concerns of non-CIP operating Caribbean countries, and third States.

3. Improve transparency

Lack of transparency remains a major problem plaguing the perception of Caribbean CIPs. Antigua & Barbuda’s legislation makes it mandatory for a 6-month report to be published and this information is found online. However, generally speaking, there is little information made available about Caribbean CIPs’ operation, except for the economic data found in the IMF’s Article IV consultation reports. With few exceptions, officials are often very reluctant to share data on these programmes’ operation, whether out of fear of competition or negative publicity.

Failure to share information only adds to the shroud of secrecy plaguing the programmes and it also makes it difficult to analyse the socio-economic impacts of these programmes.

It would be useful if CIP-operating Member States would use the framework for information sharing as mentioned in the Strategic Plan for the Caribbean Community Plan 2015-2019 to share data on the operation of their programmes for transparency purposes, including their approval and disapproval rates.

4. Compete on quality

Competition among Caribbean CIPs should be on quality of service and product without compromising standards. Caribbean countries already have inherent natural advantages which are pull factors for HWNIs, such as their natural beauty, pleasant climates, stable democratic societies and quality of life. But these alone are not enough. What the latest World Bank Doing Business Report 2018 shows is that there are several indicators on which Caribbean countries, including CIP-operating countries, can improve their attractiveness as investment destinations by improving the ease of doing business. Jamaica, which does not offer a CIP, is a good example of a Caribbean country which has been making sound reforms in the quest for  ‘best in class’ status as an investment destination.

5. Good governance

Good governance is key to the long-term sustainability of Caribbean CIPs. This includes ensuring that due diligence standards are robust, as well as that transparency and efficiency remain paramount to the programmes’ administration. It also entails keeping the programmes free of political interference.

6. Residency Criterion?

Currently, all five Caribbean CIPs are direct citizenship programmes which means that there is no requirement on the investor to reside in the jurisdiction for a fixed period of time before citizenship is granted. The lack of a residence requirement is one of the unique selling points of Caribbean programmes, but it is also one of the reasons why some third States are increasingly critical of these programmes.

The addition of  a short residency requirement, similar to Malta’s 12-month requirement, could be a possible option for Caribbean CIPs as it would remove some of the transactional nature to the process.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is a 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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