Belize undergoes third WTO Trade Policy Review
Photo credit: Alicia Nicholls 2016
Belize underwent its third World Trade Organisation (WTO) mandated Trade Policy Review over the period April 24th and 26th, 2017. Trade Policy Reviews are a mandatory exercise under the WTO’s Trade Policy Review Mechanism. Each WTO member country’s national trade and other trade-related policies are peer-reviewed by the Trade Policy Review Body (the WTO General Council acting under special rules and procedures).
The frequency of the reviews depends on the country’s share of world trade. The purpose of the trade policy reviews is to help to ensure transparency of member countries’ trade policies. Belize has previously undergone reviews in 2010 and 2004.
Some key findings from Belize’s 2017 review
These findings were taken from the WTO Secretariat Report and the Chairman’s concluding remarks.
The Report noted that several issues had affected Belize’s economy during the review period, including the decline in oil prices, disease outbreaks affecting its agriculture sector and the impact from the loss of correspondent banking relationships due to the de-risking practices of major global banks.
Areas of praise
Members praised Belize for the following:
- Its diversification into tourism which is now the major driver of the country’s economy, and the adoption of the country’s first National Trade Policy Framework.
- Belize’s participation in the WTO. Some members also suggested that the country establish a permanent mission in Geneva.
- Belize was commended for being among the first Members to ratify the Trade Facilitation Agreement and for having notified its Category A commitments. Belize also recently established a National Committee on Trade Facilitation
- Members commended Belize’s efforts to modernize its trade regime and customs procedures.
- Reduction by half of the number of products subject to import licensing, but some members noted that this was followed by tariffication, resulting in some applied MFN tariffs exceeding their bound rates.
- Noting Belize’s membership of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Members encouraged Belize to continue engagement in regional integration and trade liberalization schemes.
- Belize was commended for its acceptance of the Protocol amending the TRIPS Agreement; while some Members encouraged Belize to join the WIPO treaties.
- The establishment of Belize’s first Internet Exchange Point to reduce the costs of local internet traffic.
- Members acknowledged the recent reforms to Belize’s financial services regulatory framework.
- Some Members welcomed Belize’s efforts to improve its air transport infrastructure and air links, and encouraged Belize to replicate such efforts to enhance land and maritime transport.
Areas of concern
- Members, however, were concerned that Belize had not submitted notifications in a number of areas, and urged for compliance with the WTO requirements.
- Several Members highlighted Belize’s three incentive programmes granting export subsidies which should have been eliminated by 31 December 2015. However, they acknowledged Belize’s ongoing efforts to amend the relevant legislation.
As noted by the Chairman, Belize was commended for providing prompt and helpful answers to all written questions submitted in advance by members, as well as to all that came after the deadline.
Belize is the fourth WTO member country to undergo review so far for the year, following Sierra Leone, Japan and Mexico. The other CARICOM member state to be reviewed this year is Jamaica which will undergo its review on September 13 & 15.
The documents from Belize’s review, including the full WTO Secretariat Report and the Chairman’s Concluding Statement, may be viewed here.
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.