Monthly Archives: January 2019

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – January 20-26, 2019

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of January 20-26, 2019! We do apologise for the delay in this week’s issue. We are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

The big trade news this week is that on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland, some seventy-six World Trade Organisation (WTO) members agreed to launch negotiations on an e-commerce agreement.

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

REGIONAL

Tariff Flaws Crippling CARICOM Exports, Says Trade Expert

Jamaica Gleaner: Trade expert Karl Hyatt has called for meaningful amendments to the Common External Tariff (CET) now under review to address some of the entrenched flexibility that has been abused by some CARICOM states. Read more 

Dominica blasts international financial community over unilateral demands, calls for CARICOM unity

St Lucia News Online: The Dominica government Monday blasted the international community over its unilateral demands for tightening measures within the international financial services sector and again called for a united Caribbean Community (CARICOM) approach to the situation. Read more 

Jagdeo meets CARICOM Chairman on no-confidence motion

Stabroek: The Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo,  today met with the Chairman of CARICOM, Dr. Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and a team, including CARICOM-Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque , at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition on Church Street. The meeting discussed the no-confidence motion against the current APNU+AFC coalition government, a statement from Jagdeo’s office said. Read more 

Private Sector and Labour Leaders to Participate in Caricom Heads Meetings

JIS News: The revised Treaty of Chaguaramas is to be amended to allow representatives of the private sector and the Caribbean Congress of Labour to participate in CARICOM Heads of Government meetings, says Barbadian Prime Minister, Hon. Mia Mottley. Read more 

Statement by Heads of Government of CARICOM on Venezuela

CARICOM: The following Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago; Foreign Ministers of Grenada and Suriname;, meeting by video-conference on 24 January 2019, issued the following statement. Read more 

High level CARICOM talks held in Guyana

St. Kitts & Nevis Observer: The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and current Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, is currently in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana where he is holding several rounds of discussions with top level CARICOM officials, including Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque. Read more 

CARICOM Development Fund clinches US$1m pact with India

Stabroek: India and the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) signed a Contribution Agreement on January 19th, 2019, in Paramaribo Suriname which provides for a grant allocation of US$1m to the CDF’s capital fund. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

DAVOS-Nearly half WTO members agree to talks on new e-commerce rules

Reuters: Impatient with the lack of World Trade Organization rules to cover the explosive growth of e-commerce, 76 countries and regions agreed on Friday to start negotiating this year on a set of open and predictable regulations. Read more 

Uruguay diverges from Mercosur, aligns with Mexico on Venezuela crisis

Buenos Aires Times: Uruguay and Mexico call for peaceful resolution in a joint statement released Wednesday, after opposition leader Juan Guaido declares himself interim president. Read more 

Brexit trade deal agreed by British and Israeli ministers, in principle

Jewish News: British and Israeli ministers have announced that they have agreed a post-Brexit trade agreement in principle. Read more 

Brexit: New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern says trade deal ‘a priority’

BBC: New Zealand’s prime minister has said she is “ready and willing” to sign a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK. Jacinda Ardern said negotiating a free trade agreement would be a “real priority” once the UK had left the EU. Read more

Japan-U.S. talks on bilateral trade deal likely to face delay

Japan Times: Japan and the United States are unlikely to open negotiations on a proposed bilateral trade pact before the end of this month, due chiefly to the prolonged partial U.S. government shutdown, sources have said. Read more 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: The US is still ‘miles and miles’ from a trade deal with China

CNBC: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday the U.S. is still “miles and miles” from a trade deal with China. Read more

No Sweeping Free Trade Deal, Brussels Tells Washington

Foreign Policy: Six months after U.S. President Donald Trump proclaimed he’d already reached a trade deal with the European Union, Brussels has only now laid out its preliminary conditions for talks. Read more 

Expert urges caution over speedy trade deal with EU

Radio New Zealand: A trade expert is advising negotiators not to rush a free trade agreement with the European Union, New Zealand’s third largest export market. Read more

Brexit: Liam Fox yet to seal no-deal trade agreements

BBC: The UK has yet to finalise agreements to replace existing free trade deals the EU has with 40 big economies if there is a no-deal Brexit. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said he “hoped” they would but it depended on whether other countries were “willing to put the work in”. Read more 

WTO NEWS

United States appeals panel report regarding US duties on Turkish pipe and tube products

WTO: The United States filed an appeal on 25 January concerning the WTO panel report in the case brought by Turkey in “United States — Countervailing Measures on Certain Pipe and Tube Products” (DS523). The panel report was circulated to WTO members on 18 December 2018. Read more 

DG Azevêdo meets ministers in Davos: discussions focus on reform; progress on e-commerce

WTO: Participating in a series of ministerial discussions during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos this week, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo reviewed the challenges and opportunities facing global trade today, and stressed that the trading system must evolve if it is to remain relevant. Read more 

DDG Yi stresses importance of WTO-APEC cooperation in crucial period for global trade

WTO: Deputy Director-General Yi Xiaozhun has stressed the importance of exploiting the synergies between the WTO and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in a crucial period for global trade. Read more 

Registration opens for public hearing in “US — Countervailing Measures on Softwood Lumber from Canada”

WTO: At the request of the parties in the dispute “US — Countervailing Measures on Softwood Lumber from Canada” (DS533), the panel has decided to open its first substantive meeting to public observation on 26, 27, and 28 February 2019. The live screening will take place at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva. Read more 

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

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‘Brexit Plan B’: Key Points from PM May’s Speech

Alicia Nicholls

After suffering a historic and crushing rejection  of her Draft Withdrawal deal in the House of Commons and barely surviving a no confidence vote brought by the Leader of the Opposition last week, United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Theresa May today outlined her ‘Brexit Plan B’ in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister May is in the unenviable position of having to formulate an alternative Brexit Plan which secures the support of MPs of diverging views on the way forward for Brexit, and which would be palatable to the EU. All the while the clock continues to tick on the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU on March 29, 2019, now less than seventy days away. In an effort to break the Brexit impasse, Mrs. May has been holding talks with leaders of the major parties in Parliament.

Prime Minister May noted that in light of Parliament’s overwhelming rejection of the current withdrawal agreement, it was clear that the Government’s approach had to change. But has it?

Here are the key points from Prime Minister May’s address:

  1. While the Prime Minister noted that a ‘no deal’ Brexit should be avoided, she did not explicitly rule it out as an option. Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has indicated he would not participate in talks with the Prime Minister, unless the ‘no deal’ option is off the table.
  2. Prime Minister May, however, explicitly ruled out the revocation of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) as an option, saying doing this would go against the referendum result of June 23, 2016.
  3. Prime Minister May also ruled out seeking an extension of Article 50 of the TEU, doubting that the EU-27 would agree to any such extension.
  4. She again stated her opposition to a second referendum saying it would set a dangerous precedent for how referendums are handled in the UK. She noted that it would also require an extension of Article 50 and could damage social cohesion in the UK by undermining faith in their democracy. She also doubted there was a majority in the House for a second referendum.
  5. She has promised a more ‘flexible, open and inclusive’ approach in how her Government engages Parliament in the negotiation of the UK’s future partnership with the EU. The Government will consult the Parliament on its negotiating mandate for the next phase of negotiations.
  6. She also promised a more consultative approach, and greater engagement with the devolved administrations, elected representatives in Northern Ireland and regional representatives in England, businesses, civil society and trade unions.
  7. She emphasized that the UK’s exit from the EU should not erode the UK’s protection for environment standards or workers rights and that they would support the proposed amendment to the meaningful vote that Parliament should be able to consider any changes in these areas made by the EU.
  8.  In perhaps the only major policy change of note, Prime Minister May noted that her Government will scrap the £65 fee for EU nationals resident in the UK to register to remain in the UK following Brexit. Those who apply in the pilot phase will have their fees reimbursed. She recommitted to EU nationals resident in the UK continuing to access benefits in the UK both in a deal and no deal scenario.
  9. With regard to the controversial Irish backstop option in the current Withdrawal Agreement, Prime Minister May vaguely noted that her Government will work to identify how they could ensure that they respect the terms of the Belfast Agreement and their commitment to no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in such a way that commands the support of the parliament and the EU.

In substance, there was little difference between Prime Minister May’s Plan A and the Plan B outlined. Members of Parliament will vote on the Plan B on January 29, 2019, which would pretty much be the same as the Plan A which they so soundly rejected by 230 votes last week.

The next phase will be continued discussions between Mrs. May and MPs and other stakeholders, which would (or should) inform Mrs. May’s re-engagement with the EU on the way forward.  The uncertainty continues, but it appears that a ‘no deal Brexit’ is increasingly more likely. This also comes against the backdrop of the International Monetary Fund’s downward revision of its global growth forecast, warning today (and not for the first time) that a ‘no deal Brexit’ was a major risk for the global economy.

The text of Prime Minister May’s speech 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 and Development Digest – January 13 – 19, 2019

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of January 13-19, 2019! We are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

Brexit turbulence has dominated the headlines for yet another week. British MPs, as expected, voted against the current Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government with the EU. With 432 votes against, versus just 202 in favour of the deal, it was the biggest legislative loss for a British Government in modern British history. Coupled with narrowly surviving a no confidence motion brought by the Leader of the main opposition, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, Prime Minister May now has three days  (until Monday) to bring a ‘Brexit Plan B’ to Parliament.

On January 19, 2018, the eleven parties to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) held their first ministerial meeting since its entry into force on December 30, 2018, in Japan this week.

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

REGIONAL

Trump weighs dramatic tightening of embargo on Cuba

Associated Press: The Trump administration is weighing what could become the most serious tightening of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba in more than two decades — a move that could unleash a flurry of lawsuits against foreign companies that have invested on the island. Read more 

Shaw wants more aggressive approach to trade facilitation programme

Jamaica Observer: Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw has called on Government agencies and departments to move with a greater sense of urgency to facilitate trade and the private sector’s need for a more responsive Government. Read more

Cuba, Iran to improve trade relations

Prensa Latina: The 17th Session of the Cuba-Iran Intergovernmental Commission, whose main goal is to expand collaboration on various economic and social areas, has concluded on Wednesday in Havana. Read more 

Antigua & Barbuda hit visitor arrival record 

Caribbean360: Antigua and Barbuda welcomed over one million visitors to the destination in 2018, topping 2017 figures and leading Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Tourism Charles Fernandez to call 2018, “a record-setting year” for the twin-island nation. Read more

Correspondent banking still an issue for CARICOM

Love FM (Belize): Plaguing Belize and other Caribbean countries is the issue of correspondent banking, CARICOM along with groups have been lobbying for restored relations. Read more

Jamaica says buy-back of Petrojam shares not a CARICOM issue

Jamaica Observer: Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has dismissed Opposition criticisms that the Government has not involved the Caribbean Community (Caricom) in its negotiation of a buy-back of the 49 per cent shares in Petrojam from Venezuela. Read more 

Gopee-Scoon: TT preparing for Brexit

Newsday: Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon on Wednesday said TT was doing what it could to deal with the outcome of the Brexit process in the UK. Read more

PM: OAS vote on Venezuela was in Trinidad’s interest

Newsday: The Prime Minister says the decision to abstain on a vote by the Organisation of American States to not recognise the legitimacy of the presidency of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was done in the country’s interest. Read more 

Trinidad & Tobago Rice production plummets 97%

Newsday: LOCAL rice production has plummeted about 97 per cent in the past 26 years and 95 per cent of what is currently produced is used as input for animal feed. Read more

Jamaica exports grew 17.6% in Q1 2018

Jamaica Gleaner: Exports of Jamaica increased 17.6 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, according to an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report which said that sales from Latin America and the Caribbean to overseas markets were the highest in six years. Read more

Arley Gill to be Grenada’s new ambassador to CARICOM

Now Grenada: Arley Gill is nominated to be Grenada’s new ambassador to CARICOM. Read more

IDB: Latin America, Caribbean register highest exports in six years 

Jamaica Gleaner: The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says exports from Latin America and the Caribbean, including Jamaica, hit their highest level in six years as a result of a 9.9 per cent increase in 2018, albeit amid growing downside risks in the future. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

These are the biggest risks to the global economy in 2019

World Economic Forum: Major risks include a growth recession in China, a rise in global long-term real interest rates, and a crescendo of populist economic policies that undermine the credibility of central bank independence, resulting in higher interest rates on safe, advanced-country government bonds. Read more 

Expansion of Pacific trade deal discussed at ministerial meeting in Tokyo

Japan Times: The 11 members of a trans-Pacific free trade agreement on Saturday held their first ministerial meeting since the pact entered into force, discussing its future expansion as well as how to counter the rise of protectionism. Read more 

China Offers a Path to Eliminate U.S. Trade Imbalance, Sources Say

Bloomberg: China has offered to go on a six-year buying spree to ramp up imports from the U.S., in a move that would reconfigure the relationship between the world’s two largest economies, according to officials familiar with the negotiations. Read more 

Malaysia hopes for RCEP to finalise by end-2019

New Strait Times: Malaysia hopes to conclude talks with other Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) member countries by the end of this year. Read more 

CPTPP members signal intent to expand the agreement

Strait Times: Members of a landmark 11-nation Pacific Rim trade deal have signalled their openness to expand the agreement by taking in new members to form a stronger united front against the rise of protectionism. Read more 

Climate change clouds Australia’s Pacific charm offensive 

ABS-CBN: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Pacific charm offensive went off course on Friday when he was forced to defend Fiji’s accusations of inaction over climate change.  Read more

India keen on closer trade ties with neighbours

Daily Star: India is keenly promoting the trade potential of its northeastern states because it would not only give an economic boost to the region but also enable closer engagement with Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan. Read more

Can ASEAN cope with the trade war?

Strait Times: Asean is facing a prolonged period of heightened United States-China competition and, hence, of greater uncertainty. The most obvious manifestation of this new phase in relations between the two nations is the so-called “trade war”. Read more

Trudeau’s U.S. Envoy Confident on USMCA Passage, Tariff Relief

Bloomberg: Canada’s ambassador to Washington is confident that the U.S. will both pass the revised North American trade deal and lift tariffs on steel and aluminum. Read more 

New trade agreements secure Australian exports to Britain post-Brexit

Sydney Morning Herald: Australia and Britain have signed a new bilateral Wine Agreement and Mutual Recognition Agreement overnight in London, which will help ensure the continued flow of trade post-Brexit. Read more 

Lifting trade barriers key to Africa’s economic emergence, DP World chairman says

The National: DP World’s chairman urged African leaders to lift barriers on trade after the global ports operator last year pushed to expand its footprint in the continent where it faces some opposition to its operations. Read more 

AfCFTA seeks to increase intra-Africa trade

KBC (Kenya): African states are nearing the threshold of 22 countries to help operationalise the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Read more 

Vietnam-Africa trade reaches US$6.6 million in 2018

Nhan Dan Online: Bilateral trade between Vietnam and African nations hit US$6.6 billion in 2018, with Vietnam’s exports worth US$3 billion, up 10% from the previous year. Read more 

Voters would back remaining in EU over May’s Brexit deal

The Guardian: Opinium poll for the Observer finds only 35% of voters would back Theresa May’s deal if remain was an option. Read more 

Brexit; Theresa May’s deal is voted down in historic defeat 

BBC: Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been rejected by 230 votes – the largest defeat for a sitting government in history. MPs voted by 432 votes to 202 to reject the deal, which sets out the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU on 29 March. Read more

Theresa May survives vote, Britain remains in Brexit deadlock

The Guardian: Theresa May has survived as prime minister after weathering a dramatic no-confidence vote in her government, but was left scrambling to strike a Brexit compromise that could secure the backing of parliament. Read more 

May scrambles to agree plan B for Brexit ahead of deadline

Sky News: The PM will meet with cabinet ministers at her Chequers retreat but has until Monday to come up with a new plan for Brexit. Read more

Amazon warns UK sellers to prepare for no-deal Brexit disruption to deliveries

Independent: Amazon has warned UK businesses trading through its online marketplace to prepare for a no-deal Brexit or risk not being able to sell to customers in the EU. Read more 

Brexit: Liam Fox yet to seal no-deal trade agreements

BBC: The UK has yet to finalise agreements to replace existing free trade deals the EU has with 40 big economies if there is a no-deal Brexit. Read more 

The EU moves forward efforts at UN on multilateral reform of ISDS

EU: Today, the EU and its Member States submitted two papers to the UN Working Group under the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). The Working Group has been tasked with examining reform of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Read more 

EU-US Trade Talks: European Commission presents draft negotiating mandates

EU: The European Commission has today adopted proposals for negotiating directives for its trade talks with the United States: one on conformity assessment, and one on the elimination of tariffs for industrial goods. Read more 

EU imposes safeguard measures on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar

EU: An investigation has confirmed a significant increase of imports of Indica rice from Cambodia and Myanmar into the European Union that has caused economic damage to European producers. The European Commission has therefore decided today to re-introduce import duties that will be steadily reduced over a period of three years. Read more

EU Chief Negotiator updates civil society on the state of play of negotiations with Mercosur

EU: On Tuesday 15 January the European Commission held a meeting with civil society representatives on the state of play of trade negotiations between the EU and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay). Read more 

EU requests bilateral dispute settlement consultations with Ukraine over wood export ban

EU: The EU has formally requested consultations with Ukraine under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement on Ukraine’s export ban on unprocessed wood. Read more 

European Commission set to adopt definitive safeguard measures on imports of steel

EU: The European Commission welcomes the support received yesterday from Member States to its plan to impose definitive safeguard measures on imports of steel. Read more 

WTO NEWS 

General Council Chair appoints facilitator to address disagreement on Appellate Body

WTO: General Council Chair Junichi Ihara of Japan has appointed Amb. David Walker of New Zealand to assist him in working with WTO members to resolve differences on the urgent matter of the functioning of the organization’s Appellate Body. Read more

Venezuela initiates WTO dispute case against Colombia regarding liquid fuel restrictions

WTO: Venezuela has requested WTO dispute consultations with Colombia regarding certain Colombian measures affecting the distribution of liquid fuels. Venezuela’s request was circulated to WTO members on 14 January. Read more 

Members review US request for panel on Turkish duties, adopt rulings on Brazil tax, US tuna

WTO: At a meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) on 11 January, WTO members considered a request from the United States for the establishment of a panel to rule on additional duties levied by Turkey on certain US imports. WTO members also formally adopted panel and Appellate Body rulings concerning tax measures in Brazil used to promote domestic production of automotive and high-tech goods as well as revised US “dolphin-safe” tuna labelling requirements. Read more 

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

Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Overwhelmingly Rejected by British MPs

Alicia Nicholls

With just over seventy days to go before the United Kingdom’s (UK) impending withdrawal from the European Union (EU) on March 29, 2019, British Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly against the current Draft Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government. With only 202 MPs voting in favour and 432 voting against the deal, the 230 margin of defeat represents the worst legislative defeat inflicted on a British Government in modern history.

The vote, termed the ‘meaningful vote’, was highly anticipated. Originally scheduled for last December, Prime Minister May had postponed the vote at the last minute in the face of overwhelming opposition to the current deal, particularly the fall-back provisions on the Northern Ireland/Ireland Border – the so-called ‘backstop’. In the interim, Mrs. May unsuccessfully sought to obtain greater concessions from the EU in order to assuage skeptics, including those in her own party. However, the EU had been adamant that the  500-page Draft Withdrawal Agreement was not open for renegotiation.

Indeed, the reaction by the EU to the outcome has been swift. In a statement released immediately thereafter, President of the EU Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, lamented that “the risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening’s vote.” President Juncker further reiterated that “the Withdrawal Agreement is a fair compromise and the best possible deal. It reduces the damage caused by Brexit for citizens and businesses across Europe. It is the only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.”

In her remarks after the outcome, Mrs. May lamented that the vote gave no indication of what the Parliament does support. She promised to continue her pursuit of Brexit as instructed by the British people in their referendum result of 2016. She has again ruled out a second referendum. However, her future appears to be in the balance. Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has called for a general election, has immediately tabled a motion of no confidence which will be debated tomorrow. In December, Mrs. May survived a no confidence motion within her own party.

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 1 – 13, 2019

Happy New Year! Welcome to the first Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for 2019! We do hope you all had an enjoyable holiday season! In this first edition for 2019, we are happy to bring you the latest trade and development news and analysis for  January 1-12, 2019

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

US and Chinese negotiators met in Beijing from January 7-9 for their first round of US-China trade talks since their declaration of a 90-day tariff truce in December last year. The US-China talks have been hailed as positive by both sides, but the two economic behemoths are still a long ways off from resolving their long-simmering trade differences. The USTR statement released following the conclusion of the talks may be read here, while a translated version of the statement released by China is available here.

While welcomed, the truce may be “too little, too late”. In its Global Economic Prospects – January 2019 report, ominously titled ‘Darkening Skies’, the World Bank has warned of a darkening outlook for the global economy in 2019 in the face of still elevated trade tensions and softening global trade and investment.

The Brexit chaos continues…The British House of Commons MPs last week voted to require the Prime Minister to present to Parliament a ‘Plan B’ within three-days if MPs reject the current Draft Withdrawal Agreement in their upcoming vote this Tuesday (January 15th). Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn is calling for a general election to break the Brexit ‘deadlock’.

Regionally, Prime Minister of St. Kitts & Nevis, Dr. The Hon. Timothy Harris, has assumed chairmanship of CARICOM (January – June 2019) under the grouping’s rotating chairmanship. Dr. Harris’ New Year’s message as incoming chairman may be viewed here.

The CARICOM divide on the question of Venezuela has widened as some CARICOM Member States voted in favour of, and some against, an OAS Permanent Council resolution to not recognise the second term of Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro. Some CARICOM Member States abstained.

Several Caribbean offshore financial centres, including some British Overseas Territories, have been included in a blacklist by the Government of the Netherlands. The backlash by the countries unfairly named has been swift.

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

REGIONAL

Jamaica takes action to safeguard energy security

JIS News: In an effort to safeguard Jamaica’s energy security, the Government will take legislative action to retake ownership of the 49 per cent shares in Petrojam, which is held by the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company, PDV Caribe. Read more 

Joining WTO no ‘snap election’ decision

Tribune242: Jeffrey Beckles, the newly-appointed Chamber of Commerce chief executive, told Tribune Business that deciding whether or not it was in The Bahamas’ best interests to become a full World Trade Organisation (WTO) member was a decision that will impact all citizens “for the rest of our lives”. Read more

‘Buy Bahamian’ best defence under WTO

Tribune242: Zhivargo Laing, pictured, speaking as he unveiled The Bahamas’ initial goods and services offers that kickstarted the process of accession to full WTO membership, conceded that Bahamian manufacturers and other vulnerable industries would face intense pricing and other competitive pressures if they lost their existing tariff protection as a result. Read more 

Dutch blacklist unjustified diversion tactic

Caribbean News Now: The Cayman Islands government has accused The Netherlands of including the British territory on its separate blacklist as a way of diverting criticisms of its own tax practices by attacking legitimate tax regimes. Read more 

Regional trade with the US

Trinidad Guardian: T&T exporters to the US could lose up to US$400 million in special tariff benefits next year if the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) fails to be renewed when it crosses US President Donald Trump’s desk this year, senior trade consultants calculated last week. Read more 

Cuba to expand facilities for foreign trade

Caribbean News Now: Cuba will develop an integrated digital platform this year in order to facilitate foreign trade operations, which will be linked to the simplification of procedures for the export and import of goods. Read more 

Jamaica’s trade deficit with CARICOM widens

Jamaica Gleaner: Jamaica’s trade deficit with the Caribbean Community, (CARICOM), increased to US$351.2 million during the period January to October last year, according to the figures released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN). Read more 

EU provides millions in budgetary support to Montserrat

Caribbean360: The European Union has disbursed EC$17.55 million (US$6.5 million) to the Government of Montserrat as the first fixed tranche under the Multi Sector Sustainable Economic Development Budget Support Programme. Read more 

CARICOM remains divided on Venezuela

TV6: The Bahamas, Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti and St. Lucia supported an Organization of American States (OAS) resolution not recognising the legitimacy of Maduro’s second term as president of Venezuela, while Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname voted against the measure. Read more 

Venezuela plans to remap its offshore oil territory

Yahoo Finance: Venezuela will remap its Caribbean oil and gas prospects in a move that could further stoke a century-long border dispute with Guyana and collide with Exxon Mobil Corp.’s venture in the region, people with knowledge of the plan said. Read more

PM Skerrit wants a united approach to investment programme

Jamaica Gleaner: Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has criticised the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for labelling several Caribbean countries as tax havens and called for a unified regional approach to deal with the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI). Read more 

Ross University Opens in Barbados and Officials Say the Spin-offs Will Benefit Local Education

Caribbean360: The opening of the Ross University School of Medicine’s main campus in Barbados is expected to bring with it a number of benefits to local health care and education. Read more 

Global coconut profile opening huge opportunity for Caribbean economies. But will they seize it?

Stabroek: What is being regarded globally as a breakthrough period for the coconut industry linked to skyrocketing demand for coconut water, oil and other products is being regarded as an opportunity for the region which it cannot afford to pass up. Read more 

Gonsalves reiterates call for unity 

Jamaica Gleaner: Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves yesterday reiterated a call for the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to adopt a united position regarding the European Union’s request that regional countries pass legislation to deal with what Europe has termed ‘economic substance”. Read more 

Sir Dennis praises Caribbean Court of Justice’s achievements

St Kitts & Nevis Observer: Former President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the Right Honourable Sir Dennis Byron, a native of St. Kitts and Nevis, has praised the accomplishments of the Trinidad-based court, which was established in 2005 to replace the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the region’s final court and to function as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

Juncker hints at helping out Theresa May over Brexit deal 

The Guardian: has signalled that he will offer a last-minute helping hand to Theresa May in her bid to get her Brexit deal passed by MPs – but hinted at deep scepticism in Brussels at her chances of success. Read more

Macron vows to exclude UK creative industries from future EU deal 

Sunday Express: French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to restrict market access to the European Union’s markets for Britain’s creative industry in order to protect “cultural diversity” in France. Read more 

US Recession Risks Hit Six-Year High Amidst Trade War and Shutdown 

Bloomberg: Economists put the risk of a U.S. recession at the highest in more than six years amid mounting dangers from financial markets, a trade war with China and the federal-government shutdown. Read more 

Air freight demand flat in November 

IATA: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets showing that demand, measured in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs), was flat (0%) in November 2018, compared to the same period the year before. This was the slowest rate of growth recorded since March 2016, following 31 consecutive months of year-on-year increases. Read more 

Beijing says latest US-China trade talks were extensive, made progress on forced tech transfers

CNBC: In a Thursday morning statement, China’s Commerce Ministry said the just-concluded round of trade talks with the U.S. were extensive and established a foundation for the resolution of each others’ concerns. Read more 

What is stopping India from joining RCEP trade deal?

Economic Times: If you have been paying attention to developments in global trade, you would already know that the contours of what is poised to become the world’s largest trading bloc is taking shape. India and 15 other nations in Asia and Asia-Pacific regions have been working to sew up contentious remaining areas, forge an agreement and put in place a deal by the end of 2019.  Read more

Design of single African Union passport for all to be unveiled this year

Euronews: The African Union (AU) is set to reveal the design of a passport for all countries, bringing the continent one step closer to completely free movement. Read more

US and China wrap up trade talks in Beijing. What happens next?

CNN: US and Chinese negotiators wrapped up three days of trade talks in Beijing on Wednesday as they seek a way out of the damaging trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. Read more 

New database of all subsidies investigated by EU

EU: The European Commission has made a new database of all its anti-subsidy investigations available on the DG Trade website. Read more

Storm Clouds are brewing for the global economy

World Bank: Growth in emerging market and developing economies is expected to remain flat in 2019. The pickup in economies that rely heavily on commodity exports is likely to be much slower than hoped for. Growth in many other economies is anticipated to decelerate. Read more 

WTO seeks to ban government raids on corporate data

Nikkei Asian Review: As countries such as China tighten control over information flowing across their borders, a group of World Trade Organization members led by the U.S., the European Union, Japan, Singapore and Australia will propose rules that prohibit excessive interference by governments into business-related data. Read more 

Carr to rejoin ‘like-minded’ for next talks on WTO reform at Davos

CBC (Canada): International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr’s office has confirmed he’s attending the next gathering of 13 members of the World Trade Organization looking to reform the institution in the face of ongoing threats to the rules-based multilateral trading system. Read more 

Europe ready to help with WTO reform

The Atlantic: A multilateral effort needs to be made to save the World Trade Organization (WTO), the European Union’s Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on January 10, noting that the twenty-four-year-old intergovernmental body to regulate international trade is “under increasing pressure.” Read more 

Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn demands election to ‘break deadlock’

BBC: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has stepped up calls for a general election “at the earliest opportunity” to “break the deadlock” over Brexit. Read more 

WTO NEWS

Philippines launches safeguard investigation on ceramic floor and wall tiles

WTO: On 11 January 2019, the Philippines notified the WTO’s Committee on Safeguards that it had decided to initiate on 20 December 2018 a safeguard investigation on ceramic floor and wall tiles. Read more

Venezuela initiates WTO dispute complaint against US measures on goods and services

WTO: Venezuela has requested WTO dispute consultations with the United States regarding US measures affecting goods and services of Venezuelan origin. Venezuela’s request was circulated to WTO members on 8 January. Read more

Turkey launches safeguard investigation on yarn of nylon or other polyamides

WTO: On 3 January 2019, Turkey notified the WTO’s Committee on Safeguards that it initiated on 30 December 2018 a safeguard investigation on yarn of nylon or other polyamides. Read more 

Madagascar launches safeguard investigation on detergent powder

WTO: On 7 January 2019, Madagascar notified the WTO’s Committee on Safeguards that it had decided to initiate on 31 December 2018 a safeguard investigation on detergent powder. Read more

NEW ON THE CTLD BLOG

In Has Canada become Collateral Damage in the US-China Trade War?, our frequent blog contributor, Renaldo Weekes, explores the case involving the arrest of Huawei’s CFO and whether Canada is an unwitting casualty of the US-China trade war.

Have a read of my first blog for the year, Global Trade Policy in 2019: What to Watch?taking a look at the major trade policy news from 2018 and what we’ll be keeping an eye on for 2019!

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

Has Canada become Collateral Damage in the US-China Trade War?

Renaldo Weekes, Guest Contributor 

The trade tensions between the United States (US) and China have subsided for a while as each side has promised not to introduce new tariffs during a 90 day period starting from December 1, 2018, when US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a dinner at the G-20 summit in Argentina. Negotiations resume on January 7, 2019 and, so far, it seems that not much has changed as both have committed to their previous stances on the matter. However, the overall context of the negotiations has changed. Canada has arrested Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the US’ request. Shortly thereafter, China arrested two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Many see China’s actions as a tit-for-tat response to Meng’s arrest and wonder if Canada will now become collateral damage in a trade war between the US and China.

Why were Meng and the Canadian duo arrested?

Meng has been accused by the US of allegedly violating its sanctions on Iran by defrauding multiple US banks. On a layover in Canada, she was arrested by Canadian authorities on request from the US. She has since posted bail and is required to wear an ankle monitor and stay in her residence from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. Kovrig and Spavor were arrested on suspicion of engaging in activities that were considered as breaching national security. The pair reportedly is subjected to three interrogations a day, must sleep with the lights, does not have access to legal representation and can only have consular visits once a month. Both Canada and China have denied that the arrests of the Canadian pair are related in any way to the arrest of Meng Wanzhou but Canada has said that the arrests were unfounded.

Did Meng’s arrest influence Kovrig and Spavor’s arrests?

Some may see it as a coincidence that Kovrig and Spavor, both Canadians, were arrested in China shortly after Meng, a Chinese heavy-weight, was arrested in Canada. As mentioned earlier, both countries have denied that the arrests are related. However, some persons, including former diplomats, are quite sure that the opposite is true. Reportedly, Chinese officials are concerned about Meng’s arrest. A Canadian parliamentary delegation, currently in China, has engaged in talks with Chinese officials about the pair of Canadians they arrested.  The officials demanded to know why Canada arrested Meng. It is public knowledge that Canada has detained Meng for bank fraud on the US’ request but it seems as though the Chinese believe there is more to the arrest than meets the eye. Fearing the worst, they may have retaliated by detaining two Canadians in order to keep Canada in check. It seems probable that Meng’s arrest had an impact China’s decision to arrest the Canadians.

Do the arrests have an effect on the trade war?

The trade war between the US and China has been quite contentious as each side continually laid tariffs on the other party’s goods until recently. When dealing with any high stakes negotiation such as this one, persons may wonder if external issues would impact the talks. This is especially the case in the current situation as the US has pointed out many problems it wants China to fix such as alleged forced transfer of intellectual property from foreign companies and restricted market access. There is also the issue of the disputed South China Sea where, as recently as today (Monday, January 7, 2018), China claimed that the US violated its domestic and international law by performing acts interpreted as provocation near the sea.

As it relates to the arrests, China’s actions may be ostensibly seen as its modus operandi whenever one of its citizens is arrested overseas, and not related to the trade war. In a previous tit-for-tat situation in 2014, Canadian aid workers Kevin and Julia Garratt were detained for the same national security reasons as the pair of Michaels shortly after Canada arrested Su Bin, a Chinese man wanted for industrial espionage in the US. Mrs. Garratt was released on bail while Mr. Garratt remained detained for more than two years until his eventual deportation, which occurred after Su Bin was extradited to the US and sentenced.

However, as mentioned earlier, Chinese officials seem to believe that Meng’s arrest was political. One may infer that the Chinese may not want the US to receive Meng as this may give additional leverage to the US in the trade talks. China’s paranoia may have been bolstered by comments President Trump made which insinuated that Meng’s arrest may assist in securing the “the largest trade deal ever made.” China may, therefore, seek to create its own leverage by punishing Canada, a US ally, in whatever way it can. China may refrain from committing any additional acts that directly affect the US but still continue current acts with which the US is concerned.

Canada’s situation

Canada is in a sticky situation. China will continue to punish Canada until it secures Meng’s release. Though it is a US ally, Canada’s citizens are the ones being used as pawns in China’s game so it will have to navigate this situation mostly on its own merit. This situation can be, theoretically, immediately remedied by Canada releasing Meng, rejecting the US’ extradition request. China may likely release the Canadians in return and refocus its attention solely on the US. However, this decision cannot be made lightly. Should Canada disregard all credible evidence of Meng’s crimes in order to appease China or will it repeat its 2014 decision of extradition? When weighing this decision against the well-being of your own citizens, it is not an easy decision to make. Canada must keep in mind that this is not a simple tit-for-tat situation for China as is usually the case but a piece on the battlefield. China cannot allow the US to gain what it sees as additional leverage. This ostensibly personal spat is being fought against the backdrop of the US-China trade war.

If Canada arrested Meng outside of the context of a trade war between the US and China, the situation probably would have been the same. The US would have still made the request to Canada as Meng’s arrest was predicated on her committing bank fraud with the intent of violating the US’ sanctions on Iran. China would have still arrested the two Canadians in retaliation since this is its established modus operandi. The weighing of Meng’s crimes versus its citizens’ well-being would still be an issue. As mentioned earlier, the US has a number of issues with China’s actions. Therefore, if not the trade war, Canada may have been collateral damage in some other dispute. It is safe to conclude that Canada is indeed collateral damage in the US-China trade war. However, the trade war is just the biggest of many disputes that have the potential to create more collateral damage.

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

Global Trade Policy in 2019: What to Watch?

This article has been updated.

Alicia Nicholls

Happy New Year to all! 2018 was without doubt a nail-biting year for global trade policy developments. In our first blog for the year, we take a look back at some of the key trade policy developments in 2018 and five developments to watch for 2019!

  1. US-China Trade Tensions and Truce?

Starting with the scary; 2018 saw an escalation in global trade tensions among major trading powers. Without doubt, the election of President Donald Trump in the US in 2016 has led to a more nationalistic, protectionist and unilateral turn in US trade and foreign policy. Under his ‘America First’ ideology, President Trump issued proclamations hiking tariffs on imported steel and aluminum under the guise of national security, with only a small handful of countries being spared.

Tensions between the US and its other key trading partners, such as Canada and the EU, were inflamed, but China was the main target of US trade action. According to the BBC, the US has imposed tariffs on over $250 billion dollars of Chinese goods and had threatened an additional $260 billion, while China has imposed tariffs on $50 billion dollars of US goods and threatened tariffs on an additional $60 billion. Both countries agreed to a truce in December to suspend any further tariff impositions for a 90-day period while talks resume.

Trade talks held between the US and China this week have been hailed as positive by both sides, but the two economic behemoths are still a long way from resolving long-simmering tensions. US President Donald Trump appears confident that China will acquiesce to the US’ demands given the current slowdown in the Chinese economy. However, the US has not escaped the trade tensions unharmed as, for example,  soybean farmers have been affected by the reduced Chinese demand for their produce.

The WTO has warned that the uncertainty around the escalating trade tensions was beginning to adversely impact business and investment confidence, with potential implications for continued global trade growth. Moreover, in its Global Economic Prospects – January 2019 report, ominously titled ‘Darkening Skies’, the World Bank has warned of darkening clouds over the global economy and softening global trade and investment flows.

2. WTO Reform

On the multilateral scene, the crisis in the WTO’s Appellate Body due to the US’ blockage of appointments appears to have given new political will and urgency to the need to reform the WTO, which is facing its greatest existential crisis since its founding in 1995.

The US’ continued blockage of appointments/re-appointments to the organisation’s seven-member Appellate Body has now resulted in only three sitting Appellate Body members – the minimum for the Body to function.

Several WTO members have tabled proposals for reforms on discrete issues, such as transparency/notification, while the European Union (EU) and Canada have both placed more comprehensive reform proposals on the table, including reform of the dispute settlement system.

However, WTO members are still a long way from deciding on how deep and wide-ranging the reform agenda should be. The US, which has for a long time expressed grave reservations about the Appellate Body, has so far not been convinced by any of the proposals tabled.

This year will be critical for deciding on the way forward for WTO reform, especially since the loss of yet another Appellate Body member will result in the Appellate Body being unable to operate, with grave implications for the prompt settlement of disputes and the rules-based multilateral trading system, on a whole.

3. Regional Trade Agreements – AfCTA, USMCA, CPTPP, EU-Japan 

On the regional trade agreement scene, there were several positive and major developments in 2018. One of the most exciting was in March, 2018 when forty-four African states signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA) in Kigali, Rwanda. Since then, five other States have signed the agreement. Thirteen African States have ratified the agreement thus far and further ratifications will be needed before it comes into effect.

President Donald Trump made good on one of his major trade policy promises – the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico to make it ‘fit for purpose’ for the 21st century. In November 2018, the three countries announced they had agreed an agreement under a new name – the United States, Mexico and Canada (USMCA) Agreement. Some of the major changes include more stringent rules of origin (RoO), extension of terms of copyright protection, a sunset clause and provision for a 6-year review.  The Agreement is awaiting ratification in the three countries.

After the US’ withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) under President Trump, the remaining eleven TPP parties signed a successor agreement termed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in March 2018. The Agreement came into effect on December 30, 2018, and its parties account for an estimated 14% of global GDP.

Five years after negotiations began in 2013, the EU and Japan signed the Economic Partnership Agreement and the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement. The Agreement, which is on track to come in effect in February 2019, is the first free trade agreement to make explicit reference to the Paris Climate Change Agreement which was signed in 2015.

4. Bolsonaro’s Brazil

South America’s largest country, Brazil, elected Jair Bolsonaro who took office as president at the beginning of 2019. Riding the wave of right-wing populism, Mr. Bolsonaro has expressed support for the unilateral foreign policy espoused by his US counterpart and has expressed apathy about Mercosur. Brazil is one of the most influential emerging economies, both hemispherically and internationally. The implications of the South American nation’s shifting foreign and trade policy will, therefore, be key to watch.

5. Brexit Uncertainty

Of course, one of the biggest trade policy developments to watch in 2019 will be the UK’s impending withdrawal from the EU – Brexit – which, as it stands, is to take place on March 29, 2019.

After nearly two years of intense negotiations, the EU-27 and the UK finally arrived at a Draft Agreement on the UK’s Withdrawal from the EU and a Political Declaration Setting out the Framework for the Future Relationship between the EU and the UK in November 2018. The EU-27 leaders endorsed the two texts at a special emergency meeting of the European Council.

However, in the face of strong opposition to the deal, particularly the ‘backstop’ provisions regarding the Northern Ireland/Ireland Border, UK Prime Minister Theresa May cancelled a crucial House of Commons vote on the deal which she likely would have lost. Mrs. May has sought to obtain further binding concessions from the EU, but without success thus far.

This week, the British House of Commons MPs voted in favour of an amendment requiring the Prime Minister to present to Parliament a Brexit Plan B within three days, in the event that MPs reject the current Draft Withdrawal Agreement in their vote rescheduled for next week Tuesday. Meanwhile, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn is calling for a general election to break the Brexit deadlock.

The Brexit deadline looms, but the May Government has ruled out requesting an extension under Article 50. With the timeline for the UK’s withdrawal ticking and the real threat of a potentially economically disastrous ‘no-deal’ exit, this will be one of the major trade policy issues to watch in 2019.

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.