Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of February 24-March 2, 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

The Government of Belize this week launched its first National Trade Policy 2019-2030. The full text of the policy may be viewed here.

Meanwhile, the US released its 2019 Trade Policy Agenda and 2018 Annual Report, in which it warned, inter alia, that “we will not allow the WTO Appellate Body and dispute settlement system to force the United States into a straitjacket of obligations to which we never agreed”.

CARICOM Heads of Government held their 30th Inter-sessional Meeting this week (February 26-27, 2019) in St. Kitts & Nevis. Agenda items included transportation, the CSME, security, blacklisting and the situation in Venezuela. The communique may be read here.

Two Caribbean representatives (one from Barbados and the other from Jamaica) are among the list of chairpersons for WTO bodies released by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on February 28, 2019.

REGIONAL 

Amnesty for Venezuelans in Trinidad & Tobago

St Lucia Online: Cabinet will meet on a policy position for illegal and legal Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago to be allowed an amnesty where they will be given ID cards and allowed to work in the country for one year. Read more 

CARICOM food import bill set to reach US$8-10 billion by 2020

Stabroek: For all the talk in the Caribbean regarding the relatively food secure status of many of the territories, the real picture is not one that generates unbridled optimism according to an article headlined “Five Overlooked Facts About Caribbean Food Security” authored by the Barbadian writer, Daphne Ewing-Chow, and published on February 20th in Forbes magazine. Read more 

White House to announce new sanctions on Cuba over Maduro support, source says

Fox News: The White House will soon impose major new sanctions against the Cuban government over its support for the regime of contested Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a source familiar with President Trump’s national security team told Fox News. Read more 

CARICOM Says EU’s Shifting Tax Compliance Requirements Encroaching on CARICOM’s Sovereignty

Caribbean360: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has expressed strong disquiet that the constantly shifting parameters for good tax governance set out by the European Union (EU), are encroaching on the region’s sovereignty. Read more

CARICOM among four major markets targeted by Jamaica Ministry of Agriculture

Jamaica Observer: Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Audley Shaw, says CARICOM is among four major markets being targeted, under the Government’s thrust to attain higher levels of economic growth, through the linkage between agriculture and industry. Read more 

USTDA Supports Port Cybersecurity in the Dominican Republic

BN Americas: Last week, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency awarded a technical assistance grant to Fundación Ramon E. Mella (FRM), a maritime and port organization in the Dominican Republic. The grant will support the development of a national cybersecurity risk assessment, reporting, and management capability platform for port facilities across the Dominican Republic. Read more 

CARICOM Integration advances: All CSME Participating Member States now Signatories to Contingent Rights Protocol

CARICOM: Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, highlighted the gains made towards the regional integration movement, particularly through the signing of the Protocol of Contingent Rights by all CARICOM Member States, as one of the success stories coming out of the 30th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, held at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort, Frigate Bay, from February 26-27. Read more 

CARICOM Discussions Highlight Concerns about Single Market and Economy

The Bahamas Chronicle: Efforts to strengthen the advancement of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME) will continue following recent developments that promote the free movement of people, goods, services and capital, and robust discussions slated for the (CARICOM) 30th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Read more 

CARICOM countries sign multilateral air services agreement

St Kitts & Nevis Observer: Several CARICOM Member States including Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, have signed the Multilateral Air Services Agreement (MASA), aimed at expanding the scope for airlines owned by CARICOM nations to provide air services throughout the Community. Read more 

Belize’s exports second lowest in 15 years

Breaking Belize News: Belize’s export revenues for the year 2018 amounted to just under $399 million, making it the second lowest amount earned from exports since the $380 million in 2003 according to the Statistical Institute of Belize’s Annual Export Reports 2003 to 2018. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

Reforming the WTO: The Swiss View

Swissinfo.ch: The crisis-hit World Trade Organization (WTO) is going through difficult times. World leaders have committed to an overhaul of the Geneva-based institution, but it is unclear what the future holds. Swiss ambassador to the WTO Didier Chambovey link gives his view.  Read more

Australia set to seal Indonesia free trade agreement

Australia Financial Review: A long-anticipated free trade agreement with Indonesia will be signed in Jakarta on Monday, ending more than eight years of negotiations and offering new economic opportunities for industries including the country’s citrus farmers. Read more 

‘India should cut car tariffs for free trade agreement with EU’

MENA FM – Gulf Times: The proposed India-EU free trade agreement (FTA) cannot be finalised without an Indian commitment to lower import duties on cars and car parts since this is a politically sensitive issue in the European Union (EU), the EU Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski said in New Delhi on Friday. Read more 

Mexico pushing labour reform, won’t ratify new NAFTA with U.S. tariffs in place

CBC: Mexico’s Congress will be asked to approve a major labour reform bill this spring as a necessary step to ratifying the new North American free trade pact later this autumn, say Mexican officials. Read more 

Trump said trade wars are ‘easy to win.’ A year later, here’s a timeline of what’s happened with China

CNBC: A year ago, President Donald Trump declared “trade wars are good and easy to win.” The White House has since moved toward its goal of revamping global trade deals, largely through a series of tariffs on — and talks with — China. Read more

U.S., China Are Close to Trade Deal That May End American Tariffs

Bloomberg: Most or all U.S. tariffs on China are likely to be lifted as part of a trade deal between the world’s two largest economies now in its final stages, said two people familiar with the discussions. Read more 

International business engagement key to future of trade, ICC Sec Gen

ICC: Speaking at a conference on current challenges to global trade in Lisbon this week, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said business could not afford to sit on the sidelines when it came to global challenges, including reform of the multilateral trade system. Read more

Thailand to apply to join trans-Pacific FTA this month: official

The Mainichi: Thailand will apply this month to join a trans-Pacific free trade agreement, aiming to ensure it is not left behind by its competitors in the vibrant region, according to a senior Thai government official. Read more 

New Zealand’s Two-way trade with CPTPP countries nears $50 billion

Scoop New Zealand: New Zealand’s two-way trade with the combined Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) countries was $49.6 billion in the December 2018 year, Stats NZ said today. Read more 

New push for Asia-Pacific mega deal

Nikkei Asian Review: Ministers from Asia’s leading economies met here to renew their pursuit of a sweeping regional trade deal as an easing of tensions between the U.S. and China gives momentum to multilateral negotiations. Read more 

Michel Barnier casts doubt on whether UK will leave EU on March 29

ITV News: Michel Barnier has indicated he does not believe the UK will have enough time to approve Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement by March 29. Read more 

WTO: India insists on flexibilities in negotiations on fisheries subsidies

Hindu Business Line: India has insisted that larger developing countries should also be extended flexibilities at the fisheries negotiations of the World Trade Organisation that would allow them to retain some subsidy programmes important for small-scale fishers. Read more

The Commission reinforces procedural rights of parties in EU trade defence investigations

EU: The Commission has today updated the terms of reference for the Hearing Officer for trade defence proceedings, the independent watchdog that guarantees fairness and impartiality of EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases. Read more 

EU and New Zealand complete third round of trade negotiations

EU: Trade negotiators from New Zealand were in Brussels from 18-22 February 2019 for the third round of negotiations for a trade agreement with the EU. Read more 

U.S. says rejects WTO’s ‘straitjacket’ of trade obligations

Reuters: The Trump administration filed another salvo at the World Trade Organization on Friday, saying U.S. trade policy was not going to be dictated by the international body and defending its use of tariffs to pressure China and other trade partners. Read more

EU grants Ghana €40 million under Economic Partnership Agreement

Business Ghana: The government has signed a €40-million budget support agreement with the European Union (EU). The grant is to support the country’s national development framework, which focuses on jobs as a means to create prosperity and opportunity for all, thereby contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Read more 

WTO NEWS

WTO issues panel report regarding Chinese agricultural subsidies

WTO: On 28 February the WTO circulated the panel report in the case brought by the United States in “China — Domestic Support for Agricultural Producers” (DS511). Read more 

Summary of General Council meeting of 28 February 2019

WTO: Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee and Report by the Director-General. Read more 

DDG Wolff: More institutional cooperation is needed to address shortages of trade finance

WTO: Speaking to the Expert Group on Trade Finance at the WTO on 28 February, Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff called on the trade finance community to build on the significant progress in recent years in reducing trade finance gaps in developing countries. Read more 

DG Azevêdo: “The time is now to confront systemic challenges”

WTO: At a meeting of the full WTO membership today (27 February), Director-General Roberto Azevêdo commented on the emerging debate on ‘WTO reform’, acknowledging the variety of views held by members and arguing that the trading system must be able to evolve if it is to have a bright future. Read more 

Tunisia initiates new WTO dispute complaint against Morocco book duties

WTO: Tunisia has requested WTO dispute consultations with Morocco concerning final anti-dumping duties imposed by Morocco on imports of school exercise books from Tunisia. The request was circulated to WTO members on 27 February. Read more Read more 

UK set to become a party to the Government Procurement Agreement in its own right

WTO: Parties to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) gave their final approval to the United Kingdom’s accession to the pact, in its own right, once it leaves the European Union. At a meeting of the WTO’s Committee on Government Procurement on 27 February, the GPA parties also agreed to grant Paraguay observer status. Read more 

EIF strategic plan seeks to help least developed countries gain more from trade

WTO: A new Strategic Plan launched by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) seeks to deepen efforts to assist least developed countries (LDCs) benefit from trade. The goals of the new plan are to improve the trade environment for LDCs so there is inclusive and sustainable growth, and to increase their exports and access to international markets. Read more 

Members consider Thai request for panel to rule on Turkish air conditioner duties

WTO: At a meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) on 25 February, WTO members considered Thailand’s request for the establishment of a dispute panel to rule on duties levied by Turkey on imported Thai air conditioners. Members also renewed their discussions on resolving their differences over the appointment of Appellate Body members and heard from several members regarding their efforts to implement WTO rulings. Read more 

NEW ON THE CTLD BLOG

My latest commentary is on future CARICOM-US relations beyond the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI): Future CARICOM-US Trading Relations Beyond the Caribbean Basin Initiative. 

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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