Alicia Nicholls

On November 18-19, 2019, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ministers of Trade met for the 49th Regular Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).

The meeting was held at the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown Guyana, and was chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs and CARICOM Affairs of Dominica, the Hon. Francine Baron. Ministers attended both in person and via video conference.

In her opening remarks, Minister Baron highlighted that COTED “meets at a time when the Region is beset by many challenges”. She pointed, for example, to longstanding challenges such as climate change, threats to the offshore sector, and graduation of several countries from concessional financing, as well as more contemporary threats like the retreat from multilateralism.

A media advisory sent regarding the meeting noted that the topics for discussion included:

  • A review of the implementation plan for the CSME and challenges associated with implementation
  • CSME administrative procedures
  • competition law and policy in the CSME
  • trade in services
  • agriculture and other goods
  • external economic and trade relations.

According to the Minister in her statement, Barbados had also placed the matter of trade and climate change on the agenda.

Under the issue of “external economic and trade relations”, she singled out in particular the issue of WTO reform.

Minister Baron further noted that some of the matters have been on the agenda for some time now, “some of which can be said to be languishing there without resolution”. As such, she encouraged Ministers ” to approach the deliberations over the next two days with a mindset of compromise and a desire to push through and get some positive movement on some long outstanding matters. ”

Minister Baron highlighted “the number of requests being made for the suspension of the Common External Tariffs between meetings of the COTED and at the meeting of COTED itself”. She noted that “this should concern us, as these requests are premised on the inability of the region to supply. ” She further proposed “the need for a critical look at these requests and allow same to guide policy development, as relates to investment in regional productivity and manufacturing. ”

Regrettably, there as yet appears to be no official statement or other information released about what decisions were taken by the Ministers. I would be particularly interested in what decisions were made regarding our positions on WTO reform and the current existential threat facing the WTO’s Appellate Body.

Speeches from the opening ceremony may be found here:

REMARKS BY THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL, TRADE AND ECONOMIC INTEGRATION, JOSEPH COX AT THE OPENING SESSION OF THE 49TH REGULAR MEETING OF THE COTED, GEORGETOWN, GUYANA, 18 NOVEMBER 2019

STATEMENT BY COTED CHAIR HON FRANCINE BARON

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.

DISCLAIMER: All views expressed herein are her personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any institution or entity with which she may be affiliated from time to time.