Tag Archives: Caribbean

Caribbean Trade & Development News Digest – May 5-11, 2019

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development News Digest for the week of May 5-11, 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

This week, US-China trade talks came to an end without any agreement. The Trump Administration increased the level of tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on approximately $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. Read the statement by USTR Robert Lighthizer here.


REGIONAL NEWS

Cuba to increase rationing amid shortages

BBC: Cuba has announced rationing of more products amid shortages it blames on the US trade embargo and hoarders. Read more 

Fake skills certificates detected in the region

The New Today: Grenada is among six CARICOM countries that have been on the receiving end of fake skills certificates from CARICOM nationals especially Jamaicans who are seeking employment. Read more 

Seprod Drops Case For Evaporated Milk, But Ready For Condensed Market

Jamaica Gleaner: Jamaica need only prove that it can supply three-quarters of the market for condensed and evaporated to gain protection for manufacturers, but a top dairy producer, Seprod Limited, says it already has the capacity to serve 100 per cent of the Caribbean market for one of those commodities. Read more 

Better cocoa – T&T Ministry of Trade & Industry wants improved quality of beans

The Guardian (T&T): Min­is­ter of Trade and In­dus­try, Paula Gopee-Scoon, has pre­sent­ed two new co­coa stan­dards to The Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies (UWI) which were de­vel­oped by the Trinidad and To­ba­go Bu­reau of Stan­dards (TTBS), in­tend­ed to im­prove the qual­i­ty of lo­cal­ly pro­duced co­coa beans. Read more

Exports ‘tun up’ but not enough – Seaga

Jamaica Gleaner: Jamaica’s impressive export performance for 2018 when the country recorded a whopping 37.8 per cent increase over the previous year, the highest growth in 10 years, was dampened by the failure to stem in any substantial way the country’s heavy dependence on imported goods, according to Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporteers’ Association (JMEA). Read more

Former Barbados Central Bank Governor proposes regional switch to US currency

Barbados Today: According to former Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr DeLisle Worrell switching to the US currency would essentially eliminate the threat of domestic currency depreciation and with it, the resulting possible disruptions to economic stability. The economist said there was no time like the present to switch to US currency and he noted that the process is not as difficult as some people may imagine. Read more

Dominica to get technical assistance from World Bank for international airport says Skerrit

Dominica News Online: Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has said that the government hopes to access technical assistance from the World Bank in its plans to construct an international airport in Dominica. Read more 


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

WTO meet next week: Appellate body, reforms in focus

Economic Times: A WTO mini-ministerial meeting of 16 developing and six least-developed countries in Delhi next week will take up impasse over the appointment of appellate body members at the World Trade Organisation and reforms at the global trade body. Read more 

The Panama Canal Could Become the Center of the U.S.-China Trade War

Foreign Policy: Following outgoing president Juan Carlos Varela’s unexpected decision to end diplomatic relations with Taiwan in order to establish formal ties with Beijing in June 2017, a tidal wave of Chinese investment is in the works. Read more 

Rick Scott wants the U.S. Navy to block Cuba and Venezuela’s oil trade

Miami Herald: A week after Rick Scott called for the U.S. military to intervene in Venezuela amid Juan Guaidó’s attempt to oust Nicolás Maduro from power, the U.S. Senate’s biggest hawk on Venezuela is calling for more. Read more 

Canada calls out on China at WTO council meeting, demands evidence to back canola ban

Global News: Stephen de Boer, the Canadian ambassador to the world’s leading trade body in Geneva, told the WTO’s general council on Tuesday that Canada wants to meet in China in good faith to hear its science-based concerns that recent Canadian canola shipments were, in fact, tainted. Read more

Time to say goodbye to NAFTA’s replacement?

Toronto Star: Last week, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was sanguine about the prospect of Congress rejecting NAFTA’s proposed replacement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). “You could stay status quo,” Mulvaney told a California business conference. “Your real Plan Bs are either NAFTA or withdraw from NAFTA.” Read more

Trade war and Brexit pose mounting risk to EU economy, says EC

The Guardian: The threat of a full-blown trade war between the US and China and Brexit uncertainty are posing mounting risks to the EU economy, the European commission has warned, after downgrading its growth outlook for 2019. Read more 

Canada’s trade deficit shrank to $3.2 billion in March, StatsCan reports

CBC: Statistics Canada says the country’s merchandise trade deficit shrank in March as exports — led by the energy sector — rose faster than imports. The agency says the deficit for March amounted to $3.2 billion compared with $3.4 billion in February. Read more

A defence of the beleaguered WTO Appellate Body

IELP blog: See blog post by Prof. Steve Charvonitz.  Read here.

UK, EU to agree free-trade deal, October 31 Brexit date in doubt – Reuters poll

The Hill: Britain will eventually leave the European Union and agree a free-trade deal with the bloc, according to the vast majority of economists polled by Reuters who were, however, split on whether the two sides would divorce on Oct. 31. Read more

As Europe grapples with Brexit, the African Union seeks a more United States of Africa

CNN: While debates about the unpredictability of economic and political relationships between the EU and Britain continue to linger, thousands of miles away, the African Union (AU) is creating a close-knit relationship among its own 55 member nations. Read more

US imposes sanctions on shipping firms, tankers tied to Venezuela

The Hill: The Treasury Department on Friday said it is slapping new sanctions on companies involved in shipping oil from Venezuela to Cuba, marking the latest move by the U.S. to clamp down on embattled President Nicolás Maduro. Read more 

New FinCEN Guidance on Virtual Currencies

FinCEN: To provide regulatory certainty for businesses and individuals engaged in expanding fields of financial activity, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today issued the following guidance, Application of FinCEN’s Regulations to Certain Business Models Involving Convertible Virtual Currencies (CVC). Read more 

Why the New U.S.-EU Trade Talks May Be Doomed Before They Even Start

Fortune: By the middle of last year, the U.S. had hit the European Union with steel and aluminum tariffs, the EU had responded with counter-tariffs on American goods, and some feared the situation could escalate into a full-blown trade war. Read more 

EU commissioner says agriculture not on agenda for US talks

Euractiv: The European Union intends to keep agriculture off the agenda in its trade talks with the United States and continues to support rules-based, open and predictable international commerce, the EU’s agriculture commissioner said on Friday (10 May). Read more 

USMCA trade deal could cost Georgia produce growers nearly $900 million, report says

CNBC: Unless the proposed U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) is changed, it could “cause extensive economic damage to Georgia” and its fresh produce industry, according to economists at the University of Georgia. Read more 

China says ‘fed up’ with hearing U.S. complaints on Belt and Road

Reuters: China is “fed up” with hearing complaints from the United States about its Belt and Road program to re-create the old Silk Road, the government said on Thursday, following stinging criticism from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Read more 

Italy could become Belt and Road terminal in southern Europe: officials

Xinhua: A conference entitled “Italy-China Partnership in the New Silk Road” was held Friday here, at which Italian government officials and experts voiced their support for the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), discussing the possibility of Italy becoming the BRI’s terminal in southern Europe. Read more 

Trade facilitation reforms spur development, experts say

UNCTAD: Effective implementation of reforms to trade facilitation in developing countries can catalyse progress towards meeting development goals, attendees at an UNCTAD expert meeting heard on 7 May. Read more 

Canada reveals final trade safeguards for heavy plate, stainless steel wire

CBC: The Canadian Border Services Agency announced Friday the final ‘safeguard’ surtaxes meant to shield the domestic steel industry from competition from cheaper foreign imports of heavy plate and stainless steel wire. Read more 


WTO NEWS

UN’s Guterres underscores importance of revitalizing multilateral trade cooperation

A rules-based, non-discriminatory and equitable trading system is not only in the interest of all trading partners but is essential to preserving the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable economies, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told WTO members on 10 May. Speaking at a special session of the WTO’s General Council, Secretary-General Guterres, alongside Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and General Council Chair Sunanta Kangvalkulkij, said members need to work to restore the spirit of international cooperation and “buttress this unique institution that has safeguarded international trading relationships over the past 70 years”. Read more

WTO launches updated profiles on trade in value-added terms and global value chains

The WTO released on 9 May an updated set of profiles for 64 WTO members, revealing the share of domestic and foreign components in the exports of these economies and their participation in global value chains (GVCs). The profiles also shed light on the contribution of the services sector to trade and the value of trade in intermediate products for each of the economies covered by the profiles. Read more 

DG Azevêdo meets with participants of Geneva Week for non-resident members and observers

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo met with participants in the Geneva Week for non-resident members and observers, taking place at the WTO from 6 to 10 May 2019. Participants had the opportunity to interact with the Director-General, who informed them about current issues in the WTO and the wider trading system. Read more 

Trade Policy Review: Papua New Guinea

The third review of the trade policies and practices of Papua New Guinea takes place on 8 May and 10 May 2019. The basis for the review is a report by the WTO Secretariat and a report by the Government of Papua New Guinea. Read more 

Summary of WTO General Council Meeting

A WTO General Council Meeting was held on May 7, 2019. The summary of the meeting is available here.

Philippines submits request for observer status in WTO Committee on Government Procurement

Ambassador Manuel A. J. Teehankee, Philippine Permanent Representative to the WTO, delivered to WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo on 6 May the request of the Philippine government to become an observer in the Committee on Government Procurement. Read more 

Consumer groups express support for multilateral trade, stress priorities for e-commerce

Senior representatives of consumer organizations meeting today (6 May 2019) at the WTO headquarters sent a strong message of support for the WTO and the multilateral trading system. They stressed the importance of ensuring consumers’ concerns are taken into account in trade negotiations and policy-making and presented their priorities for e-commerce along with recommendations on how these priorities should be addressed at the WTO. Read more 

Applications open for WTO workshop on public health, global trade and intellectual property

The WTO, in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), will hold its 6th annual Workshop on Trade and Public Health in Geneva from 11 to 15 November 2019. The deadline to submit applications is 14 June 2019. Read more 


BLOG NEWS

59967901_10156350648221687_2425942741625077760_o (2)This week I presented a paper at the 20th Annual SALISES Conference on “Rethinking Caribbean Futures: New Paradigms, Possibilities and Policies” held at the Hilton Hotel, Barbados, May 8-10, 2019.

The topic of my paper was on rethinking the eligibility model for Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

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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Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – April 21-27, 2019

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of April 21-27, 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

This week, Caribbean representatives were among 5,000 delegates from around the world who attended the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing April 25-27, 2019. The key note speech delivered by President Xi Xinping of China may be viewed here, while the Joint Communique of the Leaders’ Roundtable may be accessed here.


REGIONAL NEWS

Jamaica’s annual exports up by one-third

Jamaica Gleaner: Jamaican exports grew by nearly 38 per cent last year, a pace that was nearly four times faster than the rise in imports. Read more 

EU blacklisting causing irreparable harm to Caribbean says St Kitts-Nevis foreign minister

Caribbean News Now: St Kitts and Nevis wasn’t blacklisted by the European Union in a revised blacklist for tax havens outside the EU last month; however, that hasn’t stopped foreign affairs minister Mark Brantley denouncing what he considers unfair targeting of Caribbean countries. Read more

Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

EU Observer: This month ministers and officials from across the Caribbean assembled in Jamaica to discuss the future of our collective relationship with the European Union. This was the latest in a series of forums that have taken place in the past eighteen months, all with the aim of working toward a bolstered agreement that will further integrate our political and economic interests. Read more 

Renewable energy is making its way into Guyana’s agriculture sector

IICA: A pilot project by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the state-owned company, Guyana Power & Light Inc., will promote the adoption of renewable energy in the Guyanese agriculture sector. The project will unfold in the final six months of 2019. Read more 

China says Latin America and Caribbean will benefit significantly under BRI

Jamaica Observer: China’s Ambassador to Dominica Lu Kun says his country’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will bring tangible benefits to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Read more 

Ghana and Suriname sign four agreements

Government of Ghana: Ghana and Suriname on Tuesday signed four separate agreements as part of efforts to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two nations. Read more 

ITFC signs 6 trade deals worth over $1.1bn, including with Suriname

Trade Arabia: ITFC’s framework agreement with the Republic of Suriname will see it mobilize up to $75 million financing for SME’s, exports and lines of finance to local banks, in addition to a Murabaha agreement over three years to boost the import of essential goods. Read more 

King Sugar takes a break as Belize exports fall sharply

Breaking Belize News: Belize’s number one export is grinding into high gear for the end of the season in May and June. But in March it counted for just under three million of Belize’s almost $26 million in exports, representing a slash by more than half of March 2018’s total. Read more 

China and the Caribbean’s future 

CGTN: China’s highly anticipated second Belt and Road International Cooperation Forum (BRF) wrapped up on April 27. Initially not including Caribbean nations, the country’s signature policy has gained increasing momentum in the region since 2017. So far, several Caribbean countries, such as Barbados, Jamaica, Dominica and Grenada, etc., have signed up to the initiative, which provides a useful context for offering some reflections on the place of China in the future development of the independent states of the English-speaking Caribbean. Read more 

COTED officials hold preparatory meeting

CARICOM: Work in preparation for the Forty-Sixth Ministerial Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) began on Thursday. Read more

CARICOM leaders to meet in Trinidad next week

CARICOM: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders will meet in Trinidad and Tobago early next month to discuss security issues within the 15-member regional integration movement. Read more 

Future EU-Caribbean Relations in New ACP-EU Partnership

ACP: As the EU is working to modernise its relations with 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP), the two groups’ chief negotiators Neven Mimica and Robert Dussey met with ACP Caribbean leaders for a dedicated dialogue on the regional EU-Caribbean pillar in the framework of the post Cotonou ACP-EU partnership. Read more 


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Eswatini walking tightrope to become Africa’s trade hub

Yeni Safak: The Kingdom of Eswatini in Southern Africa is walking a tightrope in its bid to become Africa’s trade hub and is competing against some of the continent’s biggest economies to win hosting rights for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat. Read more 

AfDB signs $50m agreement with Natixis to boost trade finance in Africa

Ghanaweb: The African Development Bank (AfDB) has signed a $50 million risk participation agreement (APR) with investment and corporate bank Natixis. Read more 

EU and Japan in delicate trade talks

EU Observer: Top EU officials will meet Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday (25 April) in Brussels as world leaders prepare for their G20 meeting in June in Osaka, Japan. Read more 

USTR Releases Annual Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property Protection and Review of Notorious Markets for Piracy and Counterfeiting

USTR: The Office of the United States Trade Representative today released its annual Special 301 Report on the adequacy and effectiveness of trading partners’ protection of intellectual property rights and the findings of its Notorious Markets List, which highlights online and physical markets that reportedly engage in and facilitate substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting. Read more 

Turkey-Africa trade volume totals $179 billion in last decade

Daily Sabah: Turkey’s improving relations with African countries have also been reflected in the growing trade volume. Between 2009 and 2018, bilateral trade volume between Turkey and the African continent stood at $179 billion. Read more 

P&O sues over £33m Eurotunnel payout in Brexit ferry fiasco

The Guardian: P&O Ferries is suing the government over its £33m settlement with Eurotunnel, in the latest controversy over the Department for Transport’s fraught no-deal Brexit preparations. Read more 

Amid Brexit uncertainty and allegations, UK lawmakers consider Mueller-like inquiry

ABC News: The parallels between Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election and the Brexit referendum in Britain are striking. In fact, calls among lawmakers have been growing for a public inquiry, according to The Guardian, into Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy. Read more 

‘Running OUT OF TIME’ – EU expert issues DAMNING statement on May’s latest extension

Express: Although Mrs May has managed to buy some valuable time to get her Brexit deal through, the UK is only just coming to the end of the beginning of the whole process. Dr Simon Usherwood, deputy chair at The UK in Changing Europe think tank, has argued that with every extension, the UK is cutting into the crucial transition stage of the Brexit negotiations. Read more 

U.S. organized labor opposes USMCA in current form, says official

Japan Times: The head of the largest U.S. labor union said Tuesday he opposes ratification of the new North American free trade pact, because he doubts Mexico will enforce labor reforms required by the deal. Read more 

U.S. considers concessions on drug protections in China talks: Sources

BNN Bloomberg: The Trump administration may concede to a Chinese proposal that would give less protection for U.S. pharmaceutical products than they receive at home, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could draw opposition from the American drug industry. Read more 

U.S. and Japan Push for a Trade Deal Following Failed Pacific Partnership

New York Times: President Trump said on Friday that trade talks between the United States and Japan were “moving along very nicely” and suggested a deal might be reached by late May as he met with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, at the White House. Read more 

Donald Trump pulls US out of UN Arms Treaty

Euronews: Donald Trump has said he is pulling the United States out of an international arms treaty designed to prevent weapons being sold to those who abuse human rights. Read more 

Qatar withdraws measures established against UAE at WTO

Al Arabiya: Qatar has decided to withdraw its measures against the UAE in a significant concession aimed at averting the consequences of the UAE’s case in WTO against an illegal Qatari ban on UAE goods and services. Read more 

U.S. says WTO national security ruling ‘seriously flawed’

Reuters: The United States said on Friday a World Trade Organization ruling on national security was “seriously flawed”, a warning not to use it as a precedent to judge U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and cars. Read more 

Japan seeks to join WTO dispute consultations over India’s import duties on ICT products

Business Today: Japan has expressed interest to join consultations in a dispute case filed by the EU in the WTO against India’s import duties on some information and communications technology products, including mobile phones, according to a communication of the World Trade Organization. Read more

Wine, beef imports rise after free trade pacts

NHK: Japan’s Finance Ministry says wine and cheese imports from Europe, and beef imports from Canada and New Zealand, increased considerably up to March after two free trade deals came into effect. Read more


WTO NEWS

WTO Forum looks at addressing food safety concerns through trade and cooperation

WTO rules on food safety play an important part in enabling governments to protect their citizens while ensuring trade can play its critical part in maintaining timely supplies of safe and affordable food, said Director-General Roberto Azevêdo in opening the International Forum on Food Safety and Trade taking place at the WTO on 23-24 April. Read more 

DDG Wolff suggests members look at accessions as source of inspiration for WTO reform

Is there scope for members to look at the experience of WTO accessions for additional inspiration in the ongoing WTO reform debate, asked Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff at a meeting of the Informal Group of Acceding Governments on 25 April. Read more

DDG Wolff welcomes timely and substantive discussions on trends in food safety and trade

Speaking at the pre-event session of the International Forum on Food Safety and Trade on 23 April at the WTO, Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff stressed the importance of interlinkages between trade and food safety standards, as recognized by WTO members in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Agreement. Read more 

International Forum on Food Safety and Trade

Remarks by WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo. 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.

 

Helms-Burton and CARICOM-Cuba Trade

Alicia Nicholls

Last week (April 17, 2019), United States (US) Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that the US will for the first time enforce the provisions of Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996. Title III gives US citizens, who were owners of private properties in Cuba confiscated by the Cuba Government following the 1959 revolution, the right to bring claims against foreign individuals and entities utilizing or deriving economic benefits from those confiscated properties.

Because of the threat of legal challenges being brought by third States before the World Trade Organisation (WTO), President Bill Clinton, as well as his successors President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama never enforced Title III. However, the Trump Administration has indicated that it will start enforcing these provisions with effect from May 2, 2019.

Given the extraterritorial nature of this development, this article briefly explores what possible implications this development may have for CARICOM firms which currently trade or invest in Cuba or are seeking to do so.

Background 

The LIBERTAD Act, more commonly known as the Helms-Burton Act, gives legislative force to the commercial, financial and economic embargo which the US has imposed on Cuba since the 1960s to force regime change in that Caribbean country. It is an embargo which the international community has condemned as illegal, immoral and ineffective.

Title III (Protection of Property Rights of United States Nationals) of the Helms Burton Act gives US nationals, whose property was confiscated (that is, nationalised or expropriated) by the Government of then Cuban leader Fidel Castro following the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the right to bring an action in US federal courts against any person who “traffics” in confiscated property.

Three main things should be noted here. Firstly, the definition of “traffics”, as used in Title III, is broad. It includes for example not just selling, transferring, etc confiscated property, but engaging in a commercial activity using or otherwise benefiting from confiscated property, inter alia.  This means, for example, that the US owner of a piece of property, such as a hotel plant, confiscated by the Castro Regime, can bring an action  in the US courts against any foreign firm which uses that hotel plant or even more nebulously, “engages in a commercial activity using or otherwise benefiting from” that hotel plant.

Secondly, claims can also be brought by persons who were not US nationals at the time their property was confiscated, which would include Cuban-Americans who are now naturalized US citizens. This, therefore, potentially increases the number of claims that could be brought. According to the US Department of Justice’s data, the US Foreign Claims Settlement Commission adjudicated a total of 8,821 claims in the Cuba program, of which it found 5,913 to be compensable.

Thirdly, the Act is extraterritorial in reach. It empowers US citizens who are owners of confiscated property to bring claims in US courts against any “person” who traffics in said confiscated property. The term “person” is defined in the Act as “any person or entity, including any agency or instrumentality of a foreign state.” Moreover, under Part IV (Exclusion of Certain Aliens) foreign nationals and their spouses and minor children may be barred from entry into the US if found to have converted confiscated property for personal gain or traffic in confiscated property.

These draconian provisions are meant to act as a deterrent to businesses from third States seeking to invest or do business in Cuba, in an effort to undermine  the Cuban economy. They are also a fetter on the sovereignty of third States wishing to trade with Cuba, which raises questions about their compatibility with international law, and more specifically, international trade law.

Indeed, back in the mid-1990s, the EU had sought to challenge the compatibility of the Helms-Burton with WTO rules. This challenge was withdrawn after President Clinton agreed to suspend the right to private action under Title III. The Act allows the President to suspend Title III for up to six months at a time if deemed to be in US national security interests. Presidents Bush II and Obama also suspended this right of private action. In fact, the Obama administration saw an attempt at the normalization of US-Cuba relations, including the resumption of diplomatic ties. The Trump Administration, however, has taken a hard lined stance on Cuba. In January 2019, the US Department of State released a statement indicating they would only give a 45 day extension of the Title III suspension while undertaking a “careful review”. This ultimately led to the decision of April 17, 2019 to no longer suspend Title III.

Possible Implications of Helms-Burton Right of Action on CARICOM-Cuba Trade

What does this development mean for CARICOM-Cuba trade potentially? CARICOM countries and Cuba have a long history of cooperation and friendship, most notably in the areas of education, health and culture. Turning to trade, CARICOM has a bilateral partial scope trade agreement with Cuba known as the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (TECA) which was signed in 2000. It is a partial scope agreement in that it liberalizes trade between a limited number of goods between the parties, with the contemplation that a free trade agreement would eventually be negotiated. It also includes limited provisions on cooperation in other trade-related areas. Although a second protocol to the Agreement was signed in 2017, including an expansion of the list of goods, no free trade agreement exists as yet.

Regrettably, detailed statistics on the level of CARICOM-Cuba trade or CARICOM firms’ level of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Cuba have been difficult to obtain. According to an ECLAC study entitled “An Assessment of the Performance of CARICOM Extraregional Trade Agreements” published in 2015, Cuba was the destination for 0.11% of CARICOM exports in 2013. According to a June 2018 press release from the Trinidad & Tobago Ministry of Trade and Industry, “Trinidad and Tobago is currently Cuba’s largest CARICOM trading partner, recording 80% of trade in the region”. Reporting from the Guardian Newspaper of Trinidad reveals that Trinidad & Tobago “ex­port­ed an es­ti­mat­ed $456 mil­lion in goods to Cu­ba in 2016 and im­port­ed $37 mil­lion worth of prod­ucts” and Trinidad is one of Cuba’s biggest trading partner in the LAC region.

Although CARICOM-Cuba merchandise trade remains small, the Obama-era roll-backs saw increased interest on the part of CARICOM firms in exploring Cuba as a potential market. Caribbean countries have established or sought to establish trade liaisons in their Cuba-based diplomatic missions. The establishment of a direct air link via the Trinidad & Tobago-based Caribbean Airlines also made it easier for tourism and scoping out business opportunities.

Regrettably, the current US administration’s  hardened stance potentially creates a cloud of uncertainty for CARICOM firms currently doing business or seeking to do business in Cuba. Once Title III goes into effect, Caribbean firms found to be dealing in confiscated property could be exposed to costly litigation before US courts and persons found liable face possible barred entry of themselves and their immediate families to the US. Extra-regionally, some countries, such as Canada’s Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act (FEMA) and the EU’s Blocking Statute, bar the enforcement and recognition of US judgments under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. I am uncertain whether any Caribbean country has a similar Act, and this is something on which CARICOM firms should seek counsel from their attorneys-at-law.

It should be noted that those firms which would be most likely impacted would be US firms which invested in Cuba during the Obama-era détente, as well as European firms which have substantial business interests in Cuba, notably in the tourism sector. For this reason, it is no surprise that the EU, Canada, UK and Mexico have strongly condemned this latest action by the Trump Administration. The EU has stated that it would “consider all options at its disposal to protect its legitimate interests, including in relation to its WTO rights”.

As I noted earlier, the extraterritorial application of the US Helms-Burton Act is of questionable legality under international law and meant to scare businesses from investing in Cuba in an effort to cripple the Cuban economy. Therefore, I am by no means advocating that CARICOM firms should stop investing in Cuba. What they should do, however, is to pay careful attention to this development and seek legal advice from their attorneys to ascertain and mitigate any current or potential areas of legal exposure.  For example, they should ascertain whether any property from which they are seeking to benefit commercially, is currently subject to a US claim. That said, however, the prospects of legal challenges before the WTO, as well as the upcoming US presidential election due in 2020, means that the durability of this policy reversal is not guaranteed.

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 7 – 13, 2019

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of April 7-13, 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.

HIGHLIGHTS

In this week’s highlights, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released a list of Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies. In response, the EU has indicated it aims to put tariffs on $12 billion of US exports.

In Brexit news, the EU granted the Theresa May UK Government a six month extension to October 31, 2019. Read more here.

Trade was a major topic looming over the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings held this week. The IMF released its April Outlook in which it noted a deceleration in global growth on the back of several factors, including rising trade tensions. Read the Outlook here. Also watch the panel discussion on “How Trade can promote growth for all” here.

The 12th Annual Update on WTO Dispute Settlement, which provided an overview and discussion on WTO dispute settlement cases and developments in 2018, was held this week. Watch the playback here!

REGIONAL NEWS

Trade between GCC, Latin America and the Caribbean hit $16.3b in 2018

Gulf News: Trade flows between GCC countries and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) reached $16.3 billion (Dh59.86 billion) in 2018, while the UAE remained a top trading partner in the Gulf region for LAC countries, according to a new report conducted by Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in cooperation with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Read more 

Consumer and Business Confidence Up in Jamaica

Caribbean360: Consumer and business confidence in the economy have recorded increases for the first quarter of 2019. Read more

Jamaica deepens ties with China

Jamaica Observer: The Government yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the People’s Republic of China on that country’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to deepen cooperation and partnership between the two nations for economic development. Read more

Guatemala’s Fishing Trade Spells Trouble for Belize

The Reporter: An investigation into Guatemala’s thriving shark fishing industry reveals serious concerns for our country and fisherfolk. In February 2019, a team of investigative journalists from The Reporter traveled to southern Belize, then to Guatemala to evaluate the number and scope of sharks, fish and other marine species poached from Belizean waters and exported to Guatemala. Their findings were startling and it was discovered that this issue has deep roots. Read more 

The Dominican Republic opens plant species and variety registration office

Fresh Plaza: The Ministry of Agriculture opened the Plant Species and Varieties Registration Office (OREVADO), which seeks to guarantee the institutional framework for people who want to develop new varieties of vegetable crops, innovate in the transfer of technology or invest in production, i.e. breeders. Read more 

Dominican Republic leads Caribbean economies

Global Finance: The economy of the Dominican Republic is set to surpass its regional neighbors this year, notching the highest growth in the Caribbean region. The DR has been gaining attention for its ability to maintain steady robust economic growth. In 2018, GDP rose by 7%, and the latest report by the country’s central bank says all industries are expanding—and that its free-trade zones in particular are drawing investment. Read more

Atlantic International Bank maintains innocence in US Federal Trade Commission accusations but faces international ramifications

LoveFM: Atlantic Bank International is currently unable to process wire transfers, in and out, for its overseas customers who are in need of Belize currency. The stoppage in this service is the direct result of the Bank of New York issuing a ban against Atlantic Bank International after the US Federal Trade Commission has roped in Atlantic Bank International as an ally in the Sanctuary Bay multi-million-dollar scheme that saw several US investors lose money in a project that never came to fruition. Read more

CDB Grant Stirs Up Fuss About Regional White Sugar

Jamaica Gleaner: The April 2 announcement of a more than US$97,000 gift from the Caribbean Development Bank, CDB, to Caricom for a study on plantation white sugar has Jamaican manufacturing representatives lining up on different sides of the hot-button issue. Read more 

Govt to build nation’s quality standards system – Sutherland

Barbados Today: “Government considers this goal as urgent, and of very
high priority, in our efforts to enhance the national competitiveness of our local micro-small and medium size (MSMEs) businesses, industries and the promotion of fair trade,” he said. Read more 

CARICOM vital to regional development: Grenada’s new envoy

Caribbean News Service: CARICOM has been an indispensable force, says new envoy. Read more 

Call for Caribbean to speak out

Barbados Today: The Minister for tourism has issued a call for the Caribbean to take a defiant stand against the international community’s imposition of standards on small states – even as his own Government was racing to comply with new financial reporting rules set by a global watchdog. Read more

US report names several Caribbean nations as “major money laundering” centres

Caribbean News Now: In the latest US International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), volume two dedicated to money laundering, the report lists all major Caribbean and Central American countries as “Major Money Laundering Jurisdictions” for the year 2018: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Argentine Elections Could Narrow Brazil’s Mercosur Reform Path

Stratfor: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s push to reform the trade policy of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) risks collapsing without the support of Argentina. Read more

Ambassadors pave the way for EU-US trade talks, despite French opposition

Euractiv: Europe is set to start trade talks with the US after ambassadors gave their green light on Thursday (11 April) to a proposed mandate for the European Commission to conduct the negotiations on behalf of the 28 EU member countries. Read more

EU27 is now free to hold summits without the UK

Euractiv: The EU27 will be free to hold official Council meetings and make decisions without the UK despite the country still being a member of the Union, in a move seen as a success for France’s President Macron, who led calls for the restrictions. Read more

Tokyo and Washington finally set to kick off trade talks as American farmers fume over poor Japan access

Japan Times: This week, negotiators from Japan and the United States will meet in Washington to address something that U.S. President Donald Trump considers to be long overdue: trade negotiations to open the Japanese market to more American goods. Read more

China-US trade deal could threaten Beijing’s other trading partners, IMF says

South China Morning Post: Any trade deal between China and the United States must comply with multilateral rules, as not doing so may create economic risks for the Asian nation’s other major trading partners, the International Monetary Fund said. Read more 

South Korea WTO appeal succeeds in Japanese Fukushima food dispute

Reuters: South Korea won the bulk of its appeal on Thursday in a dispute at the World Trade Organization over import bans and testing requirements it had imposed on Japanese seafood in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Read more 

China has good reasons to join Pacific Trade pact, but obstacles remain

The Strait Times: If China joined a massive Pacific trade deal, it could create hundreds of billions of dollars in extra income and spur domestic reforms, say analysts, but signing up would be far easier said than done. Read more 

China, US could win big on no-deal Brexit: UN

France24: If Britain leaves the EU without a deal, the bloc and Britain’s smaller trading partners stand to lose big, but Beijing and Washington could reap huge benefits, the UN said Tuesday. In a fresh report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) examined what repercussions it would have for Britain’s trading partners if the country crashes out of the European Union without a deal. Read more 

Commission releases detailed information on requirements for EU goods exported to the UK in case of a hard Brexit

EU: The European Commission has included in its Market Access Database detailed information on the rules that the UK would apply on its imports from the EU in the event of a hard Brexit. It is based on information made publicly available by the United Kingdom authorities. Read more

EU foreign investment screening regulation enters into force

EU: The new EU framework for the screening of foreign direct investments has officially entered into force on 10 April 2019. The new framework is based on proposal tabled by the European Commission in September 2017 and will be instrumental in safeguarding Europe’s security and public order in relation to foreign direct investments into the Union. Read more

India reduces trade deficit with China by $10 billion in FY19

CNbcTV: India’s trade deficit with China fell by $10 billion to $53 billion in FY19 on the back of lower imports, officials told CNBC-TV18. The downtick in the merchandise trade gap was also aided by new market opportunities arising out of the US-China trade war in the neighbouring nation. Read more 

India’s trade ministry says no legal basis to ban e-cigarette imports

Economic Times: India’s trade ministry says it cannot impose a ban on electronic cigarette imports as there is no legal basis for doing so, an internal government memo viewed by Reuters shows, in a boost for those looking to tap into the country’s growing vaping market. Read more 

Africa’s new free trade area faces bumpy road to full implementation

Global Trade Review: The Gambia has become the 22nd nation to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the number required for the agreement to take effect. While this marks a significant step towards the continent’s ambition to create a single market, the free trade area will face a bumpy road to full implementation. Read more 

Why no-deal Brexit could be a win for South Africa

Business Tech: A no-deal Brexit could damage smaller economies trading with the United Kingdom (UK) – but bring substantial gains for China and other trading partners such as South Africa. Read more 

A US-EU trade war would be a political and economic mistake, says French finance minister

CNBC: With global growth already slowing down, starting a trade war now between the U.S. and the European Union would be both a political and economic mistake, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday. Read more 

Brexit: UK and EU agree delay to 31 October

BBC: European Union leaders have granted the UK a six-month extension to Brexit, after late-night talks in Brussels. The new deadline – 31 October – averts the prospect of the UK having to leave the EU without a deal on Friday, as MPs are still deadlocked over a deal. Read more

EU Commission split on fertiliser anti-dumping duties

Independent: A serious spat involving two arms of the EU Commission has erupted over attempts by the fertiliser industry to have anti-dumping duties imposed on liquid urea ammonium nitrate (UAN). Read more 

EU-U.S. Trade War Escalates Over Disputed Aviation Subsidies

Bloomberg: The European Union is preparing retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. over subsidies to Boeing Co., significantly escalating transatlantic trade tensions hours after Washington vowed to hit the EU with duties over its support for Airbus SE. Read more

Report to Congress on China’s Engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean

The following is the April 11, 2019 Congressional Research Service Insight report, China’s Engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean. Read more 

EU aid increases, bucking global trend

Euractiv: Development aid spending by EU members saw a slight increase to $87 billion in 2018 (€77 billion) compared to 2017, according to new data published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Read more 

WTO NEWS

VACANCY: Young Professionals Programme – Apply by April 15, 2019

The WTO Young Professionals Programme was launched in 2016 as an opportunity for qualified young professionals from developing and least-developed countries that are members of the WTO to enhance their knowledge regarding WTO and international trade issues. Read more 

WTO’s Trade Policy Review Mechanism turns 30

The WTO marked on 12 April the 30th anniversary of the Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM), which over the last three decades has contributed to ensuring and facilitating the smooth functioning of the multilateral trading system by enhancing the transparency of WTO members’ trade policies. Read more 

Registration opens for screening of second compliance panel meeting in “EC — Large Civil Aircraft”

At the request of the parties in the dispute “European Communities and Certain Member States — Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft: Recourse to Article 21.5 of the DSU by the European Union and Certain Member States” (DS316), the panel has decided to invite officials of WTO Members and Observers, and the general public, to view a recording of its substantive meeting with the parties and consenting third parties. The public viewing will take place at the WTO headquarters in Geneva on 13 May 2019. Read more 

DG Azevêdo: rules-based trading system is “irreplaceable” but must be ready to evolve

At a speech delivered to the Peterson Institute in Washington DC on 11 April, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo underlined the critical importance of the WTO to the stability and predictability of the global trading system. At the same time “it is clear that the WTO has to be better, faster and more responsive” to the challenges facing the organization and the system as a whole. Read more 

WTO hosts closing ceremony of Model WTO 2019

Over 70 students from around the world came to the WTO’s headquarters on 11 April for the conclusion of Model WTO 2019, a week-long simulation of WTO negotiations organized by a group of students from the University of St. Gallen with the support of the WTO. Read more

WTO establishes panel to review Turkish duties on Thai air conditioners

At a meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) on 11 April, WTO members agreed to Thailand’s request for the establishment of a dispute panel to rule on duties levied by Turkey on imported Thai air conditioners. Members also considered Russia’s request for a panel regarding European Union anti-dumping duties on Russian steel products and formally adopted the compliance panel and Appellate reports in the EU’s complaint against US subsidies for Boeing. Read more

Appellate Body issues report regarding Korean restrictions on Japanese food imports

On 11 April the Appellate Body issued its report in the case brought by Japan in “Korea — Import Bans, and Testing and Certification Requirements for Radionuclides” (DS495). Read more

WTO, IMF and World Bank leaders stress vital role of trade in reducing poverty

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo joined with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva on 10 April to argue for renewed efforts to leverage trade as a force to reduce poverty. DG Azevêdo argued that the current trade tensions could undermine recent progress in tackling poverty. “We cannot afford to go down this path,” he said. The three leaders were speaking at a joint WTO-IMF-World Bank event in Washington DC titled “Beyond Uncertainty: Leveraging Trade to Reduce Poverty”, held alongside the World Bank-IMF Spring meetings. Read more 

EU initiates WTO dispute complaint against Turkish measures affecting pharmaceuticals

The European Union has requested dispute consultations with Turkey regarding various requirements imposed by Turkey on the production, import and approval for reimbursement, pricing and licensing of pharmaceutical products. The request was circulated to WTO members on 10 April. Read more 

Trade Policy Review: Samoa

The first review of the trade policies and practices of Samoa takes place on 10 and 12 April 2019. The basis for the review is a report by the WTO Secretariat and a report by the Government of Samoa. Read more 

CTLD BLOG NEWS

Read my latest article with Dr. Jan Yves Remy, Deputy Director of the University of the West Indies’ Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy & Services exploring the issue of special and differential treatment in the World Trade Organization from a Caribbean perspective Special and Differential Treatment at the WTO: A Caribbean Perspective.

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.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – March 31 – April 6, 2019

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of March 31- April 6, 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.

HIGHLIGHTS

With the new Brexit deadline of April 12, 2019 fast approaching and no sign that British MPs are any closer to backing the Draft Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the Theresa May Government with the EU, which they already rejected three times, the UK Government has asked for a further extension until June 30, 2019.

The WTO released its April outlook for global trade growth, revising downward its forecast for 2019 amidst rising trade tensions. Read more here: WTO: Trade tensions pose greatest risk to trade growth

Meanwhile regionally, the CARICOM Competition Commission (CCC) has warned that the sale of Scotia Bank could have anti-competitive effects in three countries. Read the statement from the CCC here.

The text of the CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement has been released. Read more here: UK-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement: What does it all mean?

REGIONAL NEWS

Local manufacturers told to explore extra regional markets

LoopTT: Local manufacturers are being urged to seek out and penetrate new markets beyond CARICOM.  Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon made the comment while speaking at the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association’s (TTMA) 63rd Annual General Meeting on Tuesday. Read more 

Towards a Transparent and Effective Management of Guyana’s Oil and Gas Sector

Modern Diplomacy: The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a US$20 million credit from the International Development Association (IDA) to strengthen institutions, laws and regulations to promote good governance and a prudent management of Guyana’s oil and gas sector. Read more 

CARICOM body warns sale of Scotiabank could have anti-competitive effect

Nation News: The Suriname-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Competition Commission (CCC) says the intended sale of Scotiabank’s assets in nine Caribbean countries could have anti-competitive effects in at least three CARICOM member states. Read more 

Imbert: US lobbyist seeking opportunities for Govt

Guardian (TT): The Group DC LLC, the US lob­by­ist firm, which un­der­took sev­er­al trade and in­vest­ment pro­mo­tion ini­tia­tives for the T&T Gov­ern­ment last year, iden­ti­fied op­por­tu­ni­ties and strate­gies to en­gage multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions to po­ten­tial­ly in­crease com­mer­cial ship­ping and dry­dock con­struc­tion here. Read more 

Take Trade Matters Seriously

Barbados Today: Former Barbados Government Minister, Ms. Lynette Eastmond wants to see a different approach by the Barbados private sector to the issue of the country negotiating trade agreements. Read more 

CDB grant to help CARICOM investigate suitability of plantation white sugar for regional manufacturing

Caribbean News Now: A collaboration between the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) aims to improve the availability of data to guide evidence-based decisions about the future of sugar in CARICOM. Read more 

Guyana part of regional study on substituting refined sugar with “plantation white”

Demerara Waves: Guyana is among four sugar-producing Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member nations that will be the focus of a regional study on the prospects of substituting imported refined sugar with plantation white, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) said Tuesday. Read more 

CSME: The principle, process and progress

Newsday (Trinidad): Gracia Whyte a Jamaican, made sure she had all her documents in order when she began the process of applying for a Caricom Single Market Economy (CSME) skills certificate. She even had her employer, Digicel, to help ease her through the transition during her application process. Bureaucracy, however, still held her back. Read more 

Wto ‘No Silver Bullet’ For Gdp Growth Woes

Tribune242: Full World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership “is not a silver bullet” for solving The Bahamas’ economic growth woes, a Chamber of Commerce executive argued yesterday. Read more 

Aruba Extends Airbnb Agreement

Travel Pulse: Aruba’s government has extended its 2016 agreement with home-stay provider Airbnb to “continue with the promotion of sustainable tourism in Aruba through home sharing,” said Aruba Tourism Authority (ATA) officials in a statement. Read more 

Belize Imports up 6.8% in February 2019

Amandala: Latest statistics released by the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) say that Belize imported nearly $146 million worth of goods in February 2019, an increase of $9.2 million (6.8%) over the $136.8 million worth of goods we imported in February 2018. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Brexit chaos leaves dismay in Asia-Pacific

Asia Times: Britain’s failure to acyhieve a withdrawal agreement with the EU has had a very negative impact on the UK’s relationships in Asia and it could deal a serious blow to its trade with the region. Read more 

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow says US-China trade deal ‘closer and closer’

South China Morning Post: US President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser says the US and China are “closer and closer” to a trade deal, and that top-tier officials would be talking again this week via “a lot of teleconferencing”. Read more

A swashbuckling global Britain free to do its own trade deals? It’s a mirage

The Guardian: Whatever happens in the Brexit negotiations, the question of the UK’s future trade relations with countries outside the European Union will become acute for businesses, investors, workers and citizens. Read more 

Chile Lawmakers Delay Vote Again on Pacific Trade Deal

Bloomberg: Chilean lawmakers have once again delayed voting on a major Pacific trade deal, heightening concerns that they could reject the treaty. Read more 

Major New UN Report Calls for Overhaul of Global Financial System

UNDP: Sixty-plus international organizations, led by the United Nations and including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank Group and World Trade Organization, jointly sounded the alarm Thursday in a new report, warning that unless national and international financial systems are revamped, the world’s governments will fail to keep their promises on such critical issues as combatting climate change and eradicating poverty by 2030. Read more 

Moving the ACP Group to Centre Stage of Multilateralism

IndepthNews: In today’s global situation that bears the features of turbulence, fragility and an increasingly precarious balance between peace and possible nuclear annihilation, the role and relevance of the United Nations Organisation has assumed unparalleled importance. Read more 

Brexit extension veto by EU unlikely, says Leo Varadkar

BBC: It is unlikely an EU 27 country will veto a UK request for a delay to Brexit, the Irish prime minister has said. Read more 

May asks for Brexit extension to 30 June as Tusk offers up to a year

The Guardian: Rather than the year-long flexible extension to article 50 recommended by the European council president, the prime minister suggested 30 June as the new departure date, but with an option to leave earlier if the necessary legislation has been passed. Read more 

The African Continental Free Trade Area – More Hills To Climb

East African Business Week: The African Continental Free Trade Area (AFTA) has garnered the required 22 ratifications for it to enter into force, the latest ratification coming in on April 1, 2019, from The Gambia. Read more 

Trade agreement bolsters South Africa exports into Brazil

African daily voice: According to South African Foreign Economic Representative in Brazil, Shanaaz Ebrahim, the preferential trade agreement between the Southern African Customs Unions (SACU) and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) trade blocs has led to a steady increase of South African exports into Brazil. Read more

After China, the US will ratchet up trade tensions with the EU, OECD chief economist warns

CNBC: Once the U.S. and China have reached a trade deal, the world’s largest economy will amplify tensions with the European Union, according to the chief economist of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Read more 

The Risk of E-Commerce Provisions in the RCEP

The Diplomat: The world of digital economies, innovation, and global value chains (GVCs) is changing rapidly. Every day there are stories about new technologies, services, and products that present unexpected possibilities and unforeseen challenges. Read more 

RCEP trade pact likely to be concluded in November: ASEAN chief Lim Jock Hoi

Japan Times: An Asiawide free trade deal involving 16 countries will likely be concluded in November at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to be held in Thailand, ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi has said. Read more 

Pelosi: No vote on new NAFTA until Mexico changes labor laws

Politico: Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated on Tuesday the House will not consider President Donald Trump’s new North American trade pact until after Mexico has passed and implemented its major labor law reforms. Read more 

Canada says reopening USMCA trade pact could be a ‘Pandora’s box’

Reuters: Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday cautioned against the idea of reopening a new continental trade pact with the United States and Mexico, saying it could be a “Pandora’s box.” Read more 

U.S., China to Keep Working on Trade Deal After Latest Talks

Bloomberg: China and the U.S. made progress toward a much-anticipated trade deal in their latest meetings and will keep talking on the remaining issues, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Read more 

Why the Kenya-Uganda trade agreement over SGR is a raw deal for Kenya

CFM (Kenya): Last week President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni struck a wide ranging trade agreement that basically removes existing trade barriers and commits Uganda to connect to Kenya its component of the SGR under the broader Chinese belt and road initiative (BRI). Read more

WTO NEWS

WTO issues panel report regarding Russian restrictions on traffic in transit

On 5 April the WTO circulated the panel report in the case brought by Ukraine in “Russia — Measures Concerning Traffic in Transit” (DS512). Read more 

Australia ratifies WTO procurement pact

Australia has ratified the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), submitting its instrument of accession to the WTO Secretariat on 5 April. Starting next month, the country will benefit from new market access opportunities and other provisions under the pact. Read more 

Members advance work on new import licensing website and database

As part of overall efforts to improve transparency, WTO members advanced work to put into place a new import licensing website and database expected to be launched in late 2019 or early 2020. Read more 

DG Azevêdo praises Mexico’s support for a strong and effective rules-based system

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo welcomed Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s strong support for the WTO on 4 April, when they met in Mexico City. Their discussions included the importance of international trade and of a strong and effective rules-based system and the emerging debate on how to strengthen the WTO and global trade cooperation. Read more

Trade Policy Review: Bangladesh

The fifth review of the trade policies and practices of Bangladesh takes place on 3 and 5 April 2019. The basis for the review is a report by the WTO Secretariat and a report by the Government of Bangladesh. Read more 

Egypt launches safeguard investigation on semi-finished products of iron or non-alloy steel and steel rebar for construction purposes

On 2 April 2019, Egypt notified the WTO’s Committee on Safeguards that it initiated on 31 March 2019 a safeguard investigation on semi-finished products of iron or non-alloy steel and steel rebar (bars, rods and coils) for construction purposes. Read more 

Global trade growth loses momentum as trade tensions persist

World trade will continue to face strong headwinds in 2019 and 2020 after growing more slowly than expected in 2018 due to rising trade tensions and increased economic uncertainty. WTO economists expect merchandise trade volume growth to fall to 2.6% in 2019 — down from 3.0% in 2018. Trade growth could then rebound to 3.0% in 2020; however, this is dependent on an easing of trade tensions. Read more 

CTLD BLOG NEWS

The Caribbean Trade Law & Development (CTLD) Blog has been rated number 10 on Feedspot‘s Top 30 Caribbean Blogs, News Websites & Newsletters To Follow in 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.

Future CARICOM-US Trading Relations Beyond the Caribbean Basin Initiative

Alicia Nicholls

A bipartisan bill (HR 991) was recently introduced in the United States (US) House of Representatives proposing to extend the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), one of the key pieces of legislation comprising the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), to the year 2030. The benefits under the CBTPA are currently due to expire on September 30, 2020, unless extended by a subsequent Act of Congress.

The CBI has generally been regarded by successive US administrations as being mutually beneficial to both the US and CBI beneficiary countries. However, the current US administration’s greater insistence on reciprocity in its dealings with external trading partners and the on-going re-examination of its current trading arrangements mean that the extension of the CBTPA should not be taken for granted as a fait accompli.

While this article posits that CARICOM countries should indeed lobby for the CBTPA’s extension, it also proposes that, in the long-term, the region should think strategically beyond the CBI by considering a future CARICOM-US trading relationship which best enhances bilateral trade between the US and CARICOM to foster sustainable and inclusive development.

The Status Quo: The Caribbean Basin Initiative

Since 1983, preferential trade between CARICOM countries and the region’s largest trading partner, the US, has been governed largely by the CBI – a unilateral preference scheme of the US government which confers to eligible beneficiary countries non-reciprocal preferential access to the US market for a wide range of goods.

The CBI was first announced by then US President Ronald Reagan during an address before the Organisation of American States (OAS) on February 24, 1982, to facilitate the economic development and export diversification of Caribbean Basin countries, while also advancing US strategic economic and geopolitical interests in its “backyard”.

In 1983, the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) was finally signed into law, coming into effect the following year. In 2000, after much lobbying by Caribbean countries, the CBTPA was passed and granted enhanced preferences for eligible textile and apparel from CBI countries on par with those enjoyed by Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While the CBERA was made permanent in 1990, the CBTPA is scheduled to expire on September 30, 2020.

Seventeen Caribbean countries and territories are currently CBERA beneficiaries, while seven are eligible for the enhanced CBTPA preferences. Haiti also receives additional benefits for its apparel and textiles under the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act of 2006, the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE II) Act of 2008, and the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act of 2010, which are scheduled to expire in September 2025.

Data in the United States Trade Representative’s Twelfth Report to Congress on the Operation of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (December 2017) illustrated that for the years 2012-2016, on average about half of US total imports from CBI countries entered the US market otherwise duty-free. This was followed by imports under CBI tariff preferences which accounted on average for less than a quarter of US total imports from CBI countries. Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti and Jamaica were the top three sources of total US imports from CBI countries.

CBI: Possible Headwinds

The USTR report noted a 24% decrease in US consumption imports from beneficiary countries in 2016 compared to 2015, and down 58% from 2006. This decline was attributed to lower petroleum prices and an increase in US domestic petroleum production. US imports from CBI countries declined from 0.5% of total US imports from the world in 2012 to 0.2% of total US imports from the world in 2016. Energy products accounted for 39.3% of US imports under CBI in 2016 and textiles and apparel (primarily Haitian apparel) accounted for 34.9%.

In an article I wrote on this topic a couple of years ago, I outlined some of the structural deficiencies with the CBI as currently operated which I argued circumscribe its effectiveness at promoting economic development and diversification in beneficiary economies. One of those deficiencies is that the CBI preferences apply to goods only, which over time has arguably lessened its value given the increasing contribution of services trade to Caribbean economies.

Besides the structural issues inherent in the CBI, its continuation faces some possible political headwinds. The CBERA’s incompatibility with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules on non-discrimination and its ineligibility for the ‘enabling clause’ exception mean that the US must seek a waiver from the WTO which must be approved by WTO members. The US’ current WTO waiver for CBERA (inclusive of the CBPTA) is due to expire on December 31, 2019. Given this administration’s greater insistence on reciprocity with its trading partners, as articulated in the 2018 Trade Policy Agenda, it should not be taken for granted that the US will seek a new waiver for CBERA. Moreover, the strong opposition made by some developing WTO members the last time the US sought a waiver means that approval of yet another waiver by the WTO is also not a fait accompli.

Additionally, the current mercantilist tenor of US trade policy has occasioned a greater insistence on reciprocity and enhanced scrutiny of its trade agreements with countries with which the US has a trade deficit. It is this policy shift which hastened the renegotiation of NAFTA and its renaming to the USMCA. While reports do not indicate that the CBI is under the microscope, the programme’s unilateral nature means that preferences thereunder may be unilaterally varied or ended at any time. This adds some uncertainty for Caribbean exporters.

One element which might be keeping the CBI out of the current administration’s cross-hairs is that the CBI had immediately led to a spike in US domestic exports to CBI countries (then including other Caribbean Basin economies), peaking at $26 billion in 2005. Although US exports to CBI countries have declined since 2005, the US still enjoys a wide trade surplus with CBI countries – the total value of US exports to CBI countries in 2016 was $10.5 billion, while the total value of US imports to CBI countries in that same year was only $5.3 billion, leading to a US merchandise surplus with CBI countries of $5.1 billion in 2016.

Indeed, in the statement released by US Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL), one of HR 991’s co-sponsors (the other is Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)), the congresswoman noted, inter alia, that “Extending the U.S. Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act will expand the United States’ trade with Caribbean basin countries and increase our nation’s economic growth”.

CBI: Next Steps

Let me note that even if the CBTPA is not extended, this does not necessarily affect other components of the CBI programme which in the case of the CBERA is currently ‘permanent’ and with regard to the Haiti-specific preferences are due to expire in September 2025.

Nonetheless, this is not to diminish the importance of retaining the CBTPA tariff preferences, which still account for an important share of US imports from CBI countries. In 2016, the value of US imports under CBERA was $479 million and $252 million under the CBTPA. For this reason, the best immediate option is for CARICOM countries to step up their lobbying for an extension of the CBTPA. This lobbying effort should, of course, be done in collaboration with the regional private sector, the Caribbean diaspora and friends of the Caribbean in the US Congress. It is in this vein that the closure of the US-based Caribbean Central American Action (CCAA), which did excellent work on behalf of the region in the US, leaves a void which will need to be filled.

Another issue will be finding ways to increase the rate of utilization by CBI exporters of the CBERA/CBTPA preferences. This is a catch-22, of course, as the current wide US surplus with the region is perhaps the reason why CBI has been outside of the current administration’s crosshairs.

Nevertheless, US foreign policy has recognised that an economically prosperous Caribbean is in the US’ best interests. The Multi-Year US Strategy for Engagement in the Caribbean, pursuant to the US-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016, recognizes this by outlining several broad proposals for improving the trade and investment climate between the US and Caribbean. The mechanism of the US-CARICOM Trade and Investment Council, as provided for under the Trade and Investment Framework, should be used as a forum to discuss the implementation of these proposals and ways to improve CBI beneficiaries’ utilization of the preferences with the view to enhancing their economic development.

Let me hasten to say, however, that underutilization of the CBI is not simply a product of the structural problems of the initiative, but is symptomatic of the chronic under-utilisation by regional firms of current trade agreements in place between CARICOM and its trade partners. This speaks to wider structural issues prohibiting regional exporters from converting market access into market penetration. For one, navigating the myriad of requirements for exporting to the US under the CBI and other trade preference programmes is not easy for businesses, especially MSMEs which lack scale and have limited resources to interpret and meet the legal and other requirements under these arrangements.

Beyond CBI: Options for Future CARICOM-US Trading Relations

Given the CBI’s inherent structural problems and the possible political headwinds which may face the CBTPA’s renewal, CARICOM should seriously consider options beyond the CBI for its future trading relations with its most important partner.

An appropriate policy response should be evidence-based, that is, backed by sound data, as well as broad-based stakeholder consultations on the way forward. However, at least four options are readily apparent.

  • Trading under WTO MFN conditions

This is not an attractive (or real) option for CARICOM countries as it would result in regional exporters paying WTO Most Favoured Nation (MFN) rates for goods currently benefiting from CBI tariff preferences, thereby reducing what little margin of competitiveness they currently enjoy in the US market.

  • Trading under the US Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)

The US GSP was created in 1974 and provides duty-free, non-reciprocal access to the US market for a number of goods from 131 designated beneficiary countries, including 44 Least Developed Countries (LDCs). In March 2018 President Trump signed legislation to renew it to March 2020. Similar to the CBI, the GSP’s unilateral nature still adds an element of uncertainty for traders. The rules of origin under the GSP are also stricter than those under the CBI.

While some US imports from CBI countries do enter the US market under the GSP, these are much less than those entering otherwise duty-free, under CBI and HOPE Act tariff preferences and under WTO Most Favoured Nation (MFN) terms. Additionally, not all CBI countries are GSP designated countries. For example, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago were graduated and are no longer eligible for preferences under the GSP.

  • Acceding to CAFTA-DR FTA

Acceding to an existing US FTA, such as the CAFTA DR, may be another possible option. Under Article 22.6 (Accession) of the CAFTA-DR, any country or group of countries may accede to the Agreement “subject to such terms and conditions as may be agreed between such country or countries and the Commission and following approval in accordance with the applicable legal procedures of each Party and acceding country.”

Acceding to CAFTA-DR would create market access openings for CARICOM exporters not only to the US, but to the other CAFTA-DR parties: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, as well as enhanced market access to the Dominican Republic (with which CARICOM already has an FTA).

Conversely, there are considerations to be borne in mind. Are the commitments under the CAFTA-DR ones that CARICOM Member States are prepared to undertake and capable of implementing? What would be the possible impact of these market access openings on CARICOM’s most sensitive industries?

There are also political considerations. With the USMCA signed (but still awaiting ratification by all three governments), the current administration is said to be looking closely at the CAFTA-DR, which means that a possible renegotiation of that agreement at some point cannot be ruled out.

  • Negotiation of a CARICOM-US Free Trade Agreement

The fourth and perhaps best long-term scenario is the eventual conclusion of a CARICOM-US Free Trade Agreement. As noted in the latest USTR Report on CBERA, eight countries (including the Dominican Republic) are no longer CBERA beneficiaries due to being party to FTAs with the US. Indeed, the aim was for the US to conclude an FTA with CBERA beneficiaries as soon as possible.

There are possible positives to concluding a CARICOM-US FTA, including gaining preferential access to the US market for CARICOM services providers, and the prospect of negotiating a mutually beneficial and binding trading agreement which provides certainty for exporters from both sides.

However, there are also some potential downsides. An FTA is reciprocal and binding which means CARICOM Member States will be required to make market access concessions to the US as well. CARIFORUM countries are already struggling to implement commitments made under the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement which has been provisionally applied since 2008. Some CARICOM governments may also worry about the further erosion of tariff revenue.

It is also doubtful whether the current US administration (or any future one) would agree to the generous level of special and differential treatment as CARIFORUM was able to negotiate with the European Union (EU) under the CARIFORUM-EU EPA. Negotiating a CARICOM-US FTA will also necessitate reconciling differing levels of ambition and competing interests among CARICOM Member States due to asymmetric development levels and capacity for undertaking commitments.

Nonetheless, of the four future scenarios presented, this is likely to be the most beneficial option for CARICOM. Any post-CBI CARICOM-US trading arrangement should at the very least be reciprocal (not unilateral), provide for special and differential treatment and development assistance, include gender and environmentally sensitive provisions, include an investment chapter which incorporates recent best practices in investment treaty rule-making which seek to ensure a proper balance between investor rights and States’ regulatory rights, and mandate on-going review and monitoring of the agreement to ensure that it is achieving its objectives. These could be best captured in an FTA.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the best immediate option for CARICOM at this moment should be lobbying for the CBTPA’s extension. However, given the flaws inherent in the CBI and the possible headwinds facing the programme’s future continuation, CARICOM policymakers would be advised to keep one eye on lobbying for an extension of CBTPA with the other on a longer term view of what its next steps should be regarding the region’s future trading partnership with its most important trading partner.

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.

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