Tag Archives: trade

Accelerating Gender Mainstreaming in CARICOM Trade Policy

Dr. Jan Yves Remy and Alicia Nicholls

While we can all agree that trade offers the potential for inclusive and sustainable growth in small Caribbean states, deployment of a successful trade strategy requires recognition and ultimately monitoring of its differentiated impacts on women and men. Despite immense strides made in empowering women, they remain under-represented in global trade and are disproportionately affected by international competition and technological changes.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2019, we highlight the link between trade and gender and make the case that accelerating gender mainstreaming in trade policies of CARICOM Member States promotes not just gender equality, but inclusive growth as well.

Gender Equality and Development Nexus

Under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5, the international community has committed to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030. Not only is enhancing women’s equality and economic empowerment a human right, but the removal of legal and other barriers to women’s economic inclusion has a multiplier effect in the economy due to women’s dual role as caregivers and economic actors. World Bank research has found that women invest up to 90% of their income in their families, with positive spill-overs for their communities and the economy. A recent Mckinsey Global Institute Report found that advancing women’s equality could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025.

Despite this compelling data, and although they account for half of the world’s working age population, women remain under-represented in international trade on account of their unequal access to factors of production and inbuilt gender biases. A recently released World Bank Report entitled “Women Business and the Law 2019” found that out of 187 countries globally, women had equal legal rights to men in only 6.

Gender and Trade Nexus

Trade policies are not necessarily gender neutral: they impact women and men differently at both the country and sectoral levels. Recognizing this, a policy of “gender mainstreaming” aims to promote gender equality by integrating gender considerations in the preparation, design, implementation and monitoring of policies.

Trade creates opportunities for women’s empowerment by creating both employment and business opportunities, but it can also alienate them. For example, while e-commerce can improve women’s access to foreign markets, increased competition through trade liberalisation can displace and marginalize women in agriculture. Because they are both caregivers and economic actors, women often have less time on average than men to engage in entrepreneurial and exporting activities. At the same time, their access to market information is often lower due to fewer networks and lower education levels. Knowing this, ex ante gender-based analysis can assist policymakers to avoid negative gender impacts of policies that they implement.

A number of international institutions have developed programmes to increase women’s inclusion in trade. For instance, the International Trade Centre (ITC) has created a She Trades electronic platform; and the World Trade Organization (WTO), at its Buenos Aires Ministerial Conference in 2017, adopted a Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment. Regionally, the Caribbean Export Development Agency’s Women Empowered Through Export (We-Xport) initiative supports Caribbean businesswomen looking to export for the first time or to increase their goods and services exports.

But there is still lots to do in CARICOM. Despite the fact that CARICOM Member States are signatory to a plethora of international treaties aimed at the empowerment of women, their trade policies are to a large extent being enacted and maintained in the absence of evidence and data that is timely, comparable and sex-disaggregated. Mainstreaming gender into CARICOM countries’ trade and development policy-making would help to ensure that initiatives under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and CARICOM’s trade negotiations with third parties are gender-sensitive. It is, therefore, a welcome development that Belize’s recently launched National Trade Policy (2019-2030) incorporates gender equality as a cross-cutting issue. Another praiseworthy development is that in February 2019, it was announced that national consultations were underway on a draft CARICOM Regional Gender Equality Strategy to advance gender equality and equity and the empowerment of women and girls in each of the fifteen CARICOM Member States.

How can CARICOM Member States promote Gender Mainstreaming in Trade?

Based on the above, we recommend the following ways in which CARICOM’s trade policies may be more gender-sensitive:

  • Mainstreaming gender in the design and implementation of National Trade Policies. Belize’s new National Trade Policy can serve as a good model;
  • Gender sensitivity training of key technocrats charged with formulating, implementing and monitoring trade and economic policies and their gendered impact. Gender-based policy making and monitoring will require greater resource allocation to the agencies charged with gender affairs;
  • Enlisting the assistance of civil society and the private sector in designing trade policies and measuring their impact;
  • Increasing specific programmes in Member States’ aimed a promoting women’s entrepreneurship and export activities through capacity-building, improving their access to finance and to trade information;
  • Promoting greater inclusion of gender provisions in CARICOM’s free trade agreements (FTAs). The most far-reaching of these FTAs like the Canada-Chile and Chile-Uruguay FTAs, contain dedicated trade and gender chapters. CARICOM’s trade agreements, however, are generally sparse on gender provisions;
  • Continued lobbying of regional policy makers to honour the commitments they have made both regionally and internationally to promote gender equality, particularly their reporting and gender mainstreaming commitments.

International Aid for Trade programming is becoming increasingly gender-focused. With foreign donors increasingly making gender an important plank of their aid strategies, CARICOM governments seeking development assistance are increasingly under pressure to include gender considerations. However, gender mainstreaming is not just about ensuring CARICOM Member States meet their international treaty obligations or increase their access donor to funding. When properly implemented, gender-sensitive trade policies promote women’s empowerment, eradicate poverty and foster inclusive growth.

Dr. Jan Yves Remy is the Deputy Director of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill’s Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy & Services. Alicia Nicholls is an international trade and development consultant and contributing author to the UWI SRC’s Trading Thoughts column.

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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.

Can CARICOM Countries Afford to Miss the WTO E-commerce train?

Dr. Jan Yves Remy and Alicia Nicholls

On the sidelines of this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in January at Davos, Switzerland, 76 Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) expressed their intention to begin WTO negotiations on electronic commerce (e-commerce). Making up less than half of the WTO’s overall membership, these willing Members entreated other Members to join them in negotiating rules aimed at facilitating the use of e-commerce in trade.

All independent CARICOM Member States, with the exception of the Bahamas – which is presently acceding to the WTO – are WTO Members and therefore eligible to join these negotiations. However, so far none has done so. Given the potential of e-commerce for their development, should CARICOM Member States reconsider their cautionary stance?

Growing importance of e-commerce to global trade

E-commerce, also referred to as “digital trade”, has been defined as “the production, distribution, marketing, sale and delivery of goods and services through electronic and digital means”.  In its World Trade Report 2018, the WTO noted that digital technologies – such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, the Internet of Things and 3-D printing – are reducing trade costs and revolutionizing the structure and patterns of global trade flows.[i]  The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimated the global e-commerce market to be around US $22.1 trillion in 2015.[ii]

The WTO Report and numerous studies[iii] highlight the potential of e-commerce to catalyse economic transformation in developing countries by lowering trade costs, increasing market access opportunities for Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and individual entrepreneurs, improving logistics, and widening consumer choice. Challenges, however, continue to plague the use of these technologies, including inadequate supportive policies, technology diffusion and regulation.

While more modern regional trade agreements – like the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement and even the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement – include comprehensive digital trade chapters, the WTO, which was negotiated in 1995, still does not contain a multilateral agreement dealing holistically with e-commerce. Instead, separate disciplines affecting digital trade in goods and services can be found in the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, and more recently, the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The multilateral route: The WTO Declaration and Work Programme on E-Commerce

Multilateral discussions on e-commerce involving all WTO Members were launched in 1998 through the adoption of a Declaration on Global Electronic Commerce, and a Work Programme to examine trade-related issues related to global electronic commerce.  The Work Programme has been continuously updated at most WTO Ministerial Conferences since 1998, the last one being the Buenos Aires Ministerial Conference in 2017.  Under that Work Programme, the WTO’s main committees have been reviewing progress on discussions, with general oversight provided by the WTO’s General Council.  Despite fits of activity, and some proposals by select countries, not much has yet been accomplished beyond a temporary moratorium on the application of customs duties on electronic transmissions and the formulation of a working definition of e-commerce.

Although the negotiation of a multilateral agreement or rules among all 164 WTO Members would be ideal, consensus among all Members has been difficult to achieve.  This is in large part due to developing countries’ objections to what they consider to be ambitious proposals being pushed by developed countries.  On the one hand, WTO developing countries, led by India and the African Group of countries, support completion of the more limited mandate under the 1998 Work Programme framework.[iv]  On the other hand, developed countries, such as the US[v] and the European Union, advocate moving beyond mere discussions to actual negotiations to formulate rules aimed at increasing e-commerce opportunities in the twenty-first century.  Where CARICOM stands is unclear as no CARICOM government has to date tabled a proposal on e-commerce at the WTO.

The plurilateral route: Joint Statements on Electronic Commerce at Buenos Aires and at Davos

Without an official WTO mandate to proceed with multilateral negotiations, some WTO Members have begun negotiations on a plurilateral basis, that is, without all WTO Members but among a subset of willing ones.  The plurilateral discussions began when 71 Members signed a Joint Statement on E-Commerce in Buenos Aires in 2017, and was extended at Davos in January this year, when five more countries, including China, agreed to join the plurilaterals.

In their Joint Statement at Davos, the 76 signatories agreed, inter alia, to achieve “a high standard outcome that builds on existing WTO agreements and frameworks with the participation of as many WTO members as possible”.[vi]  The willing countries also agreed to “recognize and [to] take into account the unique opportunities and challenges faced by members, including developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), as well as by micro, small and medium sized enterprises, in relation to electronic commerce”.

Should CARICOM countries participate in plurilateral negotiations?

As with the multilateral e-commerce negotiations, CARICOM countries’ have remained silent on whether they have an appetite for joining the plurilateral e-commerce negotiations.  A number of factors could account for their apparent hesitation.

Firstly, CARICOM countries may be concerned about their capacity to engage in negotiations on an area of trade which is still relatively new and evolving, and their subsequent ability to implement in a timely manner any obligations undertaken. To allay such fears, it might be worth considering the approach to special and differential treatment taken in the Trade Facilitation Agreement, another WTO plurilateral agreement, where implementation is tied to a country’s capacity and the degree of technical assistance provided.

Secondly, some CARICOM countries may fear that participation in these negotiations will restrict their policy space, particularly their ability to regulate online traffic and cross border data flows, and attendant issues like data privacy and cybersecurity.  They might also be wary of the revenue implications of agreeing to the proposed permanent moratorium on the imposition of customs duties on electronic transmissions.

A third possible red flag for CARICOM may be the reluctance of other developing countries in joining the negotiations. While China joined at the last minute, others like India and the African Group countries have adamantly declined, preferring to focus attention on the multilateral discussions.[vii] These countries argue that e-commerce is monopolised by multinational corporations and that gains from e-commerce will not be realized for developing countries if they are required to cede their regulatory and policy space.

Without a critical mass of developing countries involved in the negotiations, CARICOM countries’ ability to form coalitions with perceived “like-minded” countries may be circumscribed. That said, e-commerce is an area in which CARICOM countries have offensive interests given the predominance of services in their economies.  It may well be that new coalitions will have to be built on the basis of a new alignment of interests.

Issues for Consideration

Given the importance of digital technology in global commerce, missing the e-commerce train at the WTO may not be in CARICOM’s best development interests. But CARICOM countries would be ill-advised to pursue a strategy to negotiations that ignores the following considerations.

Firstly, a negotiating strategy must be predicated on a sound digital trade policy that is informed by: data analysis of current patterns, scope and scale of e-commerce in the region; a clear-sighted appreciation of how e-commerce can promote the region’s overall economic transformation; and solid regulatory frameworks and infrastructure. Some studies, including one commissioned by UNCTAD on e-commerce legislation in Caribbean countries[viii], already exist.

Secondly, both the digital trade policy and the subsequent negotiating strategy will require the input and feedback of key stakeholders, including the private sector and regulators which will be tasked with administering any rules, and consumer bodies. Canada, which is one of the Joint Statement signatories, has already launched stakeholder consultations.[ix]

Thirdly, CARICOM countries must be tactical.  They should consider reaching out to other similar-minded developing countries to join the ongoing plurilaterals negotiations, and increase the visibility of issues that are unique to smaller developing countries.

What Next?

As CARICOM ponders its next move, negotiations on the plurilateral front are ramping up.  There is no agreement yet among those engaged in the plurilateral as to the legal structure any eventual agreement will take, nor as to its scope.  But there is a willingness to move beyond the “exploratory” phase to actual negotiations.  In fact, the first meeting of the plurilateral e-commerce negotiations is slated to take place on March 6.

That means that there is still an opportunity for all WTO Members to participate in these negotiations, and thereby influence their shape. The 70 plus signatories include the world’s largest trading economies which account for 90% of global trade.[x]  As the rules negotiated will likely serve as the baseline for any future multilateral e-commerce deal, non-participation by developing countries would relegate them, once again, to the status of rule-takers. This is not an area in which CARICOM countries should leave their destinies in the hands of others.

Dr Jan Yves Remy is the Deputy Director of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill’s Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy & Services. Alicia Nicholls is an international trade and development consultant and a contributing author to the UWI SRC’s Trading Thoughts column. This article was also published in Barbados Today.

[i] https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/publications_e/world_trade_report18_e_under_embargo.pdf

[ii] https://unctad.org/es/paginas/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=1281&Sitemap_x0020_Taxonomy=Information%20and%20Communication%20Technologies

[iii] See for example Commonwealth (2017)  https://books.thecommonwealth.org/e-commerce-and-digital-trade-paperback; WTO (2013) https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/booksp_e/ecom_brochure_e.pdf ; E. Humphrey et. al (2003) https://eprints.lse.ac.uk/3710/1/The_reality_of_e-commerce_with_developing_countries.pdf.

[iv] See link for a synthesis of some of the positions: https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news16_e/good_17nov16_e.htm. For the Indian Government’s views see  https://www.ictsd.org/bridges-news/bridges-africa/news/african-group-submits-proposal-on-e-commerce-ahead-of-wto and also for the African Group’s position: https://www.ictsd.org/bridges-news/bridges-africa/news/african-group-submits-proposal-on-e-commerce-ahead-of-wto

[v] See this link for a greater discussion on the diverging views of WTO members on the way forward: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-trade-wto-digital/some-wto-members-to-push-for-e-commerce-rules-as-broader-deal-fails-idUSKBN1E72YV

[vi] The link to the text of the Joint Statement on E-commerce of January 25, 2019 text is available on this webpage: https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news19_e/dgra_25jan19_e.htm

[vii] See https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/info-tech/india-keeps-off-75-member-wto-e-comm-agreement-talks/article26093230.ece and https://www.livemint.com/politics/news/india-south-africa-others-skip-wto-negotiations-on-e-commerce-at-davos-meet-1548435856765.html

[viii] https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=2084

[ix] http://www.internationaltradecomplianceupdate.com/2019/01/28/canada-launches-consultations-on-future-wto-e-commerce-negotiations/

[x] https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news19_e/dgra_25jan19_e.htm

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – February 3-9, 2019

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of February 3-9, 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. We apologise for the delay in the publication of this edition.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

A bi-partisan bill has been introduced in the US House of Representatives to reauthorize the US Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) until 2030.

Trade was one of themes touched on by US President Donald J. Trump in his State of the Union Address. See write up here.

UNCTAD identified the winners and losers from the US-China trade tensions in a recently released report entitled The Trade Wars: The Pain and the Gain which may be viewed here.

REGIONAL

Bipartisan Caribbean Trade Bill introduced in US congress

CaribbeanNewsNow: US Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) have introduced legislation to reauthorize the US Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) until 2030. Since 2000, CBTPA has allowed for the duty- and quota-free import of goods made with US yarns, fabrics and threads from Caribbean countries. Read more 

Efforts take shape to reduce OECS food import bill

St. Lucia News Online: Spurring domestic agricultural production to meet local and international demand while reducing the region’s food import bill is the focus of a powerful new data tool recently presented to agricultural decision-makers at the OECS Commission. Read more 

Commercial Court ‘could boost’ Barbados economy

Barbados Today: The minister responsible for business is counting on the planned commercial law court to transform the way business is done and boost the flagging economy. Read more 

Trinidad: PM wants technology to play greater role in energy sector; offers help to Caribbean countries

St Lucia News Online: The Trinidad and Tobago government Monday said it is prepared to assist its fellow Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries develop their hydrocarbon sector as it placed much emphasis on the importance of technology in developing its own industry. Read more 

Marshall and Brown launches Jamaican gourmet line in UK

Jamaica Observer: A new premium Jamaican product line, Marshall & Brown, has been launched in the United Kingdom (UK) to fill a gap in the market for authentic Jamaican food and cooking ingredients.  Read more 

High demand for Jamaican black castor oil in United States

Jamaica Observer: A new study on the local castor oil industry is showing significant potential for Jamaican black castor oil in the United States. The Complete Caribbean study indicates that the US market for the product stands at about US$28 million. Read more 

CDB President calls for resilience, transformation to drive Regional economic growth

CARICOM Today: Although grappling with challenges related to climate change; wide fiscal deficits and high public debt; as well as high unemployment, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) today projected that the Region’s economy is expected to grow by 2% in 2019. Read more 

Trinidadians seeking business opportunities in Jamaica

CARICOM Today:A business delegation from Trinidad and Tobago is in the island for a four-day trade mission from February 5 to 8. The team, being hosted by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, represents 10 companies involved in various sectors. These are construction, architectural services, food and beverage, agro-chemical, consumer and household products, software development, marketing and advertising. Read more 

Consultations on CARICOM Gender Policy

CARICOM Today: The first of 15 national consultations on a draft Regional Gender Equality Strategy for CARICOM opened on Thursday, in St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

Japan seeking big concessions from Britain in trade talks

The Guardian: Japan is seeking tougher concessions from Britain in trade talks than it secured from the EU, while negotiations between London and Tokyo are also being slowed by the looming risk of no-deal. Read more 

US-China trade war could slash almost 1 million jobs from the US economy, new study says

South China Morning Post: Research from the Washington-based consultancy Trade Partnership Worldwide, paid for by the pro-free trade lobbying group Tariffs Hurt the Heartlands, ominously predicts that more than 2 million American jobs could be on the line should US President Donald Trump push ahead with his threat of a 25 per cent tariff on all Chinese exports. Read more

WTO awards South Korea $85 million against U.S. over washing machine tariffs

Reuters: South Korea can impose annual trade sanctions of $84.81 million on the United States after challenging U.S. anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs on washing machines, a World Trade Organization arbitration panel ruled on Friday. Read more

India, Peru to hold next round of free-trade agreement talks in March in Lima

ET Now: India and Peru will hold the next round of negotiations for a proposed free-trade agreement (FTA) in the South American nation next month, a move aimed at boosting two-way commerce between the countries, an official said.  Read more 

Uruguay Betting On Exports Of Medical Marijuana

Jamaica Gleaner: The country got a head start on competitors in December 2013 when it became the first in the world to regulate the cannabis market from growing to purchase, a move that has brought a wave of investment. Read more 

No-deal Brexit: What does the WTO rules option actually mean and how would it work?

iNews: If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, which is still the default option if one cannot be agreed, it would automatically fall back to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. But what would this actually mean? Read more

Brexit: May says she can get deal through with binding changes

BBC: Theresa May has told EU leaders she can get the Brexit deal through Parliament if they give her legally-binding changes to it. Read more 

African Free Trade Zone deal may come into force in 2 months: Egypt’s FM

Egypt Today: The agreement of the African Continental Free trade Area (AfCFTA) for 55 member states of the African Union may come into force within six months, said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on the sidelines of the 32nd session of the African Union that will kick off on Sunday in Addis Ababa. Read more

Turkey, US ‘will reach $75 bln trade target with free trade agreement’

Hurriyet: Trade volume between Turkey and the United States may reach $75 billion through a free trade agreement and the removal of regulations and tariffs, the chairman of the American-Turkish Council has said, stressing that the bilateral potential has never been realized. Read more

A modernized WTO is far better than no WTO at all

The Hill: Last month, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, leading members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) met to discuss how to improve the organization. At the same time, more than 70 governments agreed to commence WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce. Read more

China says US report on its WTO compliance lacks factual basis

CNBC: China opposes a report by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office on its World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance, the commerce ministry said, saying it is inconsistent with the facts. Read more

WTO NEWS

Arbitrator issues decision in dispute between Korea and US on large residential washers

WTO: On 8 February 2019, a WTO arbitrator issued a decision on the level of trade suspension Korea may request in its dispute with the United States regarding US anti-dumping and countervailing duty measures on large residential washers from Korea (DS464). 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.

Trade Takeaways from Trump’s Second State of the Union Address

Photo source: Pixabay

Alicia Nicholls

Last night (February 5, 2019), United States (US) President, Donald J. Trump, delivered his second State of the Union (SOTU) address before a joint session of the US Congress. The President highlighted his administration’s progress on his campaign promises, including on immigration, trade, tax policy, infrastructure and national security. This article takes a brief look at the trade takeaways from the SOTU.

The Context

President Trump came to office with the promise, inter alia, of effecting a seismic shift in US trade policy. America, Trump argued, was being taken advantage of by other countries, while “unfair” trade deals were leading to the outsourcing of American jobs to the detriment of American workers and the American economy.

An underlying theme of President Trump’s SOTU address last night was that of “promises made, promises kept”. The President reminded viewers of his campaign promise “to defend American jobs and demand fair trade for American workers”, while highlighting the achievements made thus far.

Much of President Trump’s trade policy actions have been done through executive actions utilising legislation like the Trade Act which empower the President to take certain trade-related action, such as raising tariffs. Indeed, in just two years, the Trump presidency has heralded a decidedly mercantilist turn in US trade policy, marked by increased unilateral action (even against traditional US allies, such as Canada and the EU), the US’ withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the renegotiation of the tripartite North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), more aggressive action against China, coupled with threats of withdrawal from the WTO and blockage of appointments/re-appointments of WTO Appellate Body members.

Main Trade Takeaways from SOTU

However, in his address, President Trump focused exclusively on trade policy achievements regarding increased enforcement of US trade laws and the renegotiation of NAFTA. Below are the takeaways:

US-China Trading Relations

China has been the principal target of President Trump’s trade policy actions, leading to an escalation in trade tensions between Washington and Beijing which, according to the major multilateral institutions, are already negatively impacting global trade flows and dampening the outlook for the global economy.

In 2018, the Trump administration imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, to which Beijing retaliated with tariffs on $110 billion worth of US goods. Although those parties threatened to impose further tariffs, they made a truce on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in December 2018 not to impose any further tariffs for a 90-day period while trade talks resumed between them. Since the start of the truce, two sets of face-to-face trade talks have been held between the two economic behemoths.

While President Trump proudly boasted that America is “now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries, and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end”, he further noted that he and Chinese President Xi were working on a new trade deal. The President, however, reiterated that any US-China trade deal “must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs”.

From NAFTA to USMCA

In his SOTU address, President Trump noted that “to build on our incredible economic success, one priority is paramount – reversing decades of calamitous trade policies”. To this effect, one of the President’s major trade policy campaign promises was the renegotiation of NAFTA, an agreement which he derided as a “historic blunder” in his SOTU address.

This renegotiation was accomplished last year with the signing of a replacement agreement called the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Agreement. Some of the major changes include the requirement that 75 percent (up from 62.5 percent under NAFTA) of an automobile’s contents needs to be made in North America for it to qualify for duty-free treatment, greater access to the Canadian dairy market for US farmers, an extension of the terms of copyright protection, stronger labour provisions, a sunset clause and provision for review of the Agreement every six years.

The USMCA was signed in November 2018, but is awaiting ratification by the three parties. However, some Democrats have raised issues with the Agreement. President Trump encouraged Congress to ratify the USMCA, in order to “bring back our manufacturing jobs in even greater numbers, expand American agriculture, protect intellectual property, and ensure that more cars are proudly stamped with our four beautiful words: “Made in the USA.”

United States Reciprocal Trade Bill

President Trump also made a strong appeal to Congress to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Bill (HR 764), “so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the same product that they sell to us”.

The US Reciprocal Trade Bill, was introduced in the House on January 24, 2019, by Republican representative from Wisconsin’s 7th District, Sean Duffy (R-WI), who is currently the ranking Member of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing & Insurance.

Inter alia, the Bill provides that if the President determines that the rate of duty or non-tariff barriers imposed by a foreign country on a particular US good is “significantly higher ” than the rate of duty or non-tariff barriers imposed by the US on that same good imported from that country, the President is empowered to take several actions, including imposing a rate of duty on imports of that good that is equal to that imposed by that country.

The Bill currently has 19 co-sponsors. According to Representative Duffy’s press release, the proposed legislation would give the President “more flexibility in responding to foreign tariffs on U.S. products” and “the tools necessary to pressure other nations to lower their tariffs and stop taking advantage of America”.

If passed, the Bill will, however, likely be challenged by affected countries through the WTO’s dispute settlement system. However, it should be noted that its successful passage by Congress is not guaranteed. Firstly, the Democrats are the majority in the House of Representatives since January 2019, some of whom have openly criticised Trump’s protectionist trade policies. Secondly, and more importantly, some members of Congress, including some Republicans, are already proposing bi-partisan legislation to limit the President’s authority to unilaterally impose trade restrictions for national security purposes.

In the House, for example, Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wi-8) introduced H.R.940 to amend the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to impose limitations on the authority of the President to adjust imports that are determined to threaten to impair national security, and for other purposes. Meanwhile, in the Senate, for example, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)  introduced the Global Trade Accountability Act (S 177), which would amend the Trade Act of 1974 to require congressional approval of unilateral trade action. The House version (HR 723) was introduced by Representative Warren Davidson (R-OH-8).

However, the passage of any of these proposed bills limiting the President’s trade policy powers are not a sure bet either. Even if passed by both Congressional chambers, the bill would almost certainly be vetoed by the President, and would require a two-thirds majority in each house to override a presidential veto, which is not an easy feat.

The big takeaway

The big takeaway is that President Trump is convinced that his mercantilist trade policy is delivering for the American people, a fact he evidences by the increase in jobs and economic growth. Indeed, a fact sheet  was released by the White House on the same day highlighting the President’s trade policy achievements.

However, his trade policies have come at the cost of increased trade tensions, alienating traditional US allies and creating an impending crisis in the WTO’s Appellate Body whose membership is now down to three – the minimum number of members required to hear an appeal.

Several WTO members have already initiated complaints against certain of President Trump’s trade measures, and/or have raised issues during the US’ most recent Trade Policy Review (TPR).

However, barring some Congressional limit on Presidential trade policy powers, the current trade policy approach is likely to continue for the remainder of the Trump Presidency.

The full transcript of the President’s SOTU Address may be viewed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade and Development Digest – January 13 – 19, 2019

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

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

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

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

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

REGIONAL

Trump weighs dramatic tightening of embargo on Cuba

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

Shaw wants more aggressive approach to trade facilitation programme

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

Cuba, Iran to improve trade relations

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

Antigua & Barbuda hit visitor arrival record 

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

Correspondent banking still an issue for CARICOM

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

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

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

Gopee-Scoon: TT preparing for Brexit

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

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

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

Trinidad & Tobago Rice production plummets 97%

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

Jamaica exports grew 17.6% in Q1 2018

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

Arley Gill to be Grenada’s new ambassador to CARICOM

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

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

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

INTERNATIONAL

These are the biggest risks to the global economy in 2019

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

Expansion of Pacific trade deal discussed at ministerial meeting in Tokyo

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

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

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

Malaysia hopes for RCEP to finalise by end-2019

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

CPTPP members signal intent to expand the agreement

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

Climate change clouds Australia’s Pacific charm offensive 

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

India keen on closer trade ties with neighbours

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

Can ASEAN cope with the trade war?

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

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

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

New trade agreements secure Australian exports to Britain post-Brexit

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

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

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

AfCFTA seeks to increase intra-Africa trade

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

Vietnam-Africa trade reaches US$6.6 million in 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Theresa May survives vote, Britain remains in Brexit deadlock

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

May scrambles to agree plan B for Brexit ahead of deadline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EU imposes safeguard measures on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WTO NEWS 

General Council Chair appoints facilitator to address disagreement on Appellate Body

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

Venezuela initiates WTO dispute case against Colombia regarding liquid fuel restrictions

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

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

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

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

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – December 9-16, 2018 (Final for 2018)

Welcome to the final Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for 2018! We are happy to bring you the latest trade and development news and analysis for the week of December 9-16, 2018

As this will be our last edition for 2018, we take this opportunity to thank you for your readership over the past year and to wish you and yours the very best for the season! 

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

At COP24, nearly 200 countries have reached an agreement on the implementing guidelines – the ‘Rulebook’ –  for the operationalization of the Paris Agreement (2015). This agreement came on Saturday night, a day after the two week UN Climate Talks were scheduled to end.

The Brexit saga continued. UK Prime Minister Theresa May postponed a scheduled vote on her draft Withdrawal Agreement with the EU in the face of fervent political opposition, survived a confidence vote and  has been thus far unable to win additional concessions from the EU to placate MPs’ fears about the Withdrawal Agreement.

See my article with Dr. Jan Yves Remy, Deputy Director of the University of the West Indies’ Shridath Ramphal Centre, analysing what these latest Brexit political headwinds mean for CARIFORUM-UK trading relations!

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

REGIONAL

Antigua-Barbuda calls on WTO to reform dispute settlement body

Caribbean News Now: Antigua and Barbuda has officially intervened in the ongoing discussions concerning the reform of the Dispute Settlement Understanding of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Read more 

Barbados Ambassador to Geneva sounds warning

CBC (Barbados): Ambassador Blackman was addressing the WTO’s General Council Meeting. He told the body Barbados continues to believe in the WTO’s rules based trading system, but the country remains concerned about the impasse in the selection process for Appellate Body members. Read more 

St Vincent becomes first OECS island to decriminalise marijuana

LoopT&T: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has made history as the first OECS Member State to decriminalise marijuana for medical purposes and scientific research. Read more 

CARICOM to review intra-regional transportation

LoopBarbados: Come next year, the Caribbean region will see a host of new measures, including improved intra-regional transportation. Read more 

Antigua Asks For Delay In Further Free Movement, Says It Already Has Large Numbers Of CARICOM Nationals

Antigua News Room: The Government of Antigua and Barbuda says it has asked to be excluded, for now from implementing measures under Caricom which would see free movement of more classes of people. Read more

CARICOM Secretary General holds talks with Aruba on associate membership

TV6 (Trinidad): The  Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque  on Wednesday met with Prime Minister of Aruba Hon Evelyn Wever-Croes on Associate Membership in the 15 member regional grouping – the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)  for the Dutch Territory. Read more 

Regional Statement on the IPCC Special Report 

CARICOM Today: CARICOM ministers with responsibility for addressing climate change released a statement on the IPCC’s Special Report. Read more 

Belize accepts chairmanship of AOSIS

CARICOM: Belize’s acceptance of the chairmanship of AOSIS from the Maldives in January 2019. Belize will hold the chairmanship for two years to be followed by Antigua and Barbuda in 2021. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

UK and Switzerland agree to transition trade agreement after Brexit

UK Government: The UK Government and the Swiss Federal Council have approved the transition of a trade agreement, allowing businesses to continue trading freely after the UK leaves the European Union. Read more 

Commission reports on trade negotiations with Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia

EU: As part of its commitment to transparency, the European Commission published today a report from the latest round of negotiations between the EU and Australia, as well as the EU’s six initial text proposals tabled during this round. Read more 

U.S. Rejects the EU’s Trade Reform Proposal, Putting WTO at Risk

Bloomberg: The U.S. rejected the European Union’s proposal to reform the World Trade Organization, dealing a blow to international efforts to bolster the Geneva-based body, which has come under attack from President Donald Trump’s administration. Read more 

EU-Japan trade agreement on track to enter into force in February 2019

EU: The European Commission welcomes today’s approval in the European Parliament of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement. Read more

China buys US soybeans for first time since trade war

BBC: China has bought US soybeans for the first time since the trade war between the two countries started in July. The country’s finance ministry also confirmed it would temporarily reduce tariffs on US car imports from 40% to 15%, beginning on 1 January. Read more 

Shipping costs from China to the US have more than doubled as trade war sparks a ‘bonanza’

CNBC: The price of shipping a container from China to the United States has risen dramatically in the last year due to uncertainty surrounding trade tensions between Washington and Beijing. Read more 

AEC pushes for an inclusive African Continental Free-Trade Agreement

African Review: A successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement cannot be achieved without the “people dimension,” ensuring that the integration process does not lead to widening inequalities or exclusion, the AEC Forum observed. Read more 

Appellate Body issues report on revised US “dolphin-safe” tuna labelling measure

WTO: On 14 December the Appellate Body issued its report in the cases brought by Mexico and the United States in “United States — Measures Concerning the Importation, Marketing and Sale of Tuna and Tuna Products — Second Recourse to Article 21.5 of the DSU by Mexico” (DS381). Read more 

India appeals panel ruling in dispute with Japan over safeguard duties on steel products

WTO: India filed an appeal on 14 December concerning the WTO panel report in the case brought by Japan in “India — Certain Measures on Imports of Iron and Steel Products” (DS518). The panel report was circulated to WTO members on 6 November. Read more 

Appellate Body issues report regarding Brazil tax measures

WTO: On 13 December the Appellate Body issued its report in the cases by the European Union and Japan in “Brazil — Certain Measures Concerning Taxation and Charges” (DS472 and DS497). Read more

Trade Policy Review Body: Overview of developments in the international trading environment

WTO: Speech by WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo. Read more.

WTO-World Bank joint publication highlights need for policies to maximize trade gains for extreme poor

WTO: Trade has made a significant contribution to poverty reduction but further integration of developing countries into international markets and policies to share the gains from trade more widely will be essential for further reducing poverty and ensuring that no one is left behind, according to a joint publication by the World Bank Group and the World Trade Organization launched today (11 December). Read more 

Report shows sharp rise in the coverage of trade-restrictive measures from WTO members

WTO: The Director-General’s annual overview on trade-related developments presented to members on 11 December at a meeting of the Trade Policy Review Body (TPRB) shows a significant increase in trade coverage of trade restrictive measures by WTO members from mid-October 2017 to mid-October 2018. Read more

EU parliament approves huge free trade deal with Japan

Japan Today: The European Parliament on Wednesday approved an accord with Japan that has been dubbed the world’s biggest trade deal, covering economies that represent a third of the world’s GDP. Read more

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

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