Tag Archives: trade

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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Eight Key Outcomes from the St. Anns Declaration on CSME

Alicia Nicholls

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government met from December 3-4, 2018, in Port of Spain, Trinidad last week for the 18th Special Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM which was a special meeting on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The CSME envisions deepened economic integration among participating CARICOM Member States by creating a single economic space for the free movement of Community goods, services, capital and labour, with the aim of promoting economic development and increased well-being of Community nationals. All independent CARICOM Member States, except the Bahamas, are part of the CSME, while Haiti is not yet a full participant.

Progress towards implementation of the CSME has been painstakingly slow, a point noted in numerous reports commissioned to look at this issue, including the Jamaica-government commissioned Golding Commission Report released earlier this year which examined Jamaica’s relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM frameworks.

At the end of the special CSME meeting last week, CARICOM leaders released their St. Ann’s Declaration on CSME in which they recommitted to the regional integration process and outlined several priority areas for immediate action, including setting timelines for some action areas.

Based on the St. Ann’s Declaration on CSME, here are eight key outcomes from the CSME Special Meeting:

1.Recommitment to national action to further CSME implementation

CARICOM leaders recommitted to take action at the national level to advance the regional integration agenda. In their preamble to the Declaration, they reiterated that the CSME “continues to be the most viable platform for supporting growth and development” in CARICOM Member States, but acknowledged that progress on the CSME should have been further advanced by now. They welcomed Haiti’s commitment to full integration into the CSME by 2020.

2.Greater voice for private sector and labour

CARICOM leaders have agreed to establish a formalised and structured mechanism to facilitate dialogue between the Councils of the Community and the private sector and labour. They also agreed to amend the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to include representative bodies of the regional private sector and labour as Associate Institutions of the Community.

3. Full Free Movement in 3 years (for willing Member States)

CARICOM leaders have set a timeline of the next three years for those Member States which are willing to do so to move towards full free movement. The leaders have also agreed to reinforce the operation of their security mechanisms to ensure the integrity of the regime allowing the free movement of CARICOM nationals.

4. Expansion of categories of skilled nationals entitled to move

Agricultural Workers, Beauty Service Practitioners, Barbers and Security Guards will be added to the categories of skilled nationals who are entitled to move freely and seek employment within the Community.

CARICOM leaders also reiterated that a skills certificate issued by one Member State would be recognised by all Member States. They also agreed to complete domestic legislative and other arrangements for all categories of free movement of skilled persons.

5. Greater CARICOM-OECS collaboration

They have mandated that steps be taken to deepen cooperation and collaboration between the Secretariats of CARICOM and the OECS “to avoid duplication and maximise the utility of scarce resources”.

6. Single Domestic Space for passengers in the Region

CARICOM leaders agreed to examine the re-introduction of the single domestic space for passengers in the Region and agreed to work towards having a single security check for direct transit passengers on multi-stop intra-Community flights. They also agreed to conduct a special session on Air and Maritime Transportation at the Intersessional meeting of the Conference to be held next February to focus on this matter.

7. Public Procurement and Mutual Recognition of Member States’ incorporated companies

CARICOM leaders set a timeline of 2019 for the finalization of the regime that permits citizens and companies of the Community to participate in Member States’ government procurement processes. They also agreed to take the necessary steps to allow for mutual recognition of companies incorporated in a CARICOM Member State.

8. Restructured Commission on the Economy

CARICOM leaders have restructured the Commission on the Economy to advise Member States on a growth agenda for the Community. Leading Barbadian-UK economist, Professor Avinash Persaud, has been appointed to lead this restructured commission, while its nine other members include distinguished regional and international persons.

The text of the St Ann’s Declaration on CSME 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 – December 2-8, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of December 2-8, 2018! 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, CARICOM Heads of Government held a Special Session on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) in Port of Spain, Trinidad. They issued the St. Ann’s Declaration on CSME in which they recommitted to the process of CSME implementation and outlined some key priority areas for implementation.

The CARICOM Competition Commission (CCC) has indicated that it is closely monitoring the proposed sale of Scotia Bank’s operations in several Caribbean jurisdictions to the Trinidad-based Republic Financial Group Ltd. Read the CCC’s full statement here.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and parliamentarians from ACP countries held their  36th session of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) in Cotonou, Benin. They adopted several resolutions, including their Declaration of the Co-Presidents on Post-Cotonou Negotiations on the occasion of the meeting of the 36th Joint Parliamentary Assembly

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

REGIONAL

CARICOM to open government procurement to regional companies

LoopBarbados: A portal called CIMSuPro – the CARICOM Interactive Marketplace and Suspension Procedure – will be established as a managed market place for CARICOM companies to post their raw material, goods and services.  It would be made available to regional and global purchasers. Read more

More Categories of Workers to Be Granted Free Movement Within CARICOM

Caribbean360: More Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals are to be allowed to seek work in fellow member states, it has been revealed, as CARICOM leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the vision of free movement and a shared market space. Read more

CCJ Issues Record Number of Judgments in 2018

CARICOM: During 2018, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) issued 34 judgments and reasons for decision, its highest number of judgments delivered in a calendar year since it began its operations in 2005. Throughout that period, the CCJ also heard 28 new matters in both its Original and its Appellate Jurisdictions. Read more 

CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors charting enhanced role

CARICOM: CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque in welcome remarks, told the ambassadors their role, both individually as the link between the regional and the national, and as a constituent group within the governance structure of the Caribbean Community, assumes even greater significance in the renewed drive to implement the provisions of the CSME and other critical areas of the community’s work. Read more 

No plans for Jexit 

Jamaica Observer: Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday reiterated that the decision to establish a commission to review his country’s relationship with the Caribbean Community (Caricom) was not intended to create an avenue for it to leave the 15-member regional integration movement. Read more

Tackle CSME Issues Head On, Urges CARICOM Chairman

Caribbean360: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Chairman, Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica, has urged a “head on” approach to tackling of complex issues during the Special CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) underway in Trinidad and Tobago. Read more

Guyana pushes trade and investment at OIC meeting in Turkey

Caribbean News Now: Guyana attended the 34th meeting of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC), which was held last week in Istanbul, Turkey. Representing Guyana at the meeting was its permanent ambassador to the United Nations, Michael Ten-Pow, who promoted the opportunities for trade and investment in his country. Read more

Exxon Mobil could push Guyana past Mexico, Venezuela in oil output

Houston Chronicle: The small South American nation of Guyana could become the continent’s second-largest oil producer thanks to the offshore discoveries made by Exxon Mobil, according to a new report. Read more 

Sugar sales down, total exports down (Belize)

The Reporter (Belize): Revenue earned from sugar exports, Belize’s largest export earner, were down in the month of October, contributing largely to an overall decrease in export revenues of 5.1 percent, according to the Statistical Institute of Belize. Read more

Region’s Coconut Industry gets EDF boost

CARICOM: The coconut industry in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean should soon be receiving a further boost. That is because the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) will be financing a second coconut project in the region. Read more 

Prensa Latina: The Caribbean Sugar Association (SAC) reported that its members met approximately 80 percent of Caricom”s raw sugar needs during 2017/18 harvest. Read more

IMF thumbs up for Barbados

Nation News (Barbados): The International Monetary Fund (IMF) likes the way the Barbados economy is being fixed, calling it an “excellent start”. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

COP24 fails to adopt key scientific report

BBC: Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed. The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October. Read more 

Macron threatens to scupper EU-Mercosur trade deal over climate

Euractiv: French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that he will oppose a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur if Brazil’s incoming far-right president pulls his country out of the Paris Agreement. Read more 

Mercosur and EU trade negotiators meet in Brasilia

The Rio Times: The foreign ministers of Mercosur and EU members are meeting in Brasilia on Thursday (December 6th) in an effort to advance the partnership agreement between the two economic blocs. This is the first time Mercosur and the UE are meeting after statements made by France’s Macron caused tension and doubt about the partnership. Read more 

Why Qatar left OPEC

Al Jazeera: Explaining the motivation behind the decision, Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, Qatar’s minister of state for energy affairs and president and CEO of Qatar Petroleum, said that Qatar’s exit from OPEC “is not political, it was purely a business decision for Qatar’s future strategy towards the energy sector.” Read more 

RCEP: Experts to evaluate pact to strengthen India’s position

Hindu Business Line: To sharpen India’s bargaining position in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is being negotiated among 16 countries, the Commerce Ministry has roped in experts from academic institutions and think-tanks to carry out a detailed study of the pact and give their recommendations. Read more 

#ACPEU – MEPS agree on a partnership tailored to international context

EU Reporter: During the 36th session of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), which took place from 3 to 5 December in Cotonou (Benin), Members of the European Parliament and their counterparts from 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries debated and adopted several resolutions. Read more 

Japan-EU trade pact clears hurdle on road to Feb. 1 start

Nikkei Asian Review: Japan’s parliament approved an economic partnership agreement with the European Union early Saturday, keeping one of the world’s biggest free trade zones on course to take effect Feb. 1. Read more 

EU agrees post-Brexit import quotas for other WTO members

Reuters: The European Union endorsed on Friday new tariff rate quotas (TRQs) that the bloc will apply mainly for agricultural products coming from other World Trade Organization members after Brexit. Read more 

Britons scramble to get E.U. passports before Brexit

NBC: With the U.K. due to leave the European Union in March, the demand among Britons for citizenship and passports from the other 27 countries in the bloc has skyrocketed. Read more

DG Azevêdo in US: This is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to renew trading system

WTO: Speaking in Washington DC on 5 December, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said that WTO members have “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to renew the trading system”. He argued that in responding to the range of challenges in the global trading system today, momentum was building towards strengthening and improving the work of the WTO. The Director-General was speaking at the National Foreign Trade Council’s annual World Trade Dinner. Read more 

Argentina initiates WTO dispute complaint against Peruvian measures on biodiesel imports

WTO: Argentina has requested WTO dispute consultations with Peru concerning anti-dumping and countervailing measures imposed by Peru on biodiesel imports from Argentina. Argentina’s request was circulated to WTO members on 5 December. Read more 

Panels established to review India, Swiss complaints against US tariffs

WTO: At its meeting on 4 December, the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) agreed to requests from India and Switzerland for the establishment of panels to examine tariffs imposed by the United States on steel and aluminium imports. Read more 

United Kingdom submits draft post-Brexit services commitments to WTO

WTO: WTO members received today, 3 December 2018, the United Kingdom’s draft schedule outlining its WTO commitments for services once the UK leaves the European Union. Members now have 45 days to review the schedule before certification. Read more 

China confirms its working on independent WTO reform

Asia Times: China is planning to put forward an independent proposal to promote WTO reform, Yicai.com reported, citing a government official and several sources. 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.

Why WTO Reform Matters for Caribbean Small States

Alicia Nicholls

At the conclusion of its 47th Meeting this week, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) released a statement in support of the multilateral trading system and its guardian, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which are currently under threat. All independent CARICOM member States, with the exception of the Bahamas which is currently in the process of accession, are WTO members and have a rich history of engagement in the WTO. WTO reform is more than a moot point for the Caribbean, but a question of economic and sustainable development importance for the region.

What is the Multilateral Trading System and the WTO?

The multilateral trading system was formed at the end of the Second World War with the creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the progenitor to the WTO, in 1947. This rules-based system has provided for the predictable and peaceful conduct of global trade for more than a half century to the benefit of the global economy.

Since its inception in 1995, the WTO has been the guardian of the multilateral trading system. Its 164 members account for over 97% of global trade, with 22 other countries currently in the accession process. Despite its flaws, some of which I will come to shortly, the WTO has been an important building block in the global economic governance structure. Among its functions, the organisation serves not just as a permanent forum for negotiation of global trading rules among its members, but its dispute settlement system provides to WTO members an exclusive and compulsory system for the timely and orderly settlement of trade disputes.

Why the need for reform?

The core functions of the WTO have become increasingly under strain. Calls for reform are not new, but have intensified in recent years. Without doubt, the United States’ threat of withdrawal unless its own demands are met, has invigorated political will for reform of the WTO.

Firstly, the negotiation function of the WTO is in a paralytic state given the inability of member states to conclude the Doha Development Agenda – the latest round of trade negotiations which were launched at the Doha Ministerial in 2001 and whose only major agreement so far is the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The paralysis has been due largely to current decision-making procedures and the increased number of members which has made multilateral rule-making on ever more complex trade issues difficult. Secondly, the US has been blocking the appointment of judges to the WTO’s Appellate Body, which means there are currently only three judges, the minimum needed to hear a dispute. The once vaunted system will grind to a halt by December 2019 when two other judges’ terms are up for renewal. Thirdly, there are concerns with the lack of compliance by some States with notification and transparency requirements which impacts on the WTO’s monitoring function.

In response, many countries have not just pivoted their attention away from the multilateral table towards the regional arena, but there is growing protectionism and resort to unilateral measures. In its latest economic outlook released November 21st , the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned that global GDP growth has peaked on the back of a slowdown in global trade and investment flows owing to current trade tensions. The OECD has, therefore, called for renewed international cooperation and dialogue to tackle global trade issues and reform of the global trading system. Similar warnings have been made by other multilateral institutions and bring into sharp focus the importance of the stability of the multilateral trading system for the global economy in general, and for Caribbean small states, in particular, whose small open economies are susceptible to global economic shocks.

These systemic risks suggest that the WTO requires more than superficial tinkering, but comprehensive, inclusive and transparent reform. The challenge is making the WTO, an institution born in a different era and different economic landscape, “fit for purpose” for twenty-first century global trading realities, and in a way that caters to the unique needs of its smallest and most vulnerable members.

Why does WTO reform matter to Caribbean small States?

Caribbean small states, and small States in general, comprise only a tiny fraction of world trade, but their equitable integration into the global economy is essential for their economic survival. These States comprise primarily small island States, but also some small continental States. Compromised by limited bargaining power and inherent economic and other vulnerabilities, they depend on the certainty and predictability of the rules-based multilateral trading system not just to ensure that their traders face fair trading conditions in external markets, but that they could hold (at least in theory) larger states to account through the WTO’s dispute settlement body when they do not play by the rules.

It is of importance to Caribbean small States that updated trade rules for the twenty-first century not be made in negotiation theatres to which they are often not party (such as in Regional Trade Agreements and Mega-Regional Trade Agreements), but in the multilateral system where they have an equal seat at the table.

What proposals are on the table?

Thankfully, the silver lining to this story is that most WTO members have thus far expressed continued support for the multilateral trading system and have exhibited interest in WTO reform. The EU and Canada have both publicly shared their initial reform proposals and Canada held a meeting with thirteen other ‘like-minded’ governments in Ottawa to discuss WTO reform. The proposals have touched, for example, on decision and rule-making, improving the dispute settlement function and improving transparency and notification requirements.

In November 2018, the US, EU, Japan, Argentina and Costa Rica laid a proposal for tightening transparency and notification requirements under the WTO agreements. Among the recommendations were changes to the current Trade Policy Review mechanism, special consideration for developing countries and penalties for non-compliance by members.

Many of the proposals currently on the table have direct implications for Caribbean small States. For example, the EU and Canadian proposals evince growing appetite by the more advanced economies to change the current model of decision-making, that is, the consensus-based approach which requires absence of any formal objection to the decision. This approach has made the WTO one of the most democratic of the multilateral economic institutions. It allows small States to have bargaining power they otherwise would not have had and by mere numbers has led to a shift in the balance of bargaining power in favour of developing countries in the WTO. Though this approach has accounted for some of the stalemate, the wholesale move to a less democratic form of decision making would be disadvantageous to small States beset by limited negotiation might.

There are also calls for reforming the application of special and differential treatment (SDT) since currently any WTO member can self-designate as a developing country, entitling it to the flexibilities under the Agreements. This concern is due to the inclusion of large emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil in particular as developing countries. While not specifically supporting the creation of special categories, the EU concept paper notes the lack of nuance in the concept of a ‘developing country’. This is a good reason why small States should redouble their advocacy efforts for the translation of the Small Vulnerable Economy (SVE) informal group into a formal sub-category of developing countries.

What should we do?

The current crisis in the multilateral trading system has implications for Caribbean small states which rely on the certainty of the multilateral trading system and on the health of the global economy. It, however, also opens the door for our States to advocate for reforms as well. CARICOM countries have always played an active role in WTO negotiations, including pushing for the SVE grouping. For this reason, the COTED statement supporting the multilateral trading system and the WTO, and demanding a space for small States in the negotiations, was a good initial step.

The next step should entail formulating our own carefully considered responses to the proposals already on the table and advancing our own concrete proposals where we deem necessary. For instance, as noted before, given the dissatisfaction by advanced economies with the current carte blanche approach to SDT, this may be the opportune time to raise the reconsideration of making the SVE category a formal category. Additionally, as the on-going US-Antigua Gambling dispute shows, even though a small State may win a dispute, obtaining compliance is another matter. For this reason, dispute settlement reform is another area on which Caribbean small States should take particular interest.

Indeed, CARICOM governments will not have to depend solely on the vast knowledge and experience of their technocrats, but there are an increasing number of regional scholars and academic institutions, such as the University of the West Indies’ Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy & Services, which are pro-actively considering these issues, and whose technical expertise and research capacity could be drawn upon. There is also no need to reinvent the wheel given the growing corpus of literature, developed by the Commonwealth Secretariat for example, which has analysed the drawbacks of the WTO for small States and making proposals for reform. This work can be drawn upon in the formulation of our own proposals.

The Caribbean has a strong history of multilateral engagement within the WTO. The current situation gives us an appropriate moment to contribute to the comprehensive reform of the guardian of the multilateral trading system to ensure it remains fit for purpose for 21st century trading realities and for the global economy, and that it better serves its smallest and most vulnerable members. Caribbean small States can ill-afford to be perceived as backseat participants, but must be fully engaged and mobilized in this critical moment.

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.

Could Promoting Bilingualism Give Caribbean Countries a Trade and Investment Advantage?

Alicia Nicholls

What do Mauritius, Malaysia, and Singapore have in common? Besides being examples of highly competitive emerging economies, these countries have multilingual populations which they proudly count as part of their country’s competitive advantage.

Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, recently announced his government’s hope to adopt Spanish as a second language given the longstanding and growing importance of foreign direct investment (FDI) from Spain to Jamaica’s economy. Spanish chains are a growing presence in Jamaica’s tourism, wellness and construction  sectors and have injected US$1.7 billion in Jamaica’s tourist industry, according to the Prime Minister in his speech.

Similar statements on the need for improving our populations’ language competencies have also been made by current and previous Commonwealth Caribbean governments. Could the promotion of bilingualism give our hitherto monolingual Commonwealth Caribbean countries a trade and investment edge in an increasingly interconnected global marketplace?

 ‘Everyone speaks English!” Or do they?

I am not aware of any data on the rates of bilingualism (that is, proficiency in two or more languages) in the Commonwealth Caribbean. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that aside from local dialects, anglophone Caribbean countries have mostly monolingual (one language) populations.

It is not uncommon to hear some persons strongly proclaim “everyone speaks English, so why must I learn another language?”. Though English is currently the most learnt second language internationally, this chart from the World Economic Forum shows that English is actually the third most spoken mother tongue in the world, with 372 million first-language speakers in 2017. The second most spoken language was Spanish, with 437 million speakers. But the most spoken was Chinese (Mandarin) with 1,284 million speakers, which is not surprising given the population of China.

While the English language has been the global lingua franca since the 20th century, it has not always been, and it may not always be either given China’s growing economic dominance and promotion of its culture and language.  In recognition of this fact, China Daily has reported that there is growing interest in western countries for learning Mandarin. In Russia, for example, the number of Chinese language learners has reportedly increased from 17,000 in 2007 to 56,000 in 2017 and Mandarin is now an elective language in that country’s national college entrance examination.

That aside, the Commonwealth Caribbean is surrounded not only by its Spanish, French and Dutch speaking Caribbean island neighbors, but also Spanish-speaking Latin American countries and Portuguese-speaking Brazil, which present still largely undertapped export and tourist markets.

Bilingualism enhances labour force quality

There is a corpus of research highlighting the cognitive, psychological and social advantages to human beings learning a second language. These include sharpened memory, improved decision-making skills, multi-tasking capability, problem-solving and mental dexterity. Knowledge of another language also increases a person’s employability, cultural sensitivity, earning potential and labour market opportunities. As a multilingual person, I can personally attest to the doors which knowledge of other languages have opened for me professionally.

Internationally, employers’ demand for bilingual persons has increased not only as trade with other countries has increased, but because of the recognition by firms of the benefits to their export strategies of employing bilingual persons. A report of March 2017 by New American Economy found that demand for bilingual workers in the US is growing at both the higher and lower ends of the employment spectrum. This is further supported by a report by the Economic Intelligence Unit, which surveyed 572 executives globally and found that organisations with international ambitions were increasingly expecting prospective employees to be fluent in key foreign languages.

Taken as a whole, improving a population’s language competency makes for a more attractive labour force to international investors. This advantage has not gone unrecognized by some countries. Mauritius, whose population speaks French, English and French Creole, proudly touts its bilingual population as one of its unique selling points as a place for international business. In Switzerland, which has four national languages, a report from 2008 estimated that country’s linguistic advantage as equivalent to about 9% of its GDP.

In an increasingly interconnected world, I believe monolingualism will put our human resource, which is our greatest resource, at a distinct disadvantage in attracting international investment and tourism.

Bilingualism/Biculturalism as Business Advantages in Cross-Border Transactions

Effective communication is essential to the success of cross-border deals, which means that linguistic and cultural differences are frequent barriers to cross-border trade and investment. The previously mentioned report by the Economic Intelligence Unit found that “misunderstandings rooted in cultural differences present the greatest obstacle to productive cross-border collaboration”. For instance, a handshake or kiss on the cheek may be perfectly acceptable in one culture, but may cause offense in another.

A UK-based report also found that “over time the trade cost to the UK resulting from language barriers has varied in magnitude, but has been consistently large.”  While I am unaware of similar research conducted in the Commonwealth Caribbean, anecdotal evidence shows that this may also be the case here as well.

It is not uncommon for some businesses seeking to export to feel that it is not necessary to invest in developing a multilingual strategy or capacity given the increasing availability and accuracy, for example, of online translation services. However, online translation services miss subtle cultural nuances, which may be fatal when engaging in cross-border business negotiations, especially with enterprises from ‘high context cultures’. ‘High context’ is the term used in international business to describe those cultures which place greater emphasis on context, non-verbal cues and on interpersonal relations when conducting business. Examples would be most African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries. ‘Low context’ cultures usually rely mainly on verbal cues, and interpersonal relationships have less importance in the business context. These cultures include many Western European countries, the US and Canada.

In the Commonwealth Caribbean most of our international trade is currently with low context cultures with which we share cultural, linguistic and historical ties. But, as our firms seek to diversify, and as China (a high context culture) expands its economic footprint in the region, there will be need for greater understanding of the Chinese language and culture.

Prior knowledge of the language and cultural norms of a target export market is also invaluable when conducting market research into the business, legal and regulatory environment of that potential export market.

Bilingualism can foster wider Caribbean integration

Promoting bilingualism can foster closer Caribbean integration. By accident of geography, the Caribbean Region is divided by water. By accident of history, these divisions are furthered by language. However, greater linguistic and cultural awareness among our islands can bridge these divisions.

As an example, the French-speaking island of Martinique is one of the top tourist source markets for St. Lucia, its neighbor just 40 miles to the south.  Its tourist and business ties with Martinique are facilitated not just by geography and reliable transportation links, but also the mutual intelligibility of the Martinican and St. Lucian creoles and some shared cultural similarities. St. Lucia, nicknamed Helen of the West, changed colonial hands fourteen times between France and England, giving the island a unique culture and patois which is a mélange of its French and English colonial roots.

A new programme called the Trade Enhancement for the Eastern Caribbean (TEECA) programme seeks to promote trade and investment between Member States of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and Martinique, which became an OECS associate member in 2015. The success of this programme will undoubtedly hinge on OECS firms seeking to create or expand business with those in Martinique having an understanding of the Martinican cultural, business and legal context and knowledge of the French language.

Building a Bilingual Advantage

Promoting greater language competency among our populations could bring trade and investment advantages to Caribbean countries which rely disproportionately on their human resource. While not a panacea, it can provide for a more employable and attractive labour force, facilitate our export market diversification efforts, strengthen integration with the non-anglophone Caribbean and improve trade and investment ties with the wider LAC region

Of course, creating a bilingual society cannot happen overnight. First of all, we need to determine what language competencies our Governments will seek to promote. Spanish and French are increasingly being taught in Commonwealth Caribbean secondary schools, but should Mandarin also be included on the curriculum?

Moreover, expanding language instruction at the primary school level would be key, as well as promoting greater cultural exchanges. Languages should not be seen  solely as subjects for study, but as a door to further business opportunities, creating an edge for our people in an increasingly interconnected and competitive global environment.

As it is firms which trade and not countries, it is incumbent on regional firms to increase their in-house language capacity by employing persons with the linguistic skills and cultural knowledge of their export target markets, and also, where appropriate, invest in developing the language proficiency of their existing staff.

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 – September 9-15, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of September 9-15, 2018! We are happy to bring the trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

REGIONAL

Laing appointed Bahamas’ WTO Chief Negotiator

Eyewitness News: Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette held a press conference on Sunday at the Campbell Maritime Centre to provide an update on the country’s current accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Accession. Read more 

Bahamas’ Top Negotiator: ‘WTO’ won’t hurt this economy 

Tribune 242: The Bahamas’ newly-appointed chief negotiator yesterday pledged this nation “cannot join the WTO on terms that injure” its economy or any major industries. Read more 

Guyana, other Caribbean countries searching for new fuel sellers following Trinidad’s refinery closure; regional tax to be waived 

Demerara Waves: In the wake of the closure of Trinidad and Tobago’s state-owned oil refinery, Petrotrin, Guyana and several other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states are scrambling to buy fuel from extra-regional suppliers, Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge said Monday. Read more 

All hands on deck with Windrush

The Gleaner: Article by Jamaica Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, on the Jamaica Government’s approach to the ‘Windrush’ issue in the UK. Read more 

SAC issues position paper for regional integration of sugar market

The Jamaica Observer:  The Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC), which represents sugar producers in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), has disclosed that it issued a position paper on the regional integration of the sugar market on September 7. Read more 

Caribbean banks support CARICOM in regional integration efforts

Caribbean News Now: The Caribbean Association of Banks (CAB) has commended the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP) for reaffirming the commitment towards the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and its significance for the regional financial sector, at the sixth special meeting of the Council on September 4, 2018, in Barbados. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

RCEP Negotiations Reach Critical Stage – Likely to be Inked by Year-End

ASEAN Briefing: In the sixth Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ministerial meeting held in Singapore, the negotiations for the conclusion of the proposed RCEP reached a critical stage; the top leaders from the 16-member coalition came together and pledged to endorse a package of outcomes by year-end. Read more

Trudeau sets out fall priorities, including finalising the Trans-Pacific deal as NAFTA talks continue

The Toronto Star: Canada will try to meet a Sept. 30 deadline to reach a North American free trade pact, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Thursday the most recent timeline set by the U.S. may not be met as NAFTA talks continue. Read more 

Intrigue, impasse persist over NAFTA

Calgary Herald: With trilateral NAFTA talks having been on hiatus for most of the summer, the foreign affairs minister was in Berlin, barely one full day into a week-long diplomatic mission to Europe, when news emerged that the United States and Mexico had forged their own trade alliance in Canada’s absence. Read more

NAFTA negotiations ‘hang over heads’ of Canadian farmers, U.S. counterparts

CBC (Canada): The tough talk between Canada and the U.S. around NAFTA negotiations is having real-life consequences for those working in the industry every day.  Read more 

Canada working on WTO Reform: Report

MoneyControl: Canada is working on a project for the reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and aims to organise international talks on the subject next month, Canadian sources said Friday as US pressure on the body mounts. Read more

Canada-EU trade, one year on; Imports rising faster than exports

CBC (Canada): When the Canadian government talks about trade diversification, the agreement it puts in the window is its wide-ranging trade deal with the European Union, which started to take hold one year ago this week. Read more 

USTR Publishes Agreed Outcomes from US-Korea FTA Amendment and Modification Negotiations

USTR:  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy published the agreed outcomes of the negotiations to amend and modify the U.S.-Korea (KORUS) Free Trade Agreement. Read more 

Japan and Vietnam urge US to rejoin Pacific trade deal

Gulf Times: Japan and Vietnam yesterday urged the United States to rejoin a sprawling Pacific trade deal, almost two years after President Donald Trump’s withdrawal dealt a major blow to what would have been the world’s largest free trade pact. Read more

Canada requests consultations with China on compliance with paper duties ruling

WTO: Canada has requested consultations with China regarding China’s alleged non-compliance with the recommendations and rulings of the Dispute Settlement Body in the dispute concerning Chinese anti-dumping duties on imports of Canadian cellulose pulp (DS483). The request was circulated to WTO members on 12 September. Read more

Azevêdo urges Commonwealth to play full part in strengthening the multilateral system

WTO: Speaking at a meeting of WTO Commonwealth members held at the WTO on 11 September, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said the support provided by Commonwealth members for the multilateral trading system is hugely important. Read more 

Jean-Claude urges EU to offer free trade agreement to Africa

The Punch: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday, urged the European Union to offer a free trade agreement to the whole of the African continent and a new investment alliance. Read more 

‘Moving into the heart of negotiations’ for Africa’s free trade agreement

RFI: The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement makes some big promises about removing barriers to trade and freeing up the flow of goods and services.  Read more 

Totally wrong! Brexit stalemate as EU says NOTHING will be agreed this week

The Sunday Express: EU officials have crushed rising hopes of a breakthrough on the question of the Irish border when leaders meet for Wednesday’s summit in Salzburg, with one dismissing the suggestion as “totally wrong”. Read more 

Can international trade agreements help to introduce labour reforms?

South China Morning Post: Labour advocates have long complained international trade agreements are driven by corporate agendas and pay little attention to the interests of working people. Read more 

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Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – June 3-9, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of June 3-9, 2018! What a difference a week makes in the world of trade policy, it seems! From the CARICOM High Level Stakeholders’ Consultation on the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market to the tumultuous G7 Leaders’ Meeting, we are happy to bring the trade and development headlines from across the Caribbean Region and the world from last week:

REGIONAL

(Belize) Trade Minister Responds to CARICOM Sugar Call

Channel 5 Belize: On Tuesday, Briceño said G.O.B. should be doing more to export all Belizean sugar to CARICOM. According to Panton, Belize’s sugar has market access at duty free rates but what is lacking is market penetration. Read more

CSME implementation deficit not Secretariat’s fault – Golding

InewsGuyana: To blame the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat for the gaps in implementation of the CARCIOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) was unfair, a former Prime Minister of Jamaica has said. Read more

St Vincent PM says T&T extracts most from CARICOM

Stabroek News: Stating that outstanding issues such as free movement of people and a co-ordinated foreign policy have to be resolved before CARICOM can move to a Single Economy, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves also cited Trinidad for drawing the most from the integration movement in an uneven relationship. Read more

Regional leaders have lost faith in CSME realisation

St. Lucia Times Online: CARICOM members have to become more practical in their approach to the concepts of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said Friday. Read more

Statement at the Conclusion of an IMF Staff Visit to Barbados

IMF: At the request of the newly elected Government of Barbados, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) team led by Bert van Selm visited Bridgetown on June 5-7, to have discussions on economic policies and possible IMF financial support of the government’s economic plan. Read more

Price hike expected due to trade tariffs

The Reporter: The cost of living in Belize could be taking another hit, as the price of various imported goods are in danger of going up due to an ongoing trade war among the United States, Mexico and Canada. Read more

Barbados pledges to play greater role in regional integration

CMC (via Jamaica Observer): Barbados on Tuesday said it would seek to play a greater role in the revitalisation of the regional integration movement, as the new government of Prime Minister Mia Mottley outlined its priorities for the next 12 months.  Read more

INTERNATIONAL 

Malaysia’s Mahathir calls for review of Trans-Pacific trade pact

CNBC: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called for a review of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, saying smaller economies like Malaysia were at a disadvantage under the current terms. Read more

Trump against Rwanda in trade war over used clothes

Deutsche Welle: When East African countries announced a ban on the import of secondhand clothes to help their own textile industries, this irked US President Donald Trump. All but Rwanda have now backtracked. What’s at stake? Read more

Trump Wants Bilateral Nafta Talks But He Won’t Quit Accord

Bloomberg: President Donald Trump is seriously considering separate trade negotiations with Canada and Mexico but he doesn’t plan to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said. Read more

EU trade defence: stronger and more effective rules enter into force

European Commission: The changes which came into force last week are aimed at modernising the EU’s trade defence toolbox. Read more

EU-US Trade: European Commission endorses rebalancing duties on US products

European Commission: The College of Commissioners endorsed today the decision to impose additional duties on the full list of US products notified to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as part of the EU’s response to the US tariffs on steel and aluminium products. Read more

EU and Chile complete third round of negotiations

European Commission: Negotiators met in Brussels from 28 May to 1 June for the 3rd round of negotiations for a new, modernised trade agreement between the EU and Chile. Read more

Azevêdo highlights ‘significant progress’ on trade finance, outlines further actions

WTO: Speaking at a meeting of the WTO Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance on 8 June, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo highlighted the significant progress made in improving access to trade finance, in response to the persistent gaps in provision which affect small businesses and poorer countries in particular. Read more

Mexico initiates WTO dispute complaint against US steel, aluminium duties

WTO: Mexico has requested WTO dispute consultations with the United States regarding US duties on certain imported steel and aluminium products. The request was circulated to WTO members on 7 June. Read more

EU, Canada initiate WTO dispute complaints against US steel, aluminium duties

WTO: The European Union and Canada have requested WTO dispute consultations with the United States regarding US duties on certain imported steel and aluminium products. The requests were circulated to WTO members on 6 June. Read more

European Union files WTO complaint against China’s protection of intellectual property rights

WTO: The European Union has requested WTO consultations with China concerning certain Chinese measures which the EU alleges are inconsistent with China’s obligations under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The request was circulated to WTO members on 6 June. Read more

EU initiates new WTO compliance proceedings over Airbus subsidies

WTO: The European Union has requested WTO dispute consultations with the United States to address the EU’s claim that the EU and its member states have complied with the WTO ruling on subsidies to Airbus which was adopted by the Dispute Settlement Body on 28 May. The request was circulated to WTO members on 06 June. Read more

South Africa Looks to Deepen Trade Ties with Canada Following G7 Summit

Footprint to Africa: South Africa is looking to deepen its trade relations with Canada following discussions at the G7 Summit, an annual high profile event that brings together seven of the wealthiest nations in the world. Read more

Africa bids to unlock trade finance potential

Africa Business Magazine: Efforts to create a free trade grouping date back to the establishment of the African Economic Community under the Abuja treaty in 1991. In this context, therefore, the CFTA should be celebrated. Nonetheless, it remains more of a beginning than an end to overcoming intra-African trade barriers. Read more

UNCTAD launches World Investment Report 2018 

UNCTAD: Global flows of foreign direct investment fell by 23 per cent in 2017. Cross-border investment in developed and transition economies dropped sharply, while growth was near zero in developing economies and with only a very modest recovery predicted for 2018. Read more

COMESA, IOM sign cross border trade agreement

Africa Business Communities: COMESA and International Organization for Migration (IOM) have signed a co-delegation Agreement on the implementation of the small scale cross border trade initiative in five border posts within the region. Read more

BONUS – Trade Tensions Escalate 

The leaders of the Group of 7 (G-7) wealthiest countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) met in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada on June 8-9 against a backdrop of escalating trade tensions between the US and major allies, Mexico, Canada and the EU over the former’s imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs and threats of retaliation by the latter.

The official communique was signed by six countries, the US excepted. Specifically, the six signatories to the communique expressed their support for free trade and the rules-based multilateral trading system and denounced protectionism as follows:

“We acknowledge that free, fair and mutually beneficial trade and investment, while creating reciprocal benefits, are key engines for growth and job creation. We recommit to the conclusions on trade of the Hamburg G20 Summit, in particular, we underline the crucial role of a rules-based international trading system and continue to fight protectionism. We note the importance of bilateral, regional and plurilateral agreements being open, transparent, inclusive and WTO-consistent, and commit to working to ensure they complement the multilateral trade agreements. We commit to modernize the WTO to make it more fair as soon as possible. We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies.”

The full text of the communique may be accessed here.

Liked this issue? To read past issues of our weekly Caribbean Trade & Development Digest, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

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