Tag Archives: trade

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.

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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.

IMF: Trade tensions could derail global growth prematurely

Alicia Nicholls

Currently strong global growth could be derailed by escalating trade tensions and retaliation. That is the word from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its latest World Economic Outlook (April 2018) entitled “Cyclical Upswing, Structural Change”. The lending agency has forecast global growth of 3.9% both for this year and the next, up from 3.8% in 2017, which was the most robust since 2011. Increased trade and investment has been a major propeller of this growth, according to IMF economists, which makes the current trade tensions between the United States and China a cause for concern.

GDP growth for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is projected to be 2.0% in 2018 and 2.8% in 2019, up from 1.3% in 2017, but still below the projected global average. The IMF projects positive growth for all LAC countries (to varying degrees), with the exceptions of Dominica (-16.3%) which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria last year and Venezuela (-15%), which is currently in the throes of a deep economic crisis.

Longer-term prospects not as bright

However, it was not all positive news. While near-term global growth prospects remain positive, the IMF projects a slowing of growth in the medium-term. It was noted that ageing populations, lower rates of labor force participation and low productivity growth all made it unlikely that advanced economies would return to their pre-crisis per capita growth rates any time soon.

According to the IMF, some emerging and developing economies are likely to achieve longer-term growth rates comparable to their pre-crisis rates, but the outlook for commodities exporters was not as positive even though the outlook for commodities prices had improved somewhat. The IMF emphasised that economic resilience of these economies would be contingent on their diversification.

The IMF has also again sounded alarm about the rise in global private and public debt levels and the prospect of repayment difficulties due to monetary policy normalisation. This is an issue which is of particular relevance to the region, as some Caribbean countries are among the most indebted in the world.

Trade tensions could undermine current growth trajectory

During the press conference launching the report, IMF Economic Counsellor and Director of the Research Department, Mr. Maurice Obstfeld cautioned that while a slowing of growth is predicted in the longer term, “the prospect of trade restrictions and counter-restrictions threatened to undermine confidence and derail growth prematurely”.

Acknowledging the political imperatives driving the protectionist turn taken by some countries, namely public skepticism about the benefits of free trade and economic integration, Mr. Obstfeld noted that technology as opposed to trade was to blame. He further warned that fights over trade distracted from, rather than advanced the agenda of promoting growth whose benefits were more broad-based.

Multilateral system  in danger of being torn apart

In the report, the IMF warned that the multilateral system was in danger of being torn apart. Making the case against unilateral action, the IMF Economic Counsellor argued that inequitable trade practices were best coped with through “dependable and fair dispute resolution within a strong rules-based multilateral framework”.

He acknowledged that there was room to strengthen the current trading system and that plurilaleral agreements could be used as a “springboard” to more open trade. He also noted that multilateral cooperation was essential “to address a range of challenges in addition to the governance of world trade.”

The full press conference may be viewed here and the report may be downloaded 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.

US House of Representatives passes GSP Renewal Bill; on to Senate

Alicia Nicholls

The first hurdle in the renewal of the United States’ Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) was overcome last week Tuesday when the US House of Representatives passed  H.R.4979 – To extend the Generalized System of Preferences and to make technical changes to the competitive need limitations provision of the program. This is welcomed news for the 120 countries and territories which benefit under the GSP, but just the first step towards the programme’s renewal.

The US GSP lapsed on December 31, 2017. This Bill provides a three year extension through to December 31, 2020. H.R. 4979 requires there be an annual report on the enforcement of eligibility criteria to ensure that countries designated as beneficiary developing countries are meeting the eligibility criteria.

Exporters would also be refunded for the duties collected during the lapse period. This is not the first time the GSP has expired, a fact which has created some uncertainty for exporters from GSP beneficiary countries seeking to make use of the programme. Other sources of uncertainty are that the President may graduate any country, remove products from GSP eligibility and remove products for an individual country which has exceeded competitive need limitations (CNLs). There are also a number of criteria for GSP eligibility which reflect the geopolitical  and other objectives underpinning the programme, for example, the ineligibility of communist countries.

The US GSP was instituted by the Trade Act of 1974 and it is one of several US government trade preference programmes which allow designated goods from certain disadvantaged countries to enter the US market at preferential rates of duty. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) fact sheet on the GSP, some 5,057 8‐digit U.S. tariff lines are eligible for duty‐free entry under the GSP, of which 1,519 are eligible for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) only.

The fact sheet further notes that in 2016, total US imports under the GSP was $18.7 billion, with the top five GSP beneficiary countries being 1. India ($4.7 billion), 2. Thailand ($3.9 billion), 3. Brazil ($2.2 billion), 4. Indonesia ($1.8 billion) and 5. Philippines ($1.5 billion).

As of March 2017, the GSP-eligible countries in the Caribbean include: Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while the following non-independent Caribbean territories are eligible: Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Montserrat.

Caribbean countries do not feature among top US GSP countries and there is a good reason for this. Most Caribbean countries are beneficiaries of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), while Haiti is a beneficiary of the HOPE Acts. As such, according to the 2015 Report on the Operation of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), in 2014, US imports under the GSP from CBI beneficiaries were just 0.02% of the total imports from those countries. As such, CBI countries’ exports under the GSP are quite small, though some countries like Belize, Jamaica and Dominica make more use of the GSP than others.

The GSP renewal Bill received bipartisan support in the House and is now before the Senate. For HR 4979 to become law, the identical bill would have to be passed in the US Senate. Failing this, there must be reconciliation of the bills passed in both houses before being signed into law by President Trump.

The text of the House Bill 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.

 

 

Golding Report on CARICOM-Jamaica Relations Tabled in Jamaican Parliament

Alicia Nicholls

The long-awaited report of the CARICOM Review Commission chaired by former Jamaican Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, has been tabled in the Jamaica Parliament by Prime Minister, the Most Excellent Andrew Holness, O.N. The CARICOM Review Commission, which was commissioned by Mr. Holness in July 2016 to review Jamaica’s relations within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and CARIFORUM (CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic) frameworks,  submitted its report in April 2017.

For those who may have feared that the Review was intended to pave the way towards a Jamxit (Jamaica exit from CARICOM), these have been allayed to some extent. In giving its support for regional integration, the Golding Commission noted that “the value of regional integration…is as relevant and useful and perhaps, even more urgent today than it was at [CARICOM’s] inception”. However, it lamented the limited progress on many of the commitments signed on to by CARICOM Member States.

In this vein, the Commission made thirty-three timely, pertinent and wide-ranging proposals aimed at addressing the structural and organisational deficiencies in CARICOM. Many of the Commission’s recommendations include things which most CARICOM Member States have already committed to under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy but have yet to be fully realised, while others are reminiscent of those made by the Ramphal Commission in its A Time For Action Report in 1992.  Other recommendations were more novel and include instituting sanctions for wilful non-compliance with commitments made, as well as the establishment of a Central Dispute Settlement Body similar to that of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which would offer non-judicial options for settlement of disputes.

The Commission also recommended that Jamaica establish closer ties with Northern Caribbean countries, namely the Dominican Republic and Cuba, including in the negotiation of trade agreements with third States.

To address CARICOM’s implementation deficit, the Golding Commission has called for time-bound commitments and public progress reports on  Member States’ advancement towards meeting the various commitments. It also called for greater engagement of the private sector and the people of CARICOM.

Failing commitment by Member States to make the commitments outlined in the report, the Commission recommended that Jamaica should withdraw from the CSME, but remain a member of CARICOM.

The full report 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.

 

 

ACP Trade Ministers demand ‘concrete outcomes’ at upcoming WTO MC11

Alicia Nicholls

Trade ministers and other representatives from the 79-member Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries added their voices to demands for ‘concrete outcomes’ at the upcoming World Trade Organisation’s Eleventh Ministerial Conference (WTO MC11). Preparations for the upcoming WTO MC11 was one of several topics discussed by ACP trade representatives at their 20th ACP Ministerial Trade Committee meeting held in Brussels on 18-19 October last week.

According to the press release from the meeting, the ACP representatives  reiterated the need for a development-friendly and robust MC11 work programme which recognized differences between developed, developing and least developed countries and whose outcomes were aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Reaffirming their commitment to the multilateral trading system, they also called for “inclusiveness, consensus and transparency in all WTO decision-making processes, as well as careful framing of any reform evaluation of the WTO to ensure that the interests of all countries are protected”. Guyana was chosen to be the spokesperson for the ACP Group at the Ministerial which will take place in Buenos Aires December 10-13, 2017.

In a speech delivered at the ACP meeting, the WTO’s Director General, Roberto Azevedo, acknowledged the important role ACP countries have played in shaping the WTO’s work.

Mr. Azevedo gave a brief status report on the WTO’s preparatory work for the upcoming Ministerial Conference, lauding the ACP countries for being at the “forefront” of these discussions. He noted that although there were some positive signs, the many gaps to bridge meant that there was still much work ahead with respect to the negotiations.  He further reiterated that in order to achieve concrete results in Buenos Aires, “more focused engagement and negotiation will be required to quickly identify areas of convergence”.

In the meeting which was chaired by the Hon. Carl Greenidge, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, ACP trade representatives also focused on several  other topics of importance to ACP countries’ trade, including enhancing trade among ACP countries and trade issues with the European Union (EU).

The ACP press release also notes that ACP representatives have committed to “increased integration, unity and solidarity” among ACP countries, including taking more “joint ACP approaches to trade and development”.

The press release from the ACP can be read here.

The WTO Director-General’s full speech can be read here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is a 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.

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