Ms. Husbands, Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade of Barbados, issued the charges at the opening of the Forty-Seventh Meeting of COTED yesterday at the Guyana Marriott Hotel in Georgetown.
The approach she recommended comes against the background of the lengthy agenda of the two-day Meeting which she said reflected the changing conditions in which the Community existed and operated.
The Council is meeting as the Region grapples with the current uncertainty in international trade, the undervaluing of the special circumstances of small states and challenges associated with climate change. Among the matters the delegates will discuss over two days are those related to the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the direction of CARICOM’s External Trade Policy as well as the Community’s trade relations with the United Kingdom post-BREXIT.
Discussions will also centre on the expeditious review of the Common External Tariff (CET) and the Rules of Origin (ROO). The CET and the ROO are geared at a more efficient and transparent trading system that would help to unleash the Region’s productive energy and innovative potential that would be more supportive of the private sector.
Minister Husbands acknowledged that there were challenges with the CSME, the regional flagship programme, but wanted the Council to capitalise on the progress that was made at the last CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in July and the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee Meeting on the CSME held in September.
“We must move the CARICOM Single Market and Economy forward. There are challenges, but … opportunities abound; we must seize the moment”, she said.
Focusing on the agenda, the Minister recommended paying attention to the organisation of production activities and integration since opportunities were being lost.
“Each one of us is aware that the trade is skewed. The vast population of the agenda with requests for suspension of the Common External Tariff reflects the tremendous lag in moving forward on a production cooperation initiative. This would generate jobs, increase trade and boost government revenues and GDP. Instead everyone wants their own beer factory and no one produces towels or linens for the millions used in our homes and hotels. This indicates that we need to organise our production activities and integration. Many opportunities are being lost. These are strategic discussions with which we as Ministers should be grappling,” she told delegates.
“It is clear that we are in a competition with the rest of the world. CARICOM is one; no longer can we afford to see ourselves as fifteen. Our very survival depends on our identifying our common interest, and acting as one in common cause to achieve our objectives. We are not fifteen members haggling and negotiating to create individual benefit for our countries. Rather we are sister territories striving to manage our resources and opportunities to generate accelerated value and benefit which we share for mutual benefit”, she said.
CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque also raised the matter of safeguarding interests when he spoke at the opening session of the Meeting. The Council Meeting, he said, was taking place “as we are witnessing uncertain times in international trade affairs”.
“The budding trade wars, the continued indeterminate nature of Brexit and the threat to the global rules-based trading system all have implications for our Member States”, he pointed out. They serve to emphasise that agreement on, and implementation of, our collective trade and economic policies assume even greater importance if we are to safeguard our interests in the global arena and achieve the objective of improving the lives of our citizens”, he added.
Meanwhile, Minister Husbands said that given the its mandate for trade and economic development, which she characterized as the “heartbeat of our societies”, delegates should discuss making the Council “the most revered organ in the Community”.
“A space must be created for us to deliberate on making the COTED the most revered organ in the community. Our mandate speaks to trade and economic development which is the heart beat of our societies. It is integral to every facet of government, business and society. In the absence of success, our ability to achieve sustainable development and sustained societies will be at risk”, she said.
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