Following on the heels of a drastic increase in duties on certain products from more developed countries (MDC) within CARICOM going into St Lucia, Minister of International Business, Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss is calling for a revamp of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
The outspoken government minister told journalists that Article 164 within the document that was first signed in 1973 was not applicable to the present and it was perhaps time for it to be “revisited”.
Inniss made the comments following the launch of Superior Solar Power Solutions today.
Effective Tuesday, April 1, 2014, St Lucia implemented a duty of 70 per cent on products coming out of CARICOM countries considered more developed based on Article 164 of the Treaty Of Chaguaramas, which differentiates between less developed countries (LDCs) and MDCs within CARICOM.
However, this latest move is not sitting well with Inniss, who expressed concerns that there was now an unlevel playing field within CARICOM.
“I don’t think that what existed in 1973 is entirely applicable to 2014 and therefore my approach on this matter is to notify, through our Ministry of Foreign Trade, to St Lucia and to CARICOM generally speaking, the need for us to revisit that article as discussed before, and to have it altered. I think the playing field need to be a bit more level than it is currently,” added Inniss.
“All I am saying is that there is a bigger issue here now that needs to be revisited, which is quite frankly there are no longer lesser developed countries and more developed countries. We are all either to be considered less developed countries or all to be considered more developed countries,” explained Inniss.
He said also of concern was the fact that some products coming into Barbados that had no duties attached were coming from international companies that only had a presence in some islands.
“Some of these companies that sell items into Barbados from the less developed countries are large multinational corporations that just happen to have a unit in the less developed country . . . . But our Banks beer product runs the risk of attracting a higher rate of duty up to 70 per cent because they happen to be in Barbados. To me that is not a tidy arrangement,” charged Inniss.
Some of the products going into St Lucia from MDCs that will attract a duty of up to 70 per cent inlcude solar water heating systems, aerated beverages and brewed beverages.