The chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, is calling for a 164 per cent hike in tariffs on some categories of imported poultry products.
He made this call today at a Press conference at the BAS headquarters at The Grotto in Beckles Road, St Michael.
Presenting a case for higher tariffs, Paul said the rate should be increased from 20 per cent to 184 per cent as a means of protecting local poultry farmers.
“We have shown a hesitancy in Barbados about increasing our tariffs,” noted Paul.
However, he said “Barbados needs to recognize it has to operate in its own interest in relation to certain products”.
“The fact of the matter is that to continue to think that other countries will not do what is in their own interest even if it is at the expense of Barbados is just foolhardy.
“I think we need to recognize that if we are going to be serious about at least giving certain sensitive sectors, which include the poultry industry and certain vegetables that we produce, the general level of protection that is required, we need to recognize that we need to raise the tariffs where we have the right to do so,” said Paul.
He insisted that such action was “not against world trade”.
“We have signed a World Trade Organisation agreement in which we have indicated that these are the levels to which we will raise our tax, and I think we have the right to do so.
“I want to say this too that our civil servants, who are supposed to provide us that level of protection and to ensure that our interests are looked after, need to look at it differently.
“I am concerned sometimes that we have people out there representing us who more seem to want to play by the WTO rules. They have been sucked into this neoliberal philosophy. We need to understand that when we go out there negotiating for Barbados, you are negotiating for producers who live in a certain environment and have certain limitations. What you need to do is to build into negotiations the fact that we have certain things that handicap us, and that is what the USA has been able to do generally when we look at the tariffs,” Paul stressed.
He argued that “the USA has some of the highest tariffs around the world in respects to certain products and nobody challenges them. Similarly the Canadians, similarly the Japanese and the Australians. The Europeans the same thing”.
The CEO maintained that “in many cases we have been let down by the people who attend conferences to represent us and suggested that we use the safeguards which protect us”.
“Do not see them as any breach of faith. The point is that we have certain safeguards available and therefore let us maximize the use of those safeguards in order to ensure that we can maintain our agricultural sector and maintain employment.
“I believe that every country has a right to do what is necessary to protect its own interests. Barbados needs to recognize that every dollar that they spend on imported product they are supporting somebody employed overseas. At this point we charge on some categories of poultry products 20 per cent. I have always said those tariffs should go to the maximum which is 184 per cent,” Paul said.
His comments come against the backdrop of a 70 per cent hike in tariffs by St Lucia on goods coming from Barbados and other more developed CARICOM countries which has led to calls in some quarters for a boycott of that country’s products.