There is no need for a trade war between St Lucia and Barbados.
That’s the position of Minister of International Business, Commerce and Industry Donville Inniss over Castries’ move to impose a 70 per cent hike in duties on imports from the more developed countries (MDCs) within CARICOM, including Barbados.
At the same time, he maintained that Barbadians should always buy local wherever possible. The senior Government minister said he was seeking to have the matter thoroughly addressed at the regional level at the upcoming Council For Trade And Economic Development (COTED) meeting next month in Guyana.
“The approach we have taken is to engage in quiet diplomacy and dialogue with our colleagues in St Lucia,” Inniss told reporters following a tour of the Trinidadian-owned Arawak Cement Company Limited today.
“We have pretty much gathered what statistical information we needed to gather from my ministry’s end. And we have had early talks with the Ministry of Foreign Trade around the matter. What I do not wish to see happen is any all-out trade war going on between Barbados and St Lucia or Barbados and our friends in the OECS [Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States].
“I firmly believe that these matters can be resolved in large measure by having frank talks with each other across the oceans,” the minister added. “Having said that, I am always one to encourage Barbadians to buy local. Regardless of what our trade issues are I always say you buy local wherever you can.”
Inniss said he had already started discussions with the private sector players who were affected and would be contacting the officials in St Lucia. Up to Tuesday, authorities in St Lucia said Barbados was yet to lodge a formal complaint on the matter.
“Today it’s St Lucia. We don’t know who else it will be tomorrow; and we wish, therefore, to ensure that we are able to nip these issues in the bud by having conversations with one another initially, and let’s hope that works well for us,” he said.
About two weeks ago, Barbados was notified of the duties which took effect April 1 and will last until December 2018. So far, Banks Holdings Limited (BHL) said its Banks beer and Tiger Malt beverages were adversely affected and the company could lose that market for those products.