St Lucia’s imposition of a 70 per cent duty on products from Barbados will stay –– at least for now. But Barbados can expect greater accommodation from that and other Caribbean countries in the future.
Trade consultant with the Barbados Private sector Trade Team (BPSTT), Shardae Boyce, told Barbados TODAY that all CARICOM states, including St Lucia, agreed that “going forward it would be unreasonable, albeit legally permitted, for less developed countries (LDC) to enforce legislation to apply duties on products coming from Barbados, in light of the economic restructuring the island is carrying out”.
At the beginning of April, St Lucia imposed a 70 per cent duty on products coming from more developed countries (MDCs), based on Article 164 of the Treaty Of Chaguaramas, which differentiates between LDCs and MDCs.
The decision, which caught Barbados by surprise, has already impacted local manufacturer Banks Holdings Limited’s brewed beverages and Minister of International Business, Commerce and Trade Donville Inniss had promised to challenge the decision. The issue was one among many raised over a week ago at the 38th meeting of the CARICOM Council For Trade And Economic Development (COTED) in Guyana.
However, there was no decision to restrict LDCs to impose duties on products coming from countries considered more developed within CARICOM.
“Although we didn’t get any signing off of a legal commitment from the CARICOM members states to exempt Barbados products from the application of duties, there was a positive signal that LDCS like St Lucia would corporate to reduce the impact,” Boyce said.
She explained that since all the LDCs in CARICOM operated within the context of the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) any decision by one member state to take a different approach “must be passed down by the OECS as rule”.
“Moreover, the treaty may have to undergo some amendment to grant Barbados an exemption and this is a decision that would have to be made the prime ministerial level,” added Boyce.
She said the BPSTT remained cognizant of the purpose and differential treatment carved out in the treaty for LCDs and there should be a swift resolution to the matter.
Boyce said while it was clear that Barbados may never be categorized as a LCD because of its level of human development, the level of economic restructuring the country was experiencing was “far beyond what our regional counterparts are pursuing as a result of the economic crisis”.
She therefore suggested that Government pursue the matter in asking for “accommodation” to be made for Barbados.
“Generally the private sector is expected to play a leading role in cushioning the impact of Barbados economic restructuring. The reality is that public funds are down significantly and as a region it would be advantageous to work in the spirit of development for all to ensure that decisions made at a regional level do not hinder the private sector’s capacity to contribute to the national recovery project,” said Boyce.
“I am comfortable and confident in the maturity of my regional counterparts that nothing will be done right now to offset our restructuring process.”
Other issues discussed at the COTED meeting included developments related to the CARICOM/Canada Trade and Development agreement, follow-up to the special session on the Strategic Direction Of COTED and the status of the Preparation Of The Regional Strategic Plan For Services, as well as trade relations with Cuba.
The challenge of moving goods and people throughout the region was also discussed.