Barbados could soon find itself in another compliance battle with an international body over its trade and taxation practices, Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade Sandra Husbands told Parliament today.
She said the country could soon come up against “consequences” from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for failing to comply with rules or for submitting a report after a deadline.
“Part of the compliance they are looking for, and it is something we are seeking to deal with, they are looking at countries that do not comply with the requirements that are set out in the World Trade Organisation.
“So we are always up against a big disadvantage, and one of the things now that we are going to have to battle into the international arena is that they are seeking to discuss whether or not they should put consequences on countries that take too long to comply or countries who do not report within the time they are supposed to.”
She argued that Barbados was already at a disadvantage due to its limited financial and human resources when it comes to putting various measures in place.
“But on top of that, because you take long, they are now discussing the fact they want to be able to put consequences on countries, and this is something that we have to fight at the WTO,” said Husbands.
This, she said, was putting additional pressure on Government, who she said was now bobbing and weaving between trying to meet international standards and demands while trying to pull the economy out of the doldrums.
She said while it was very difficult sometimes to get rich nations to shift their demands even when “strong and reasonable” cases were put forward, Barbados was not about to roll over and play dead.
She declared that Government intends to use various international fora to “protect” the country, including the United Nations, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states (ACP).
“All of these arenas are which we are fighting to protect Barbados just as we are fighting here with FATCA [Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act] and the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] in relation to compliance on tax issues and compliance with money laundering. And it is arduous,” said Husbands.
The foreign trade minister also disclosed that there were further recent discussions between African-Caribbean-Pacific and European officials in Jamaica regarding a replacement for the Cotonou Agreement, the pact between Europe and it’s former colonies that is due to expire in early 2020.
Cotonou, which focuses on development cooperation, trade and political dialogue, was signed in 2000 for a period of 20 years but did not come into force until 2003.
Pointing out that the new agreement being looked at would have “a foundation agreement” between the ACP and EU and “individual compacts for each region”, Husbands disclose that a new clause regarding tax compliance, was being put forward.
“What was put on the table was the idea that the EU was interested in making tax compliance another feature of this new agreement,” she said, adding that this was a way of “chasing us until they destroy the financial services industry that we have been seeking to build to be able to make money for Barbadians”.
She told fellow lawmakers: “Every time we turn around there is another requirement. Every time that we turn around there is another rule that they bring and every time you look at it you can see that the primary purpose is to destroy the financial services sector in this region.
“As I look at it I say in Barbados we are going to have to come up with a new way to fight to defend ourselves. We cannot succeed in that fight unless Barbadians understand why we have to bring this type of legislation here and why sometimes we have to make choices about how we spend money.”
She pointed out that the Caribbean accounts for only one per cent of the international financial services sector while the bulk of the business was in the more developed countries.
Husbands was contributing to the debate on changes to the law to prevent money laundering and financing of terrorism.