The Thirty-Fifth Meeting of the Caricom Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) concluded on 11 December 2012 with a warning that high food and fuel prices will continue to roil the region next year.
A Caricom release said that the discussions in Georgetown, Guyana saw extensive and robust discussions on the persistent high food prices occasioned, in part, by global decline in cereal production. The Meeting was told that the impacts of high food prices will continue to be felt in 2013 and that the price of petroleum would continue to affect the agriculture production costs and distribution.
Among the items that are expected to be most affected are animal-based food products.
The Region’s poor, the Meeting recognized, will continue to be afflicted by the rising cost of living.
The Common External Tariff (CET) – identified in 2008 as one immediate avenue to ease the burden of high prices on the Region – was again singled out as the way forward. Recognition was given to the measures being adopted under the Community Agriculture Policy and the Regional Agribusiness Strategy. In addition, as agriculture was considered critical to reducing the high food import bill, ensuring food and nutrition security, and combating non-communicable diseases, the Meeting called on Member States to urgently pursue the removal of the key binding constraints to agriculture production.
Attention was also focused on how Belize, Haiti and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) could better benefit from the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).
The discussions were based on an initial report that identified factors that were limiting the full integration of those states in the CSME, as well as on a report that offered implementation plans and financing for each of the solutions.
The release said that discussions also focused on the financing of the undertaking; the ownership of the exercise and the role of COTED. The Meeting mandated that a task force be established to move the process forward, particularly with regard to identifying the main priorities for intervention and identifying financing.
The task force, made up of representatives of the OECS, Belize, Haiti, Barbados, Caribbean Export, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the CARICOM Secretariat, will tender its first report in July 2013.