Guyana and Grenada are among CARICOM countries that stand to benefit from the export of honey to Trinidad and Tobago once the twin-island republic enacts legislation to facilitate trade in honey, says Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Trade, Commerce and Industry Chet Greene.
Greene, who chaired the just-concluded CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) meeting at the CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown told Stabroek News by phone on Saturday from Antigua that the matter of the honey which was an agenda item for non-compliance with provisions of the Revised Treaty and decisions of COTED by Trinidad, “is in the final stages.”
The Heads of Government have deliberated on the issue, he said, “and it is now left for the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament to enact legislation to facilitate the movement.” He added, “It not only affects Grenada honey but the transshipment of honey from Guyana through Trinidad and Tobago.”
Speaking about the May 16 and 17 meeting, he said, “The level of participation was very much in evidence. The level of camaraderie and support for each other’s industries and for trade across the region was very encouraging. I have been to COTED meetings for the last three years and this last meeting was perhaps the best in terms of the willingness of countries to work with and support each other.”
On the some of the outcomes of the meeting, Greene said, the export of frozen duck meat from Suriname to Port of Spain has been resolved, as the Trinidadian Cabinet has ruled favourably in this instance.
Jamaica’s requests for the suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET) on a select list of energy efficient and renewable energy items was approved, but for a three-year period from June 1. Jamaica had made the request for a five-year period.
Noting that energy efficiency is the going thing, he said, COTED did not want to crowd out the opportunity for investment in that sector by other countries, but took note of the strides Jamaica was making in this area. Jamaica, he said, expressed satisfaction with the three-year waiver.
The requests by Suriname for the suspension of the CET on assorted food preparations, thinners and lacquers, and for limestone, for two-year periods in each case, Green said, were referred to the customs committee of COTED.
Meanwhile, with COTED extending the life of Article 164 of the Revised Treaty which deals with ‘Treatment for Sensitive CARICOM Less Developed Industries,’ he said, paint has been added to the list of protected items. Greene said that Antigua and Barbuda made the request to add paint to the list of protected items. It is the single industry, in which his country is involved, for which it has made such a request to COTED, he said. From the advent of the community, Article 164 provided protection for certain items from Less Developed Countries. It recognised that economies of scale and the productive sector of smaller countries would not be the same.
He said, “Back then Guyana had a loose manufacturing sector but now Guyana is coming of age and is really holding its own in the regional context.”
Asked about protection for Guyana’s products, including sugar and rice, which are also flooding other CARICOM markets from extra regional sources, Greene said, the issues were not a standalone item on the agenda, but COTED noted the need for the community to protect and to support regional industries.
For instance, he said, the issue of poultry products and pork were raised in the context of Chile seeking market access for these products into CARICOM markets.
“Production of poultry products and pork in the region is at an all-time high, but when you look at it, the amount of imports from extra regional sources are also staggering,” he said.
“It appears there is a need for regional awareness programmes to sensitise our people that eating local, meaning eating regional, will have[an] impact in growing our economies. If we can turn these products into multi-million industries they will do well for Caribbean economies.”
Asked if decisions were taken about the rules of procedure which will govern longstanding issues, which include non-compliance by member states with COTED’s decisions, Greene said, it has been put forward for further discussion at a June 13 meeting in Georgetown, and that documentation on the issue is being circulated to member countries.
A decision on the rules of procedure, he said, is expected to be taken at that time. Also for further discussion on June 13 is the CARICOM Single Market and Economy Implementation Plan to deal with the backlog of decisions taken by CARICOM, but not acted on.