Caribbean Trade Ministers Assert Their Position On WTO Negotiations

Original Publication Date: 
16 April, 2007

"This meeting was timely and useful. We heard Director General Lamy's perspectives on the current status of the negotiations, the obstacles that impede real progress and the way forward in the negotiations. The Caribbean used the opportunity to reiterate our priorities and articulate our key issues in the Doha Development Round of negotiations".

This is the viewpoint of CRNM Director General Ambassador Bernal on the meeting convened with Caribbean Ministers of Trade and Mr. Pascal Lamy, Director General of the World Trade Organization on 13th April, 2007 in Jamaica. Mr. Lamy in an attempt to encourage the completion of the Doha Round has recently been engaging with trade ministers across the globe. Mr. Lamy's primary objective is to achieve a breakthrough in order to conclude the negotiations by the end of the year.

Ambassador Bernal has noted that it is far more important to achieve a sound agreement that genuinely promotes development rather than to pursue the negotiations with the aim of meeting a schedule. The Doha Round must satisfactorily address the needs of developing countries, particularly the small vulnerable developing economies and the least developed countries. During the meeting, Caribbean officials reiterated, inter alia, that small and vulnerable economies (SVEs) like those of the Caribbean should be afforded special and differential treatment.

Caribbean Trade Ministers also stated their commitment to continue to participate actively in the Round. They reminded the Director General of the need to ensure that the negotiations are genuinely multilateral to prevent the domination of the process by a few powerful countries. The Ministers emphasized that new contributions will be evaluated in the context of their past contributions. Furthermore any additional contributions must be commensurate with gains and the capacity of Caribbean economies to undertake implementation and adjustment.

In light of the US's protracted non-compliance of the WTO ruling in the online gaming case filed by Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean delegation also shared their concerns about the enforcement of the rights of SVEs in the multilateral trading system. The WTO DG expressed with confidence that it is in the interest of major trading nations to respect and comply with the dispute settlement rulings and recommendations of the WTO. However Ambassador Bernal has cautioned that the efficacy and legitimacy of the WTO will be judged on how it enforces the rights of it's small and vulnerable member states.

Minister Henry Jeffrey of Guyana, Lead Minister for CARICOM on WTO Affairs, indicated that Caribbean Trade Ministers also expressed concern that the expiring Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which initially served as an incitement to resume the stalled Doha Round, was now being used as leverage in the armory of the United States. Minister Jeffrey has indicated that the WTO Director General assured the Caribbean Ministers that this is not the case.

The meeting was attended by trade ministers of CARICOM, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, as well as representatives from the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery, the CARICOM Secretariat and the OECS Secretariat.