Parliamentarians told to Fine-Tune CARICOM’s Position going into WTO Hong Kong Talks


Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke has urged regional parliamentarians to pay close attention to the trade issues affecting the region, and to work together to refine CARICOM’s position going into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December.
“We need to have a clear understanding of the issues, implications and the future path that we seek to foster as small economies, which operate as part of a global network of trading missions,” the Minister stated, as he addressed the opening of the fifth in a series of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and World Trade Organisation (WTO)- sponsored workshops for parliamentarians on June 8 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
He commended the two organisations for staging the events, noting that they formed the basis of “continuing dialogue and exchange of ideas between regional parliamentarians and this will redound to the benefit of the people we all represent.”
“This workshop provides a first hand opportunity to learn about the pace and pattern of the negotiations currently underway at the WTO and at the end of the session, we will learn whether the WTO is friend, foe or somewhere in between,” Minister Clarke pointed out.
In his remarks, Patrick Rata, External Relations Division, WTO, stated that parliamentarians “have a unique role to play in the multilateral trading system” and a constitutional role to consider the trade agreements.
“As accountable representatives of the people who elected you, parliamentarians must consider and ratify international trade agreements and ensure their implementation through domestic legislation and appropriate budgetary allocations,” he stressed.
He noted that parliamentarians could also play a wider role in terms of bringing international organisations such as the WTO, and people closer together and to help to explain the workings and benefits of the trading system. “Parliamentarians can help citizens understand and cope with the complexities of globalisation, encouraging greater awareness and informed debate on international trade issues,” he stated.
Mr. Rata said it was important for the WTO to assist parliamentarians to perform their duties effectively, as the greater their understanding of and involvement in the trading system, the more effective the WTO would be as an organisation.
Secretary-General of the CPA, Dennis Marshall, who also addressed the participants, noted that the staging of the workshops was yet another indication that international and regional institutions were recognising the role of parliamentarians in matters of good governance, ensuring accountability and transparency in government and international decision-making.
The CPA/WTO workshops are designed to foster greater understanding of, and interest in, the multilateral trading system; inform participants on the basic operations of the multilateral trading system, key issues on the international trade agenda, and the status of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations; and to encourage an informed and open debate on the potential role of the WTO in fostering development.
The event, which ends tomorrow, brings together approximately 40 participants including parliamentarians from the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic region, CPA and WTO staff and invited observer organisations.
The first two workshops were held in 2003 in South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago and the New Zealand and Singapore hosted in 2004.

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