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Director General of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM), Ambassador Dr. Richard Bernal said that the region must fully participate in and shape negotiations at the resumption of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks.
He pointed out that as Caribbean countries have small economies and face unique constraints in their development, states within the region should seek to ensure that they negotiate special and differential treatment from the WTO.
“Being small is an additional constraint on our development and . we should recognise in the WTO measures, some way of treating the question of small economies,” Dr. Bernal stated, as he addressed a reception hosted by the Consular Corps of Jamaica yesterday (August 15) the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.
The RNM Head, who spoke on the topic: ‘WTO – Current Situation and Future Prospects’ put forward a four-point proposal, which he said the region should pursue in its negotiations with the WTO, when the organisation resumes talks either next month or in October.
“We want to see special and differential treatment, which is, there must be concessions, which allow us to move at a pace which we are capable of, which is certainly not the pace that Brazil or India, or Canada or United States would be able to move at,” he told the gathering.
Secondly, Ambassador Bernal added, “we would like to ensure that the pace and extent of liberalisation is such that we can cope with the fiscal adjustments and our industries can have enough time to adjust. This is a real issue, because the largest firms in the Caribbean are micro enterprises compared with the firms they have to compete with from developed countries”.
As it regards sensitive products that are produced in the region, he noted that, “we would like to be assured that these products will get a certain kind of treatment in the process”.
“This treatment might be a longer adjustment period.it may even be an exclusion from the negotiating process,” Ambassador Bernal said.
Furthermore, he said, “we want to be ensured that there are provisions for adequate adjustments. We want to be sure that we have safeguards for example, if the pace of adjustment is going much too fast; we would like to be able to slow down to one we are capable of”.
Ambassador Bernal said that the region was committed to trade liberalisation and expressed confidence in the abilities of regional industries to be competitive. “The history of the Caribbean is that we have been able to find new opportunities, and we have been able to compete,” he noted.
Providing examples, he said: “competing in a highly sophisticated industry like financial services is indicative of a capability to be internationally competitive, similarly tourism is a complicated, sensitive, very competitive industry and if we can compete in that industry, it indicates that the Caribbean has the capacity”.