JIS News

Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller has said that the region’s trade negotiations would be guided by the imperative of securing fundamental development objectives and concessions for small vulnerable economies, rather than the need to complete the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) before the United States Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) expires.
Mrs. Simpson Miller made the statement while speaking on the status of external trade negotiations at the 18th inter-sessional meeting of the conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines from February 12-14. She said that with the resumption of the World Trade Organization (WTO) discussions, the “window of opportunity” available was considered to be small, bearing in mind that the TPA will expire on June 1, 2007 and the difficulties of renewal in the present United States Congress. “Our region is concerned that too much attention has been given to the principal interests of the major WTO players. This could crowd out the key development objectives identified by us and many other small developing countries amidst the rush to meet the TPA deadline,” the Prime Minister emphasized. She further stressed that the region must make every effort to maintain full involvement and participation in the Geneva process as “this must include continuous review of alliance-building efforts and active participation in any mini-ministerial meetings”
Meanwhile, Mrs. Simpson Miller said that the region would continue to engage the US authorities in the context of the US-CARICOM Trade and Investment Council (TIC) and in the upcoming Conference of the Caribbean in June. “The WTO waiver for the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), which expired in December 2005, has still not been renewed in the WTO.
This means that over US$2 billion of CARICOM’s exports to the United States can be subject to WTO challenge. The issue of a new arrangement with the United States that would place our exports to the United States on a stable and secure footing cannot be sidestepped,” she pointed out to colleague Heads.
On other bilateral negotiations, the Prime Minister said CARICOM needs to “take a close look at its unfinished agenda in bilateral negotiations that commenced many years ago and determine the best way to bring them to conclusion”. This agenda, she said, includes negotiations with Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Venezuela. Further, she noted, consideration should also been given to broadening the bilateral negotiating agenda to include Central America and MERCOSUR.
“In this context, the region must take a comprehensive look at its bilateral agenda and determine its priorities bearing in mind what is manageable,” Mrs. Simpson Miller stated.