Minister Phipps Updates Public On Trade Related Claim Involving The Federation

Basseterre, St. Kitts, October 16, 2020 (SKNIS): During a Sitting of the National Assembly on October 15, Minister of International Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, the Honourable Wendy Phipps, took the opportunity to update the public on a trade-related claim that has recently been brought by the Government of Belize against the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago regarding imports of sugar from two non-CARICOM Member States.

Minister Phipps stated that she would have been officially notified of the matter by the Solicitor General, Simone Bullen-Thompson, on October 5. She said that the Solicitor General would have submitted to her on that date the e-File, the originating application as well as the notice of service that was sent by the Deputy Registrar and Marshall of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

“I should also note that the claim had been filed at the CCJ on the 30th of September, 2020, by the State of Belize,” she said. “The intention is to commence proceedings against the two countries stated, which are St. Kitts and Nevis as well as Trinidad and Tobago pursuant to 1. Articles 2 11 Subsection 1 Part A, Article 2 13, and 2 16 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and Article 12 A and B and Article 16 of the Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice and Part 10 of the Caribbean Court of Justice Originating Jurisdiction Rules 2019.”

The Minister said that Belize is essentially accusing St. Kitts and Nevis along with Trinidad and Tobago of importing sugar from Guatemala and Honduras without application of the Common External Tariff on these goods.

“In other words, the State of Belize alleges that St. Kitts and Nevis has allowed these imports from Guatemala and Honduras to occur without the necessary taxes being paid as befitting goods that are not produced in CARICOM,” she said.

The period in question is from November 2018 to June of 2020 during which time Belize has alleged that the Federation has imported some 975 metric tons of sugar imports from Guatemala and Honduras free of duty, said the minister.

“Mr. Speaker, at this point I wish to remind the general public of a few key facts which we should all bear in mind. One, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis does not import sugar into the Federation. Any importation of sugar by the Government would have been brought to an end in 2015 when the supply office was closed,” said Minister Phipps. “And the second point I wish to remind us of is that all sugar imports into our Federation would have been based on trading arrangements being entered into by the private sector specifically wholesalers and retailers and their overseas suppliers.”

The Trade Minister assured the public that on the day that the case was filed, which was brought to her attention by the Solicitor General, which is October 5th, she instructed the Director of Trade in the Ministry of International Trade, Shawn Lawrence, to immediately begin an investigation with the Customs and Excise Department in terms of gathering data on all sugar imports over the past three years.

“The Ministry is eagerly awaiting the submission of this report, which will obviously form a critical part of the defense of the case that has been brought by Belize,” she said.

The Minister also assured the public that as Minister with responsibility for International Trade she will continue to provide the people of the Federation with updates on the trade matter as it develops.

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