OECS trade officials to push further towards free circulation of goods in 2015

Port-1Castries, St Lucia — The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission anticipates a very busy year for trade officials.

To this end, during 2015 work towards the establishment of a regime for the free circulation of goods (FCG) will continue. It will include engagement with representatives of port authorities on facilitating free circulation and their readiness to fulfill the role.

The FCG also requires closer collaboration with the offices of the OECS Commissioners in each OECS member state in order to assist the Commission in undertaking activities such as mobilising national working groups and continued collaboration with the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) to help build capacity of customs agencies and assist with revenue management issues.

Also on the agenda regarding the planned FCG is collaborating with Compete Caribbean to execute consultancies relating to matters such as legislative and regulatory issues and ICT connectivity. Then there is the convening of meetings of the FCG task force; the next one which is planned for March. The Ministerial Councils of Economic Affairs and Trade are to be briefed on progress to date so that they are informed and can facilitate action at the national level.

A communications strategy and action plan is also on the agenda to keep the OECS public continuously informed about the free circulation of goods.

Virginia Paul of the OECS Trade Policy Unit noted that such free circulation will result in goods moving within the OECS faster and at lower cost, due to the removal of technical, administrative and fiscal measures. This is expected to result in increased intra-OECS trade and improved regional management of revenue from trade transactions.

During 2015, trade officials are also expected to continue the CARICOM-Canada free trade agreement negotiations. Commissioners and officials will convene meetings on an OECS position on outstanding issues relating to a package of proposals that CARICOM will submit to Canada on tariff and service trade liberalisation, labour cooperation and investment. The CARICOM-Canada Trade and Development Agreement will contain the rules which will govern trade in goods, services and agriculture products between CARICOM member states and Canada.

Trade officials will continue working with counterparts from Cuba to improve the rules that govern trade between them and explore market opportunities. The CARICOM-Cuba Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2000.

Activities relating to ratifying and implementing the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement will continue, whilst negotiations and discussions on other subjects such as rules for liberalization of trade in agricultural commodities and industrial goods and services continue within the WTO with a view to submitting new rules for endorsement at a ministerial conference scheduled for December in Nairobi, Kenya.

Member states will agree on an action plan to improve their compliance with WTO rules following the third WTO-OECS Trade Policy Review held in June 2014.

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