Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has stepped into an international trade dispute that threatens the demise of the local rum industry.
Addressing this evening’s grand opening of Mount Gay Rum’s new aging bond in St. Lucy, Stuart explained that the subsidies which the United States was currently providing to its territories of the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were threatening the death of this country’s rum sector.
The Prime Minister said the production costs of Mount Gay were likely to present obstacles for its progress because the company was not benefiting from the subsidies being given to its competitors in the USVI and Puerto Rico.
He suggested that smaller rum producers like Barbados and other Caribbean states such as the Dominican Republic could not afford to offer such subsidies which would reduce their operating costs.
The Government leader told the gathering that the Barbados Government has had to take a stand on the issue and had instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to communicate with the US on the matter.
Stuart disclosed that recently, he met with a US Government trade representative to tackle the potentially destructive measure. He assured management of Mount Gay and stakeholders in the local industry that the Government was alert to their concerns.
“We are not about to relax our persistence in this issue. If we have to end up at the World Trade Organisation, we will do so,” he added.
“Production costs here in Barbados are likely to present obstacles at Mount Gay, having regard to the fact that competitors elsewhere are benefiting from subsidies which threaten to make what Mount Gay … less competitive than has ordinarily been the case.”
Prime Minister Stuart noted that rum producers in CARICOM have had to raise their voices in protest against “this distortion” of the market situation so far as the export of rum is concerned.
He said too that “very recently” discussions had been ongoing between CARICOM and the Dominican Republic and the US Trade representative with a view to addressing the more pressing concerns of rum producers in Barbados and the rest of the region.
He made it clear that the Barbados Government could not afford to ignore these threats to the industry and would continue to “spring” to action. (EJ)†††