Minister Inniss complains CARICOM leaders are not taking intra-regional seriously
Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss has launched a verbal attack on regional leaders for “paying too much lip service to intra-regional trade”.
In a candid address at the opening of a two-day Regional Consultation On Market Intelligence And Export Strategy Development at the Radisson Aquatica Resort this morning, the outspoken minister lambasted policymakers and political leaders for still being too focused on their “narrow selfish space”, resulting in the placement of barriers to trade within the CARIFORUM community.
“A quick glance at the costs and difficulties in travelling within this region by air or sea, the conduct of some customs and health officials, the abrupt imposition of increased rates of duties and the hostility to our neighbours’ goods and services do not help us build a strong regional space to co-exist in harmonious trade arrangements,” Inniss declared.
He took fellow policymakers to task for their attitude towards those CARICOM states less fortunate than theirs.
“I urge my fellow policymakers and political leaders to stop laughing at the unfortunate circumstances that may beset our neighbours and to desist from the narrow-mindedness that informs some thoughts and actions, and let us finally take intra-regional trade seriously,” he implored.
Inniss said he had little time now for those talking the talk and not walking the walk.
“I am already tired of the talk shops that are reflected at many of our regional dialogues and would urge my colleagues to let us commit to do better for our citizens and our firms,” the minister said.
He further suggested that increased exports of goods and services were mandatory for the region to pull itself out of a challenged economic situation. As Inniss sees it, those responsible for negotiating trade agreements must ensure that the opinions of producers of goods and services are taken into account.
He lamented that, far too often, after the ink had dried on trade agreements, “all kinds of commotion occur as end-users complain of being ignorant as to the new trade agreement”.
“To be fair, I have also witnessed way too many instances where good opportunities emanate from new agreements, but we in this region fail to take advantage of such opportunities.”
He identified the CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union as a classic example of how this region had been “very tardy” in pursuing markets available within the EU. Inniss told policymakers their work did not end at the signing of agreements and creating legislation; they must continue building out and sustaining the various institutions that create an enabling environment for unfettered trade within and outside the Caribbean.