CUT IT OUT!
Commerce minister moves to protect local businesses from OECS duty
Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss is promising local manufacturers he will be doing all in his power to save their businesses from a crippling 70 per cent duty imposed by some Eastern Caribbean countries, as he lashed out at the CARICOM Secretariat for behaving “toothless” in these kinds of matters.
“I think it is reprehensible. I have raised this matter with the Ministry of Foreign Trade in Barbados. I have gone to CARICOM meetings and I have raised it as well and I sense there is no urgency on the part of the CARICOM Secretariat to take the matter seriously and to have it addressed,” he said in an interview with Barbados TODAY.
Last week, chief executive officer of Banks Holdings Limited (BHL) Richard Cozier said St Lucia had slapped a 70 per cent duty on its beers and soft drinks, invoking a provision allowed under Article 164 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that differentiates between Less Developed Countries (LDCs) and More Developed Countries (MDCs) like Barbados. That followed similar action by St Vincent and the Grenadines and Cozier said Grenada was also expected to follow suit.
The BHL boss lamented that the duty would kill exports of his company’s beverages.
Inniss described the move by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) as “shortsighted” and accused that sub-regional grouping of “protecting” international companies to the disadvantage of indigenous Caribbean businesses.
He further expressed displeasure at the way the CARICOM Secretariat has so far dealt with the matter, saying that body had “failed the region” in that regard.
“I am going to raise it again formally through the Ministry of Foreign Trade in Barbados as well as at the next CARICOM meeting I get the chance to go to. But the CARICOM Secretariat based in Georgetown needs to get up off their laurels and start behaving as though they are a serious organization!” he insisted.
“They conduct themselves as though they are sometimes very toothless and meaningless and I am not impressed at all with them. So either we are going to get serious through that mechanism or Barbados is going to have to find another way to address the matter. But right now as far as I am concerned, putting aside the legalities, it is morally very unfair,” added an upset Inniss.
When pressed about what other avenues he would consider to get a resolution, Inniss said: “I would rather not publicly say what the other options are.”
“It is a matter that is engaging the attention the Ministry of Commerce. We continue to hold out a little bit of hope that moral suasion and common sense will prevail. We still treasure the OECS market; they are one of our biggest markets for our goods and services here and we are not going to do anything to jeopardize that just like that,” he added, while describing the situation as unfortunate.