We need a level playing field, says PM Stuart
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart says there is pressing need for the relationship between the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the United States to be revisited.
Speaking during the just-ended, one-day CARICOM-US Summit in Jamaica, which was attended by US President Barack Obama, Stuart zeroed in on the challenges facing rum, which is one of the region’s most significant exports to the US market.
“This results from the use of the cover-over revenue by US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, US territories, to provide trade-distorting subsidies to rum producers in those territories,” he explained.
The Prime Minister also expressed fear on behalf of CARICOM that “the information exchange agreements of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of the United States, while justifiable on the grounds of revenue protection and enhancement, may not be applied evenly in respect of the right of access of the US to information as against the exercise of a similar right by our jurisdictions”.
He further pointed out that trade in services, which contributes over 60 per cent of the economic output in CARICOM member states, was still not covered under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) arrangements, even though regional stakeholders have been actively lobbying different branches of the US Government and potential private sector partners for its inclusion.
Addressing the topic Competitiveness/Prosperity, Stuart argued that competitiveness was neither alien to the region’s experience nor challenging to its capacities.
“Indeed, whenever the playing field has been level and the rules have been fairly applied, the people of the Caribbean have shown the extent of their abilities and the measure of their daring,” he said.
“When we engage you therefore, it is not as elegant nuisances, or angry and dejected suppliants ringing the doorbell or banging on the door of the United States of America. We engage you as people who have a view of the world, based on our experiences, from which we think that your country and others, over which it has influence, can benefit.
“We compete effectively when the playing field is level, but when it is not, our people reserve the right to make their concerns known and to advocate for a more sensitive and a more rational reordering of the world’s business,” he added.
However, the Prime Minister stressed that the region’s situation could not be divorced from the economic and political conduct of those countries and institutions with which it had to do business.
“It is not states like ours here in the CARICOM region that can impose the GDP per capita measure by which small and still vulnerable countries are graduated from access to concessional financing, both from larger and more powerful countries and from the international financial institutions which they control.
“Likewise, the small states of CARICOM have never had clout enough to determine the behaviour of those correspondent banks whose not too veiled threats now confront the financial sector in our countries with the prospect of certain, but, we hope, not too imminent collapse. And this has not been the only threat with which we have had to deal. As offshore jurisdictions, our International Financial Services Sectors have been forced to defend themselves insistently, consistently and persistently, against the labelling of our domiciles as “tax havens” with all the pejorative connotations attached to that expression. This, in addition to change after change in the rules that apply to our jurisdictions,” he added. (BGIS/)