Trade talks

Regional officials seek to upgrade trade negotiating skills

Regional trade officials are sharpening their skills in order to be more effective in multilateral and regional trade negotiations.

A three-day workshop opened at the Courtyard by Marriott this morning at which Caribbean Community (CARICOM) trade officials are placing attention on the importance of capacity building in the areas of trade in services and investment.

Addressing this morning’s opening, Director General in the CARICOM Secretariat’s Office of Trade Negotiations Gail Mathurin said trade in services and investment contributed significantly to regional economies.

And she urged CARICOM member states to continue to engage private sector representatives in similar capacity building activities at the national level.

“This will go a long way in revitalizing and expanding the regional consultative mechanism, which is an essential part of trade policy formulation,” Matharin said.

“I would like to emphasize that we have not embarked on this capacity building programme with respect to services and investment liberalization in a vacuum. Trade in services and investment are extremely vital components of economic activities in our member states. The CARICOM region as a whole maintain a healthy surplus with regard to a balance of international trade in services.”

Mathurin highlighted the strong contribution of the service sector to the gross domestic product (GDP), representing well over three quarters in many cases, with foreign direct investment accounting for between four and ten per cent of the GDP of CARICOM member states.

“In light of the importance of services and investment to our economies, we have to ensure we are well equipped to articulate our core interest and sensitivities in the context of trade negotiations. In particular, we need to ensure that any future liberalization which member states undertake is aligned to national and regional core development objectives,” Mutharin said.

Over the next three days officials will engage in discussions on trade in service agreement negotiations and the negative list approach to services and investment liberalization and their implications for CARICOM states.

The workshop, which forms part of a capacity building exercise for CARICOM member states, is a collaborative effort between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and CARICOM Secretariat.

IDB representative in Barbados Juan Carlos De La Hoz Vinas said that institution would continue to work closely with regional economies to help build trade capacity.

“We deeply feel that capacity building is key for the countries and for the officials to properly address the needs of development, especially in the case of the Caribbean countries that are facing challenges, to be very effective in the participation in multilateral and regional trade negotiations,” he said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Maxine McClean welcomed the regional workshop, pointing to the importance of capacity building in the areas of trade in services and investment for regional economies.

Director General in the CARICOM Secretariat Office of Trade Negotiations Gail Mathurin, IDB representative in Barbados Juan Carlos De La Hoz Vinas & Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Maxine McClean.
Director General in the CARICOM Secretariat Office of Trade Negotiations Gail Mathurin, IDB representative in Barbados Juan Carlos De La Hoz Vinas & Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Maxine McClean.

Acknowledging that the workshop limited the participation of private sector representatives, McClean said, however, the private sector should “use their initiative to be represented”.

“It is something that is critical to the success of the sector or the various elements of the sector,” she said.

“As we talk about negotiations we have to incorporate in our discussions the need for what I consider to be substantial business opportunities arising in new areas such as environmental goods and green technologies,” McClean concluded.

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