Standing firm

St Lucia responds to concerns raised by Barbados about hike in duties

Authorities in St Lucia say Barbados is yet to lodge a formal complaint, one week after Minister of International Business Donville Inniss frowned on the island’s move to impose a 70 per cent hike in duties on imports from the more developed countries (MDCs) within CARICOM.

St Lucia’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Titus Preville acknowledged media reports on the issue but underscored the island had done nothing wrong.

Titus Preville
Titus Preville

“I am not aware that my ministry, the Ministry of Commerce, or any other government ministry has received any complaint from any government in CARICOM; so suffice it to say, if we were to have done something that constitutes a breach of the [CARICOM] Treaty then the correct thing for a country would be to lodge acomplaint with the CARICOM Secretariat,” Preville told Barbados TODAY.

Preville pointed out that in December 2012, the Council of Trade and Economic Development at its 35th meeting agreed to implement Article 164 of the Treaty Of Chaguaramas.

Under that article, lesser developed countries (LDCs) are allowed to suspend, as a “temporary measure”, preferential treatment usually granted to products of other CARICOM member states, in order to promote the development of a specific sensitive industry in the LDCs.

The implementation of the regime means higher duties for a specific list of goods being imported from MDCs within CARICOM.

The regime will span the period May 1, 2014, to December 31, 2018.

Banks Holdings Limited came forward as the first local company to take issue with the move, complaining that the duty hike will put its Banks beer and Tiger Malt beverages out of the reach of the average consumer.

Minister Inniss had promised to take up the matter with his St Lucia counterpart but Preville suggested that Castries was not in a position to discuss the matter with any one member state.

“The implementation of the duty rate is not against Barbados or any other individual member state. It’s a regime that is in place for the less developed countries in CARICOM with respect to the more developed countries, so it is not a matter that we are singling out Barbados. So I do not know how St Lucia will be able to undertake a discussion with Barbados by itself outside of the other countries which constitute the MDCs of CARICOM and how St Lucia will be able to undertake that discussion without the other LDC countries. So I don’t see St Lucia being
in a position to undertake any discussion at this time.”

Preville also knocked calls by the Barbados Private Sector Association for Barbadians to purchase more local products.

“If the Barbadian private sector chooses to advise locals to buy local as a direct consequence of the decision of CARICOM, I think that would be unfortunate because . . . Article 164 was meant to provide  an opportunity for the LDCs to undertake development of the private sector so that they would be in a better position to trade with the MDCs to undertake measures at the domestic level within the MDCs that would somehow curtail that goal would not, I believe, be in the interest of what CARICOM is about, “ he said.

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