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.

Chief executive officer of Banks Holdings Limited Richard Cozier.
Chief executive officer of Banks Holdings Limited Richard Cozier.

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.

Minister of Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss
Minister of Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss

“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.

5 Responses to CUT IT OUT!

  1. Alex Alleyne April 9, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Mr. Inniss let the CCJ do the job then.

  2. Ralph Talma April 9, 2015 at 8:39 am

    I am surprised some Eastern Caribbean countries can unilaterally impose a 70% duty on Banks Holdings Ltd (B`dos). Furthermore, I do not agree with Article 164 of the Treaty used to impose it. As far as I am concerned, the Caribbean does not consists of ” Less Developed Countries” and “More Developed Countries”, there are all Small Island Developing Countries, each striving to do its best fairly for its people. The Prime Minister should therefore use his trip to Jamaica to express his displeasure at the increase to the other Leaders there, and should ascertain from the CARICOM Secretariat the rationale for their agreement to the imposition. This could lead to tit-for-tat situations which are not in the interests of anyone.

  3. Tony Waterman April 9, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    @Ralph Talma!!!!! “”I do not agree with Article 164 of the Treaty used to impose it. As far as I am concerned, the Caribbean does not consists of ” Less Developed Countries” and “More Developed Countries”, there are all Small Island Developing Countries, each striving to do its best fairly for its people.”” It does not matter what you or anyone else thinks, let’ stick to the facts, and the Fact is that they all SIGNED on the DOTTED Line in agreement that there WERE then and ARE now in the Caribbean Basin LDC’s and MDC’s. Here is Proof of that.
    The countries of the region that signed the Treaty of Chaguaramas made an oath :
    “”Acknowledging that some Member States, particularly the Less Developed Countries, are entering the CSME at a disadvantage by reason of the size, structure and vulnerability of their economies;””
    “”Conscious that disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors will require a transitional period to facilitate adjustment to competition in the CSME;””
    Mindful that the benefits expected from the establishment of the CSME are not frustrated by anti-competitive business conduct whose object or effect is to prevent, restrict, or distort competition;
    There are 29 Sections to that OATH they being of SOUND MIND hopefully, all signed.
    If the Minister is of the opinion, that these Caricom acknowledged lDC’s are acting illegally by being protective of their FRAGILE Economies, then they do have recourse because the 29th part of the oath they all signed says that they were also “”Affirming that the original jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice is essential for the successful operation of the CSME;”” There is the Minister’s Recourse. hopefully that is what he is alluding to when he said:- “” “I would rather not publicly say what the other options are.”

    ARTICLE 164
    Promotion of Industrial Development
    1.Upon application made in that behalf by the less developed countries, COTED may,
    if necessary, as a temporary measure in order to promote the development of an industry in any of
    these States, authorise such States to suspend Community origin treatment to any description of
    imports eligible therefor on grounds of production in one or more less developed countries.
    2.COTED may, in taking decisions pursuant to paragraph 1 of this Article, establish
    terms and conditions including a phasing-out period
    during which Member States and the Community
    shall provide support measures and the industry im
    plement the necessary programmes for achieving
    3.The grant of authorisation pursuant to paragraph 1 of this Article shall be by means
    of a decision supported by the affirmative votes
    of all the less developed countries and at least two
    of the more developed countries.

    Hopefully the Minister has checked if these things mentioned above, have been done by the ALLEGED offending LDC States, because if they have followed these signed Oaths, then they are within the rules of the RTC (Treaty) and his ONLY recourse would be to try the CCJ, which in my HUMBLE OPINION, he would lose.

    This Caricom/CSME thing was all done in a hurry, so that Politically everyone especially the Bajan Stuff Necks would be in a feel good mood, now the chickens are coming home to roost, so dont feel bad if there is no roost for our Chickens.
    There was Federation, 3 January 1958 to 31 May 1962, then there was CARIFTA 15 December 1965 to 4 July 1973, Caricom 4 July 1973 to Present.

    Then there was The EU, which really started with the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952until it became what it is today, meanwhile we are still languishing in the Muck and Mire of trade restrictions. WHY ????

  4. Ralph Talma April 10, 2015 at 10:22 am

    1. Thank you for your exposition of Article 164 above. But I was already aware of its contents. That is why I was able to state my disagreement therewith. Regrettably, your helpful comments have not made me change my mind.
    2. Your final para about the EU illustrates clearly how the population of a country can be saddled with something they did not vote for by transient politicians. The UK populace voted to trade with the EU but not be ruled by the it and its ever increasing/encroaching rules/laws, as we are today. That is why the people here are demanding a referendum thereon, and why the PM is promising one despite him saying he hopes to achieve the change the people want without leaving. Did Bajans`really appreciate the difference between an LDC and an MDC? I think not. And now they may well reap what the transients unwittingly have sown.
    3. Finally, there are no trade restrictions within the EU. All members of the EU are free to trade and travel freely therein in accordance with rules agreed by them all. And that is another problem we have here and which is not for discussion today. Thank you anyway.

  5. Ralph Talma April 10, 2015 at 10:37 am

    I am very sorry Mr Waterman. I made a reply to your comment above, but it has been removed by the Webmaster. Why? It seems that unlike others, my comments cannot be critical of transient politicians. But thank you anyway for your comment.


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