Do not expect any shouting matches between Barbados and Saint Lucia over the recent imposition of tax on some Barbadian goods by that country.
This was made clear by Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and small Business Development Donville Inniss, who said that although it was not an agenda item per se at the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) ministerial meeting, which he recently attended, useful discussions with his counterpart in Saint Lucia and with officials from Grenada, St Vincent and other OECS countries were held.
“As I said previously, we are not about shouting at one another across the waters, but rather to sit down and engage constructively in dialogue on these issues. We would have been able to put Barbados’ case forward in terms of the impact on our local industries, ever mindful of the challenges that our brothers and sisters face in their own economies as well,” he added.
Explaining that there is an understanding that the OECS countries were aware of the sensitivities of these matters and the likely economic impact, Inniss noted that they will continue over the next couple of weeks, to engage in dialogue on these particular issues.
“We have some work to do from our end in Barbados too as we look at the existing Treaty of Chaguaramas. We have to ask ourselves if given our current challenges in the economy, if we don’t need to exercise some of the rights extended to challenged economies in CARICOM to request a delay in implementing some of the programmes, or in allowing Barbados to get some of the benefits that were previously extended to Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs), generally speaking”, he suggested.
In addition, the minister outlined that the whole LDC, More Developed Country (MDC) matter was one that was agreed should be featured on the agenda for the next COTED meeting since “good preparatory work [is require] if we are to engage in any constructive dialogue on that broader issue”.
The industry minister reminded Barbadians that it was not entirely a case of what rate of duties were applicable to some local items, but it must also be seen in the context that Barbados has great trade surplus in many of the OECS countries that cannot be jeopardised either.
“My own position is that we have to look at it through the eyes of the business community as well and maybe there is more that we can do as entrepreneurs to re- develop partnerships and to engage in enterprise with our sister islands in the region; not just to sit in Barbados and say, ‘we want to get into your market by manufacturing here and selling there, but [instead] how can we form strategic alliances that may benefit from economies of scale, [and] greater market access,” he asserted.