Caricom to tackle non-tariff barriers, food security

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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, At Ann’s on Thursday. Photo by Roger Jacob

Caricom will begin taking steps to remove non-tariff barriers (NTBs), look into diverse and cheaper means of transport and develop the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), to improve food security and diversify from importing outside of the region, said the Prime Minister in a post Cabinet press briefing on Thursday.

Dr Rowley, speaking at the diplomatic centre in Port of Spain, provided an update on the outcomes of the 43rd Caricom heads of Government meeting held from July 3 to July 5.

Describing the meeting as one of the “most productive,” Rowley said the heads of government expressed disappointment at the slow pace of the implementation of the CSME and took immediate steps to move the process forward.

“We cannot stay where we are and, every six months, say what we want to do, knowing full well that we don’t intend to do it because we are more concerned about preserving the status quo. The heads have determined that it is now the time to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.”

A statement issued after the meeting said the heads of government mandated Caricom’s secretariat to convene meetings of registrars of companies and the ministers with responsibility for companies, to elaborate steps to enable member states to implement mutual recognition of any company incorporated in the region before the end of July.

The statement also said through the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) initiatives and programmes aimed at the removal of non-tariff barriers will be concluded by the end of the month.

“When we establish what the heads have instructed the secretariat to do, that TT suppliers will more easily supply what they produce everywhere in the region. By the same token, other people who are producing similar things or things that we do not now allow in will have access to our market,” he said. “The underlying principle of the CSME is that my market is yours and your market is mine.”

He added that Caricom plans to make use of the land space in multiple territories such as Guyana, Belize and Suriname for agricultural development and to offset the region’s import bill by 25 per cent, by the year 2025. He added that a small Brazilian territory off the Venezuelan border, Roriama, is willing to act as a 14th state, and contribute its own land space for development, growth and trade.

“(There is) significant production of protein and carbohydrate foods – large volumes of food material – which the Guyana effort leading Caricom to food security and engage in food supply creation have brought Roraima to support Caricom’s effort to ensure that food is available in Caricom.”

“We are of the view that if we put all these things together and get them invested in and funded that Caricom would not be as vulnerable as we are now, especially as predictions are that covid19 is not alone,” Rowley said.

“It is quite possible that we have to plan for similar ‘covids’ or whatever they are called in the future where we find ourselves in a situation where we are competing for the basics in life and we are not able to buy them even if we have the money.”

He said there will be another Agricultural Expo, this time in TT and it will be held from August 19 to 21.

He also mentioned plans to look into a regional traditional and fast ferry service to enhance the region’s connections through transport. But he said as far as air transport TT will not be interested in using Caribbean Airlines as a regional service provider outside of its current arrangements.

Rowley said the decisions came out of a recognition of major shocks to the world’s food supply and major commodities such as petrochemicals coming out of circumstances for which the world simply wasn’t prepared.

“We have been pushed to this, not because we got a “vaps” and decided that we are going to be different to prime ministers of another era,” Rowley said.

“Six months ago we didn’t expect to be in a situation where two European countries are at war. Ukraine and Russia are at war and immediately the world’s food supply is threatened, the world’s fertiliser supply is threatened, the world’s fuel supply is threatened and Caricom has had to act.”

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