Caribbean News Service:
Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr. Clarence Henry is warning that failure to extend Article 164 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas could prove to be a major challenge to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Henry, who chaired the three-day meeting of the officials ahead of Wednesday’s opening of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), said that it was important for the more developed countries of CARICOM agree to a further extension of Article 164 which provides a measure of support for small fledging industries so as to boost their chance of achieving competitiveness.
Henry said that the MDC’s appear to be “noncommittal and definitive in their support of what is a lesser developed country (LCD) support measure.
“As part of Article 164, the region should provide support for measures including capacity building to ensure the realistic development of the LDCs approved sensitive industries.
“Article 164 was last extended in 2012. The LDCs have a narrow range of products on the list to which paints has been proposed. Antigua and Barbuda and the other LDC territories are under seize from imports of paints from MDCs and otherwise which threatens the industry,” he said.
The Antigua and Barbuda diplomat said that if the MDCs are not moved to show support on this “red line” issue, “one can opine that these LDCs should give pause to supporting the imbalance and unfair trade in the CSME” that allows for the free movement of good, skills, labour and skills across the 15-member regional integration movement.
“It is the MDCs which year after year request LDC support at COTED, to not a litany of suspensions and derogations. We are clear that the larger jurisdictions need to be more caring and considerate to their less endowed neighbours and to allow LDCs sensitive industries to thrive amidst a significant trade imbalance with the MDCs.”
Henry said CARICOM through organs such as COTED must uphold the spirit and principles that embody the essence of Caribbean regionalism.
“Countries need to further recall the occasion in Jamaica when the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves (The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines) in a moving speech laid out the OECS’ (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) commitment to the integration process which he opined must redound to the benefit of all.
“I fear if there is no renewal of Article 164 which requires the support of at least two MDCs, we could see the death of the small LDC industries. The MDCs must see the greater good in unequivocal support for Article 164 on behalf of the LDCs. “
Henry said that while many of the delegates from the LDCs are understanding of the Barbados’ position, on account of the general elections in that country next week, he is hoping that “when this matter is raised at the Ministerial meeting on Wednesday and Thursday, the LDC’s will be calling on all MDCs to support the renewal of Article 164.
“Such a clear initiative by the Collective CARICOM Community will solidify our regional integration process, in consonance with the spirit and letter of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas,” the Antigua and Barbuda diplomat added.
Grenada’s Ambassador to CARICOM, Dr. Patrick Antoine is expected to outline the the case for the LDC’s to the ministerial meeting on Wednesday.