LaRocque told reporters that the regional leaders, who are going into an all day caucus on Thursday as part of their three-day summit here, had been briefed on the rum situation in a report submitted by the Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on External Negotiations headed by the Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
He said that the issue, involving Diageo, the global rum producer, continues to “threaten Caribbean rum into the US market, and the leaders agreed that “strong and urgent political intervention was needed to address that issue.
“There is a concern with regards to some subsidy that is being provided for Diageo, the multi-lateral and one of the largest rum producers which is currently located in St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands.
“There is an arrangement in the US government that allows for resources to be provided based on the exports of rum from the Virgin Islands, but more than that the resources are being used to provide a direct subsidy for a modern rum factory that is being constructed in Str. Croix.
“That has the potential for damaging the market of our rum producers in the region. A market that we have been cultivating over the years, a market which they are seeking to upgrade by exporting brand rum rather than bulk rum,” LaRocque said, adding “this is a matter of grave concern and it is agreed there needs to be some intervention of some sorts to inform the United States of our concerns”.
LaRocque said that any subsidy provided to any competitor “puts you at a disadvantage and that’s why it is of critical interest to us.
“It could cause some damage to our exports and our export earnings and it has been brought to our attention late last year and we have been working on it quietly with the USTR and we have now updated the heads and seeking to engage further on the matter”.