Keeping up With International Trade Agreements-A Challenge for St. Kitts & Nevis

The country’s government and especially the Ministry of International Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs is acutely aware of the shortcomings, and has therefore managed to attract funding and the needed expertise to undertake a training exercise for key public sector leaders and officials, to better equip them with information regarding their roles and responsibilities in the effort to positively and responsibly respond to those international obligations.

To this end a National Workshop on the Role of Government Ministries and Institutions, in the Effective Implementation of Trade Policy Agreements, is to be held at the Ocean Terrace Inn, Fortlands, Basseterre, on 27th – 28th February, 2012.

This workshop will facilitate the implementation of the Federation’s Trade Policy programme, by ensuring that the various government departments, Ministries and agencies understand their critical role in trade policy development, implementation and management; removing the common belief that “trade policy is the sole responsibility of the Ministry of International Trade”. This belief has resulted in the reluctance by some government Ministries and Institutions to play their required roles in the successful and efficient implementation of trade agreements and trade policies.

The workshop will therefore seek to address these concerns and to ensure there is overall improvement by the Federation’s compliance with its trade policy obligations.

It is being hosted in collaboration with the OECS; CARICOM Secretariats and Commonwealth Secretariats.


Since 1995 St. Kitts and Nevis has signed on to several trade Agreements including the WTO, the CSME, the CARICOM Bilateral Agreements with Costa Rica, Cuba, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia; the CARIFORUM-EU -Economic Partnership Agreement (the EPA) and more recently the OECS Economic Union.

All these Agreements are governed by rules which all parties have agreed to follow, including ratification of the Agreements, amend and enact required legislation and the enforcement of relevant rules. There is also national commitment to ensure that all national agencies and government departments understand their respective roles to meet obligations and the laws governing the respective agreements are not violated.  To ensure this, members to the Agreements are given assistance where and when required to facilitate capacity building as well as extra time prior to implementation to allow them to put the systems in place for implementing the agreements.

St. Kitts and Nevis like many developing or small island economies has had difficulty in meeting its obligations to the respective trade Agreements  This has been attributed to the lack of adequate technical capacity and also the limited understanding by other “supporting” government Ministries and Departments of their role and commitment to facilitate the implementation process, recognizing that when trade Agreements are signed, it is their equal responsibility to implement the agreements by taking the appropriate actions including enacting the legislation, putting in place functioning regulatory institutions and departments, with appropriately trained staff and resources are made available (Ministry of Finance) to ensure that the country benefit from the Agreement.

The Ministry of International Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs has the major responsibility in providing leadership for implementing the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME; the OECS Economic Union; the CARIFORUM-EC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the WTO Multilateral Trade Agreement as well as the other negotiated bilateral and multilateral trade agreements and ongoing and future trade agreements that are being negotiated. However other supporting Ministries and government departments have a significant role to play in trade policy development and implementation if the Federation is to benefit from those trade agreements. The issue of non-compliance to or the apparent lack of commitment by CARICOM Member States to meet their obligations to trade agreements was again intensely discussed at the 33rd COTED which was held in November last year. Member States were reminded of their responsibilities and the possible sanctions that they can be subjected to including possible legal actions by the CCJ for instance.

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