On Thursday, Dr Rowley and Dr Irfaan Ali took an important step toward demonstrating leadership in regional trade by signing a commitment to reduce non-tariff barriers between TT and Guyana.
For decades, Caricom has touted regional integration and trade liberalisation in the face of a reality of insularity and petty differences that stifle collaborative business opportunities.
Dr Rowley noted some examples of how regional differences limited trade between Caricom nations, recalling that TT’s thriving pork production industry couldn’t export to a promising Jamaican market after an interest group there argued that a 25-year-old outbreak of swine fever presented some sort of phantom threat to health. In fact swine fever affects pigs, but not people.
The challenges of the last two years have emphasised the importance of localising the global supply chain, and a successful revisiting of trade between TT and Guyana might provide a template for improving trade within the Caribbean archipelago.
As food security becomes a greater concern in the region, the ability of businesses operating in Caribbean islands to collaborate with their neighbours to leverage their agricultural, mineral and human-resource strengths should play a more prominent role in Caricom discussions.
At the launch of the second Agri-Investment Forum and Expo on Friday, the PM recognised this when he underlined the importance of making regional trade integration a reality, having invited the leaders of Guyana, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti and Suriname to the event.
After the signing with Dr Ali, the PM sensibly argued that if there is an entity called a single market and economy, it should be a meaningful one.
“A perfect working SME means that you have no impediment to goods, people or financing going to any part of the market,” Dr Rowley said.
The region has far to go to attain that ideal, and the countries of the Caribbean have widely differing implementations of trade barriers. Even when there are similarities, interpretations can differ from state to state.
Now the two countries will begin by working together through a joint task force that will address existing non-tariff barriers and standardise and define policies for trade.
The project’s importance can’t be underestimated. The work of this task force will create a basis for improved and more streamlined trade between TT and Guyana, but a comprehensive document might also provide a template that Caricom as a whole might use to encourage member nations to follow.
To do that, the project must move forward with purpose, not only in identifying profitable market segments for both nations, but also in designing trade arrangements that are known, respected and observed, and which echo effectively all the way down to the desks of customs officers.
Credit: Source link