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CARICOM takes steps to improve trade performance under Bilateral Agreements

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)     The establishment of effective trade facilitation offices, both at national and regional levels has been recommended as a key to the Region taking greater advantage of trade agreements with third countries.
Recommendations are contained in a draft report from a study commissioned “to identify and assess the underlying reasons affecting CARICOM’s weak trade performance under the existing Bilateral Trade Agreements with the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela.” The Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) mandated that the study be conducted. It was commissioned by the CARICOM Secretariat, with technical assistance provided by the Government of Spain through the CARICOM-Spain Joint Fund.

This study, launched last year, is seen as a first and important step for further decision making and action to address an area critical to the Region’s economic development. It aims to enhance the Region’s understanding of the constraints and problems affecting CARICOM’s export performance under the specific Bilateral Trade Agreements (BTAs). Once finalized, it will inform policy recommendations from COTED which would benefit the private sector in CARICOM Member States, allowing them to take advantage of the opportunities for the expansion of exports to those countries.

Over the past eight months, Dr. Derk Bienen of BKP Development Research and Consulting of Germany, lead consultant on the study, has conducted extensive data collection field missions to eleven (11) Member States and to three (3) Partner countries. The Draft report of the Consultant’s findings and analyses has been submitted to the CARICOM Secretariat and will be presented to Senior Regional Trade Officials for review and validation in mid-February.
The Draft report notes summarily that “the key challenge to overcome is the divergence in interests between CARICOM Members, which is the result of vast differences in their economic structures.” The recommendations contain both specific and general actions that can be taken to address issues relating to ratification, implementation and further development of the Agreements as well as critical supply–side constraints affecting regional exports. In particular the consultant highlights the need for improved communication with and assistance for regional exporters, to be facilitated by trade facilitation offices.

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