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RNM Brings Agriculture Trade Negotiations into Focus

CHRIST CHURCH, BARBADOS – The Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery’s (RNM) Seventh Technical Working Group (TWG) on Agriculture came to a close yesterday. The two-day meeting – convened in Bridgetown, Barbados, July 21 to 22 – provided an overview of agriculture trade negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Regarding the WTO, the TWG reviewed: modalities on market access (tariffs, preferences, special products, special safeguard, etc.); modalities on domestic support and export competition (direct payments, export subsidies, export credit, food aid, state trading enterprises, special and differential treatment (S&DT)); and, proposed recommendations in relation to CARICOM’s position vis modalities on agricultural market access. Regarding the FTAA, the Group reviewed: the draft chapter on market access and export competition and other measures which distort trade in agricultural products (domestic support, non-tariff barriers); and, proposed recommendations on CARICOM’s position vis the draft text on export competition and domestic support. The Director-General of the RNM, Ambassador Dr. Richard Bernal, underscored the importance of the consultative nature of the TWG, especially given the varied interests of all the Member States. “The TWG is a valuable medium for dialogue, enabling an exchange-of-views amongst a variety of stakeholders so that the region’s agriculture negotiators can better reflect and prioritize the interests of these groups. The timing of the TWG is especially important; it has afforded an opportunity to take stock of recent developments hemispherically and multilaterally that are of crucial importance to the region”, the RNM chief said. In attendance were senior government officials of RNM Member States with responsibility for trade and agriculture representing: Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Suriname. Private sector and industry groups included: Barbados Agricultural Society, Barbados Private Sector Trade Team, Belize Citrus Growers Association, Caribbean Citrus Association, Caribbean Export, Caribbean Poultry Association, Guyana Rice Development Board, HIPAC, Ltd., Sugar Association of the Caribbean, and West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association, Inc. (WIRSPA). The CARICOM Secretariat and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) also participated. Ms. Mavis Campbell, International Trade Advisor, Ministry of Agriculture, Jamaica, characterized the meeting as ‘extremely productive’. “I am particularly happy with the active dialogue on critical issues amongst the variety of stakeholders represented at this meeting”, she said. This sentiment was also expressed by the private sector participating in the meeting. Ms. Olivia Chase, of the Barbados Private Sector Trade Team (an entity tasked with promoting Barbadian private sector interests in trade negotiations), observed that “continuous interface between public and private sector representatives on these very complex and intricate issues is critical, especially given recent developments in agriculture in the WTO”. The RNM’s Agricultural Trade Negotiating Unit (ATNU) staff – Mr. Nigel Durrant, Agricultural Trade Specialist, and Mr. Vincent Atkins, Senior Agricultural Research Professional – organized and coordinated the TWG. For More Information Contact: Nand C. Bardouille Tel: (246) 430-1678 email: nand.bardouille@crnm.org

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