Rising cost of living on agenda for CARICOM meeting

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, January 31, 2008 – The Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) will meet again next month to discuss solutions to the rising cost of living in the Caribbean, this time armed with information on what goods CARICOM states will be willing to reduce or remove the Common External Tariff (CET).

CARICOM Heads of Government had identified the CET as the most appropriate instrument to help reduce food prices across the region.

“COTED has requested Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to submit national lists of items on which they would be prepared to reduce or remove the Common External Tariff. Such lists are to be submitted in time for final determination at a Special Meeting of the COTED to be held in late February,” the body indicated in a release.

Adjustment to the items affected by the CET and was expected to be among the solutions discussed during the 25th meeting of COTED in Guyana last weekend’s.

However, after what COTED said was “lengthy, intense but incomplete discussions” CARICOM Secretary-General Edwin Carrington indicated it was difficult to find agreement on a single common regional list.

Highlighting some of the challenges, he pointed out that with the CET being a major revenue earner for many member states, the revenue loss was a difficult issue to grapple with.

“Equally, the regional market of member states producing same or similar products had to be protected. Also, certain other considerations such as health had to be borne in mind and all these conditions do not always point in the same direction,” the Secretary-General added.

He said bearing in mind the urgency of the issue, all efforts would be made to come to a decision at the earliest possible opportunity.

With regard to External Trade Relations, the Secretary-General said that drawing on the lessons learnt from the recently concluded CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations, the Region was turning its attention to preparing for negotiations with other third parties.