Region advised to consider removal of CET
Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Legal Affairs has told her regional colleagues that it’s one of few options available to make food and other items more affordable amid rising prices.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Friday March 25, 2011 – An Antigua and Barbuda government minister has urged her regional colleagues to consider the removal of the Common External Tariff (CET) among measures to help cushion residents from the impact of the rising cost of fuel and other goods.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Senator Joanna Massiah said there is also a need for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat to urgently deploy a comprehensive forecasting mechanism to protect and maintain the standards of living for each member state’s population.
Speaking at the 35th Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) yesterday, Senator Massiah said that while CARICOM may seek to mitigate the impact of food and fuel prices increases, there are very few policy options available to governments that would eliminate or significantly reduce the impact of external shocks on the domestic economy.
“One thing is certain, as in 2008, we are faced with increasing prices of fuel and raw materials. There continues to be increases in the international prices of wheat, oil, corn, barley and other essential commodities. As net importers, CARICOM is particularly vulnerable to these international price hikes,” she said.
Senator Massiah therefore urged her colleagues to consider several actions, among them a repeat of what occurred in 2008 when COTED agreed to suspend the CET for two years to make food and other items more affordable for residents of member states.
She called on the region to “develop policy options to mitigate the impact of the rising cost of food and oil including, but not limited to, consideration for the immediate removal of the CET” on specific items.
Additionally, the minister suggested the convening of an urgent meeting of the regular COTED to consider issues surrounding recent price increases in fuel and raw materials; decisive action in agreeing on a CARICOM energy policy, focusing on alternative energy options and technology; the consideration of additional national and regional initiatives aimed at providing relief especially for the most vulnerable; the urgent convening of a joint COTED of Agriculture and Trade Ministers to discuss the evolving global challenges on CARICOM; and the elaboration of an action plan given the dynamics of the global challenges.
Senator Massiah said the region also needs to develop a strategy of engagement with the international community, particularly the European Union, on assistance to cushion the impact of this new round of global difficulties and the consequential impact on the Caribbean.
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