Barbados makes plea for small states

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 25, 2008 – Barbados’ Foreign Trade Minister Christopher Sinckler has urged the World Trade Organisation (WTO) not to make small and vulnerable economies, like those in the Caribbean, carry a disproportionate share of the burden of liberalisation.

He made a case for the 23 members of the Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs) Group as negotiations continue at the WTO in Geneva to hammer out a new global free-trade pact.

Sinckler argued that in terms of agriculture, the statistical analysis clearly showed that on average, given the current proposal for tariff cuts – put at 24 per cent – SVEs would be required to make heavy reductions in their current Bound Tariff rates. 

The Barbados minister said that when taken together with efforts by WTO members to simultaneously weaken other trade defence mechanisms, this could spell disaster for several economies in the region.

Mr Sinckler told his fellow Trade Ministers that the SVEs wanted a number of demands met if they were to agree to the new market access modalities in agriculture.

Among these, he said, was that “in respect of Barbados, El Salvador, Dominican Republic and Guatemala especially, that these countries should continue to be allowed access to a Special Agriculture Safeguard (SSG) agreed in the Uruguay Round for these countries to protect their small resource poor farmers from price depressions and volume spikes in imported agri-products”.
He said that in Barbados’ case where the current SSG applies for about 18 per cent of its tariff lines, this cover could not be reduced at this time.

The others demands are that SVEs must see a continuation of access to a reasonable “In-Quota Tariff” which met no cuts in current rates agreed at Uruguay; that special products selected by SVEs shall not be subject to Tariff Rated Quota (TRQ) commitments; that SVEs should be allowed, like less developed countries, to have an unlimited application of the existing Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) above the current Uruguay Round Tariff Bindings; and that  SVEs, when having recourse to the SSM, shall not be required to undertake any complicated and costly “Underfill Mechanism” for TRQ administration. 

In a separate meeting with the Chairman of the Non-Agriculture Market Access (NAMA) Negotiations Committee, Mr Sinckler said that considering that SVEs command less than 0.01 per cent of global trade, the concessions requested “would hardly distort world trade”.

He added that SVEs needed greater policy space to make interventions in their economies to support national industrial development.