News

IICA will implement a differentiated strategy for the Caribbean region to generate substantial agricultural progress

San Jose, May 21, 2019 (IICA). The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) will implement a special strategy for the benefit of the agriculture sector in Caribbean countries. Its objective will be to increase the sector’s capacity for climate resilience in the medium term, guarantee food and nutritional security, reduce poverty levels, drive production development, and foster income equality for producers.

A special working group will be responsible for overseeing these efforts. “This proposal is being developed on the explicit premise that the Caribbean region is 34% more vulnerable than other developing countries, from an economic and environmental standpoint. This is largely due to the region’s exposure to natural hazards that lead to disastrous impacts,” remarked Curt Delice, IICA Special Affairs Coordinator for the Caribbean Region.

The primary duty of the committee will be to coordinate IICA’s work with regional forums such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The committee will also promote regional events related to production, health and trade matters.

“The first steps will involve working towards the full establishment of the Global Resilience Center in Dominica, creating an efficient mechanism to attract external resources, increasing engagement with regional integration bodies, as well as collaborating with regional and international entities in order to execute projects and implement regional and national strategic action plans,” added Delice.

Beverly Best, Director of External and Institutional Relations, stated, “although the Caribbean has limited natural resources; low levels of productivity, productive diversity and agricultural investment; as well as deficient infrastructure, countries in the region have tremendous potential for agricultural development.”

“The region has great potential to substitute the importation of processed agricultural products and to drive the vertical integration of the production base of certain goods. It also has the capacity to increase regional trade in produce; strengthen agricultural health and food safety systems; diversify agriculture and the rural economy; as well as delve deeper into technology, innovation and issues related to agro-tourism,” explained Best.

Caribbean countries depend heavily on the tourism sector; however, the need to import most of their food limits their growth. This represents a market opportunity on which rural communities could capitalize.

To this end, IICA is joining forces with the ministries of Agriculture and Trade across the region, as well as with CARICOM and the OECS.

 

Cooperation actions

This year, IICA is executing USD 4.9 million in the Caribbean region through projects related to infrastructure. It is also executing 10 externally funded projects and developing 14 regional actions through hemispheric programs, focusing on matters related to food safety, import substitution, agrotourism, climate change, climate-smart agriculture, as well as early warning systems for sanitary and phytosanitary risks.

In addition to Delice and Best, Arlington Chesney and Patrick Antoine will also form part of the new committee for differentiated management, as special advisors. The committee will work to ensure that these initiatives generate tangible outcomes, thus enabling Caribbean agriculture to thrive and improving the quality of life of rural populations.

Courtesy: IICA

CARICOM denounces new US moves on Cuba

The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping has denounced moves by the United States to strengthen the decades old trade and economic embargo against Cuba.

In a statement issued following the two-day CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) meeting in Grenada, CARICOM said it “concerned by the new measures under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act announced by the Government of the United States of America which would strengthen the US economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba”.

“The Community denounces the application of laws and measures of an extra-territorial nature that are contrary to international law.”

The Helms–Burton Act seeks to impose international sanctions against the Cuban government, to plan for support of a transition government leading to a democratically elected government in Cuba, and for other purposes.

The Trump administration announced last month that it would end the suspension of the law that allows American citizens, including naturalised Cubans, to sue companies and subsidiaries in Cuba that benefited from private properties that were confiscated by the Cuban government.

It said that the legislation, which was previously suspended by the Obama administration and by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, will be fully implemented and enforced.

The move by Washington is seen as a retaliation for Havana’s continued support for President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, where the United States is leading an effort to oust him from power.

Cuba has said the nationalisations of the companies were conducted in full compliance with Cuban and international law and the Association of Cuban Residents in Toronto (ACRT), Canada, has denounced Washington’s move saying the first impact will be suffered by investors who currently have commercial relations with Cuba and those who intend to do so in the future.

ACRT president Julio Fonseca said the objective of the move is to intimidate, discourage and close doors to the island.

In its statement, CARICOM said it “notes with the greatest concern that the application of these new measures will also have a greater adverse impact on the socio-economic development of Cuba and the well-being of the Cuban People”.

“The Community reiterates its endorsement of the principles of international law as well as its strongly-held view that economic development and stability in the region contribute to international peace and security,” the statement added.

CARICOM Secretary General told the COFCOR meeting that next month, the 15-member grouping will host the Sixth Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of CARICOM and Cuba.

“Cuba has been a long-standing, supportive partner particularly in building the region’s human capital in fields such as public health and sport. Our Community reiterates its call for the lifting of the unwarranted economic embargo and sanctions on Cuba which were strengthened recently,” he added. (CMC)

Courtesy: Barbados Nation

Grenada PM: Climate change is an existential threat for us in the islands

(CNN) Grenada and other Small Island Developing States are on the front line in the war against climate change. Although hurricanes are no stranger to the Caribbean, the overwhelming scientific evidence of how extreme weather conditions are worsening due to global warming shows that we need to take the signals that our Earth is sending us seriously. That evidence can be found in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2018 special report on the effects of global warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius -- and in the devastation left by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the region, in the form of mangled towns, villages, homes and critical infrastructure, wrecked lives, devastated crops and ecosystems, damaged economies and financial markets.

During this year's UN Climate Summit in September, leaders from the Caribbean will be sure to present goals and ideas of how to tackle this crisis. The human cost across the region is too severe and life-changing not to.

Who can forget Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit's live updates as Hurricane Maria pounded his home in 2017? "My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding," he posted on Facebook. Hurricane Maria is regarded as one of the worst natural disasters to hit our neighboring islands of the Caribbean.

According to a 2018 Swiss Re report, $92 billion -- nearly half of 2017's total insured cost -- was caused by hurricane damage in the US and the Caribbean. And a 2018 UN report detailing the impact of Irma and Maria showed the ways in which islands suffered after the storms' fury. Among many things, children didn't have schools to go back to and dialysis patients had their treatment disrupted. Affected islands struggled for weeks without electricity and running water, increasing the likelihood for disease.

In the US Virgin Islands, for example, it took nearly four months for power to be restored to 92% of islands' population.

And while damages to the Caribbean's housing and infrastructure sectors remained the highest, many sources of our livelihood -- crops, trees and livestock -- were devastated. We see the plight of our farmers with respect to changes in rainfall patterns-timing, duration and intensity. We know the bountiful shoals of fish that have historically fed us are being decimated by warming waters and acidifying oceans. We see our disappearing coastal landscapes and ecosystems. We are experiencing the devastating economic and social impacts.

Where the international community once talked of urgency, let us now be clear: This is an emergency. So, Caribbean leaders will lead. We will lead on the politics, economics and impacts of climate change, and take our concerns into the halls of power, be that in New York, Washington, London, Brussels, Berlin, Moscow, Delhi or Beijing. We will lead on setting targets that are in line with a safer planet: in line with the IPCC's 1.5 degree Celsius report published last year and the recently published Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

We will lead on creating the frameworks that can incentivize clean transport on our islands, power that is generated from the sun, wind, waves and ecosystems. We will lead in building resilient cities, by educating our people how to ensure their houses can cope with stronger storms, and how to live more sustainable lifestyles. Jamaica and Barbados have already signaled increased ambition, by increasing their energy target from 30% to 50% of emission reduction, and by committing to be a 100% green and carbon neutral island by 2030, respectively. We, in Grenada, with the support of partners like the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Partnership (a way for nations to show their commitment to the Paris Agreement), are putting in place concrete plans to not only implement our NDCs but identify ways to enhance it further.

We feel that the hand of history is on our shoulders. Next year is the year when the Paris Agreement faces its first true test, a year for all countries to step up and deliver very ambitious climate action -- 2020 is also a pivotal year to deliver on the "Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020," which set the "global framework for priority actions on biodiversity," and the "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," a "framework of universal and indivisible goals and targets to address a range of global societal challenges" signed by all 193 member states of the UN.

September will be the time for governments to come with a strategy to the UN Climate Summit. This strategy must include a way to peak global emissions by 2020, to avoid overshoot of the 1.5 degree Celsius target, to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 and to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Our message to our fellow leaders is simple: come to New York with a plan to raise your target. We already have too much hot air -- that's the problem.

For us in the islands, climate change is indeed an existential threat. Now is a time for cool heads, wise heads, a time to build a better future for this generation and generations to come. There is no other way.

Courtesy: CNN

Statement on US-Caribbean Relations by Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC)

Public Hearing, Washington DC, USA on CBERA/CBTPA

May 14, 2019

Background

The Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), under which the United States (U.S.) Government extends unilateral duty free entry into the U.S., on a range of products from CARICOM, expires on 30 September 2020. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) waiver which permits the CBTPA to operate legally under the WTO, expires on 31 December 2019.

Democratic Representative of Alabama, Terri Sewell, introduced in the U.S. Congress in September 2017, a Bill seeking to extend the CBTPA to 30 September 2030. If approved by the U.S. Congress, this legislation would continue to support duty-free access to the U.S. market for a wide range of products from CARICOM.

Introduction

This statement seeks to support the requests from the CARICOM Governments to seek the extension of the CBERA/CBTPA by another ten years to 2030 bearing in mind that this should include a provision to review areas of the legislation that would create an optimization of the relationship.

Underpinning Considerations for the request

The Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) will be submitting further analyses of the available data within the context of the practical impediments to the trade opportunities that are said to exist. The CAIC proposes that consideration should be given to incorporating a deeper level of discussion and action that takes account of the following:

1) Consideration for the expansion of the beneficiary countries beyond the current eight to include more territories within the “basin”.

2) Consideration for the expansion of the schedule of products given the change in consumption patterns of the US market and the increased diaspora in many US states.

It is also requested that further consideration be given for the expansion, even under UNCPC codes for this to take consideration for the increased output under traditional Agriculture based sectors which have expanded up the value chain and have matured into Agribusinesses that have output that are not listed.

3) Consideration for the inclusion of a chapter to incorporate Caribbean market suppliers who have a niche in Trade in Services and therefore require mechanisms in place for both Modes 3 (commercial presence) and 4 (Temporary Entry of Natural persons). It is recognized that the US has concerns for the breaches arising out of migration and makes the distinction between Mode 4 and the issuance of work permits as two separate matters.

In the area of the temporary entry movement in the Creative sector; an example is that of musicians who go on tour and are restricted, whereas it has been noted that an Artistes revenue mix is on average 84% of earnings whilst on tour.

4) Inclusion of technical and development resources for incorporating Business Continuity Programmes given the vulnerability of the Caribbean to natural disasters and that there exist many outer US territories in the Caribbean Basin

5) Consideration for the inclusion of a private sector representative on the Caribbean – US Trade and Investment Council which will allow for the easy exchange of information and to increase the relations with the Caribbean territories of the US. It is expected that this representative may also be able to stimulate the activity of the Council and thus maintain a level of focus on the opportunities in these relations. This representation would require a level of funding to maintain its sustainable presence, notwithstanding the Governments would continue to maintain their lobbying efforts.

The private sector representative would as well be able to filter practical solutions or at least facilitate other overarching issues such as derisking, blacklisting, and innovation.

6) Consideration for setting up a maritime logistics sub-committee to look at issues surrounding movement within the Caribbean Sea, which affects many states of the US and which are subject to issues of trafficking and coastal erosion. However the increased attention by China, in particular, to capitalize on maritime trade in the region should be managed with our traditional partners first

7) Recognition for the work in renewable energy programming support through the support of the OAS must be acknowledged and the CAIC would ask that further technical support be given to the operations of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE)

 The CAIC reaffirms its commitment to this process and thanks you for the opportunity to make this input.

€30,000 in grants for CARIFORUM firms

The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) in cooperation with the European Union is accepting proposals from CARIFORUM firms for grants of up to €30,000 the equivalent of approximately $33,000 USD, under their 2nd Call for Proposals for the DIRECT ASSISTANCE GRANT SCHEME (DAGS).   

In the 2018 1st Call for Proposals over €2.1M was awarded to fifty-three (53) CARIFORUM firms that successfully applied for a grant.  Businesses from a range of sectors including agro-processing, manufacturing, tourism, services, wood products, renewable energy, film and tv production, information technology and alcoholic beverages were awarded grants.

“We were encouraged to see the diversity of proposals from companies looking for a grant” shared Damie Sinanan – Manager, Competitiveness and Export Promotion at Caribbean Export.  “This time we have reduced the maximum value of the grants available in an effort to provide more grants to firms and make it more accessible” he continued.

The DAGS is a reimbursement grant funding facility which requires firms to fund their projects upfront and be reimbursed at their completion.  The fund was specifically designed to provide much needed financial assistance to legally registered CARIFORUM firms and individuals that are exporting or have the potential to export their products and services. 

This latest Call for Proposals is open until June 11, 2019 and interested companies are asked to visit the Caribbean Export website at www.carib-export.com for further information.

 

Courtesy: Carib Export

Trade Ministers Support International Competitiveness for Rum Industry

Press Release

Bridgetown Barbados, 30 April 2019 - CARICOM Trade Ministers meeting in Guyana on April 29th, approved a range of recommendations aimed at positioning the region’s rum industry to better take advantage of the global market. The measures address a host of domestic and international issues that affect the competitiveness of the industry, which is considered the region’s premier export sector and its largest foreign exchange earner, after mineral exports.

The range of strategies and measures were agreed on by a special working group set up by trade ministers and chaired by Guyana Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge, to address constraints facing the industry, as producers seek to take advantage of a fast-growing international market for their premium products. The recommendations of the working group encompassed a broad set of initiatives, ranging from international trade strategies, measures to improve the domestic regulatory environment, strengthening of linkages with the agriculture and tourism sectors, as well as a regional initiative by the industry to address the impact of harmful alcohol consumption.

Chair of the CARICOM Council of Ministers for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), Barbados Minister of Foreign Trade Sandra Husbands, speaking on behalf of the Council, welcomed the report from the working group and its recommendations, and called on the industry and governments to continue working together to realise the full potential of the industry.

Speaking on behalf of the industry, Komal Samaroo, Chairman of the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers’ Association (WIRSPA) and head of the regional conglomerate Demerara Distillers Limited, expressed the gratitude of the grouping for the support provided by governments, as the industry sought to capture a share of the global market in an extremely competitive international marketplace. According to Samaroo, “As the home of rum and an industry well known for quality products competing at the top of the premium and super-premium market segments, the measures will provide the basis on which the industry is poised to grow from strength to strength.”

Request for testimony and submissions for USITC 24th hearing on CBERA

On May 14, 2019, the US International Trade Commission (USITC) is holding a public hearing in connection with the preparation of its 24th biennial public report on the Caribbean Basin Economic Reform Act (CBERA) which grants duty-free access into the United States for products from the Caribbean. The report will cover trade during calendar years 2017 and 2018 and will be transmitted to Congress and the President by September 30, 2019. The Commission seeks witness testimony, which can be presented orally or submitted in writing.

CBERA encompasses several other pieces of legislation, notably the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), and the Haitian Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act. Both pieces of legislation, among other things, grant preferential treatment to apparel and textile products from eligible Caribbean countries. The benefits under both provisions are currently set to expire in September 2020. Legislation has been introduced to extend but is still pending.

Testimony and submissions from companies that rely on the provisions of CBTPA and HELP would be particularly timely and helpful in supporting the passage of legislation extending these provisions, and perhaps even making them permanent. HR 991, for example, proposes an extension until September 30, 2030. What products and in what volume are imported into the United States in reliance on these provisions. How is your business impacted by the possible expiration of the provisions? Would an extension until 2030 be adequate?

Requests to appear at the public hearing should be filed with the Secretary no later than 5:15 p.m., May 3, 2019, in accordance with the requirements provided here. All pre-hearing briefs and statements should be filed no later than 5:15 p.m., May 8, 2019. In lieu of or in addition to participating in the hearing, interested parties are invited to file written submissions concerning this investigation no later than 5:15 p.m., June 3, 2019. If as of the close of business on May 6, 2019, no witnesses are scheduled to appear at the hearing, the hearing will be canceled.

 

Courtesy: DevelopTrade Law

CAIC to sign MOU with CARPHA

The forty-eighth regular meeting of COTED kicks off today with an opening ceremony at 10:00am in Guyana and continues tomorrow.

On the agenda for discussion taken from the Meeting of Officials held on April 11-12, 2019 are the implementation of the CSME, intra regional trade, as well as external economic relations and trade relations.

Over the next two days, the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce, represented by President Ramesh Dookhoo will sign an MoU with CARPHA to improve the competitiveness of Caribbean businesses through the strengthening of health in Caribbean socieities.

"The Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) is committed to influencing and shaping the Caribbean private sector as a world class brand that is competitive by becoming more innovative and productive in a resilient environment. To achieve this, the productivity of our workforce in both the goods and services sectors must be grounded in a healthy culture supported by the appropriate health infrastructure.
 
We are committed to achieving the UN Sustainable Goals for the region and through this relationship with CARPHA and other agencies we are focused on Goal 3 – Good health and well-being, Goal 8 – decent work and economic growth, Goal 9 – industry, innovation and infrastructure, and Goal 17 – partnerships to achieve the goal.
" - Ramesh Dookhoo, CAIC President
 

Public Consultation - Evaluation of the CARIFORUM EU EPA

The European Commission is conducting public consultations where you can express your views on aspects of EU laws and policies before the Commission finalises its proposals.

Stakeholders directly affected by the Agreement include: -
 -Businesses (including SMEs) in the Caribbean and in the EU, including from agricultural and fisheries sectors, as well as agro-industry and other manufacturing sectors, industry, and services providers;
 -Business organisations, associations and chambers of commerce in CARIFORUM and in the EU at regional, sectoral, national or local level;
 - Workers representatives and trade unions in the Caribbean and the EU;
 -Citizens/individuals, workers, consumers in CARIFORUM and the EU, including Outermost Regions;
Further stakeholders involved in the implementation of the Agreement, for instance:
 -Public authorities: at EU, Member State and local level in the EU, and at federal, state and municipal level in CARIFORUM countries;
 -NGOs and other civil society organisations, including trade unions and organisations representing consumer, environmental, social, and human rights issues, in the EU and CARIFORUM;
Other stakeholders interested in trade policy, for instance:
 -Academia, research institutions, experts, think-tanks and consultancies in the EU and in Cariforum.

For more information and to respond to the questionnaire, click here

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