CARICOM Office for Trade Negotiations holds sensitization session

The Office for Trade Negotiations of the CARICOM Secretariat, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Tuesday conducted a one-day sensitization session to inform key officials on how to identify and catalog existing non-conforming trade measures (NCMs).

These measures refer to any law, regulation, procedure, requirement or practice, which do not conform to certain obligations under international trade agreements, particularly, those concerning national treatment, most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment, market access, performance requirements and senior management and boards of directors. The project, which is being executed by the CARICOM Secretariat and financed by the 11th European Development Fund, aims to develop a database of NCMs across the region.

The seminar was led by Trade Policy and Legal Specialist, Dr. Chantal Ononaiwu, and Programme Officer-Trade Information, Marsha Drakes.

“We want our officials like yourselves who are on the frontline of regulating economic activity, and know better than anyone else why your sectors are regulated the way they are, to be the ones that constitute the teams that will review their country’s own measures and document the extent to which these types of restrictive measures are used,” Dr. Ononaiwu said.

In 2016, CARICOM ministers at the Forty-Third Meeting of the Council on Trade and Economic development (COTED) endorsed the undertaking of a project to establish a database of NCMs that are the subject of liberalization commitments in regional trade agreements. The database will also capture sectors, sub-sectors or activities for Member States  that wish to reserve the flexibility to adopt or maintain non-conforming measures.

“Our experience negotiating a comprehensive trade and development agreement with Canada a few years back made it very clear to us that this is an exercise that was long overdue and we wanted this exercise to be one that was led and heavily driven by our countries’ own officials,” Dr. Ononaiwu explained.

Over the course of the project, a team of officials within each CARICOM Member State will review laws, regulations, rules, procedures, decisions, administrative actions and other measures in order to identify and compile a draft list of the country’s existing NCMs. National consultations will be held to verify the draft list of NCMs. The information gained through this process will guide CARICOM in future negotiations to better represent its policy interests while taking into account the specific interests and requests of future negotiating partners.

Among those attending the session were representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Business, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Natural Resources, Guyana Energy Agency, GO-Invest, the Private Sector Commission, the Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association, Guyana Rice Development Board, Guyana Revenue Agency,  Maritime Administration Department and the Guyana Coalition of Service Providers.