Belize — Press release:
WTO commitments could anchor future reform efforts needed to sustain
> Suriname — Press release: Expanded WTO commitments could foster trade and
The first Trade Policy Reviews of Belize and Suriname have shed
considerable light on the trade and investment policies and practices
of both countries. We owe this to the documentation prepared for the
meeting, to the valuable contributions made by the delegations of
Belize and Suriname, to the comments of our discussant, and to the
involvement of several Members of the TPRB. I am very pleased that
despite their heavy agendas Ministers Courtenay and Jong Tjien Fa
chose to come to this meeting and see it as testament to their
Government's desire to practically demonstrate their commitment to the
multilateral trading system.
Members commended Belize and Suriname on their economic and
institutional reform efforts, which include autonomous and regional
initiatives to liberalize trade and investment The progress achieved
on these fronts is significant. Members appreciated the efforts made
by both countries despite their limited institutional capacity and
lack of a permanent representation in Geneva. However, they also urged
Belize and Suriname to fulfil their outstanding WTO notification
obligations, if necessary with the aid of the WTO Secretariat.
Some Members pointed to the importance of the participation of Belize
and Suriname in CARICOM as a stepping stone towards greater
integration in the global economy and as an engine of growth. They
also sought clarification on future developments in CARICOM and other
preferential arrangements involving Belize and Suriname.
While noting the differences in the economic performances of Belize
and Suriname, Members underlined the need to increase the coherence of
macroeconomic policymaking in both countries to ensure sustainable
growth. Belize and Suriname were encouraged to continue diversifying
their export bases, both in terms of markets and products. In this
regard, some Members pointed to Belize's success in developing its
tourism sector as a step in the right direction.
Members welcomed the decline of average applied MFN tariffs in Belize
and Suriname over the past years. Concerns were expressed, however,
with respect to the relatively high levels of tariff protection
enjoyed by the agriculture sectors in both countries. Belize and
Suriname were invited to lower their tariff bindings to rates closer
to applied rates in order to improve the predictability of their trade
regimes. Members noted with concern that certain applied tariff rates
exceeded their bound levels.
Members also asked Belize and Suriname questions related to customs,
technical regulations, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, incentive
schemes, government procurement, state-owned enterprises, and the
protection of intellectual property rights.
On sectoral policies, Members appreciated the efforts by Belize and
Suriname to liberalize trade in services, but highlighted the need to
strengthen the regulatory framework, develop infrastructure, and
promote competition. Members sought additional information on sectoral
policies and market access conditions in electricity,
telecommunications, banking, tourism, and distribution and business
services. Noting their currently limited GATS commitments, Members
invited Belize and Suriname to expand those commitments in the context
of the Doha Development Agenda.
As regards specific issues raised in connection with Belize's trade
policies, some Members questioned the application of certain domestic
taxes to imports only. Several Members also expressed concern about
the possible distortions induced by Belize's non-automatic licensing
regime and encouraged Belize to bring it into compliance with WTO
disciplines. Belize reiterated its commitment to fulfilling the
relevant WTO obligations, and noted that it intends to undertake a
review of its licensing system.
Regarding Suriname, some Members considered that the procedures for
approving investments were cumbersome, and underscored the need to
accelerate public sector reforms and reduce the degree of government
interference in the economy. In this respect, the recent establishment
of a one-stop window for business licensing is a potentially
significant step. In relation to tariff bindings, they sought details
on the status of Suriname's renegotiation under Article XXVIII of the
GATT. Suriname was congratulated for eliminating the licensing system
previously in place to protect domestic producers.
We appreciate the oral and written responses and explanation provided
by the delegations of Belize and Suriname.
In conclusion, it is my sense that this Review has amply fulfilled the
objective of expanding our understanding of the trade regimes of
Belize and Suriname, and the context within which they are formulated
and implemented. In this regard, we have been made aware of the real
difficulties faced by Belize and Suriname in participating in the
multilateral system. Overcoming these challenges is important as the
WTO remains the best forum to develop a rules-based trade system.
Drawing on the views offered by Members in this meeting, Belize and
Suriname are now in a better position to chart future policy
adjustments that would serve both the multilateral trading system and
their individual development needs.