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7 June 2001
WTO Members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States — OECS: June 2001

The Trade Policy Review Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded its first review of the WTO Members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States on 5 and 7 June 2001. The text of the Chairperson's concluding remarks is attached as a summary of the salient points which emerged during the discussion.

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The review enables the TPRB to conduct a collective examination of the full range of trade policies and practices of each WTO member countries at regular periodic intervals to monitor significant trends and developments which may have an impact on the global trading system.

The review is based on two reports which are prepared respectively by the WTO Secretariat and the government under review and which cover all aspects of the country's trade policies, including its domestic laws and regulations, the institutional framework, bilateral, regional and other preferential agreements, the wider economic needs and the external environment. A record of the discussion and the Chairperson's summing-up together with these two reports will be published in due course at the complete trade policy review of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and will be available from the WTO Secretariat, Centre William Rappard, 154 rue de Lausanne, 1211 Geneva 21.

Since December 1989, the following reports have been completed: Argentina (1992 and 1999), Australia (1989, 1994 and 1998), Austria (1992), Bahrain (2000) Bangladesh (1992 and 2000), Benin (1997), Bolivia (1993 and 1999), Botswana (1998), Brazil (1992, 1996 and 2000), Brunei Darussalam (2001), Burkina Faso (1998), Cameroon (1995), Canada (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000), Chile (1991 and 1997), Colombia (1990 and 1996), Costa Rica (1995 and 2001), Côte d’Ivoire (1995), Cyprus (1997), the Czech Republic (1996), the Dominican Republic (1996), Egypt (1992 and 1999), El Salvador (1996), the European Communities (1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2000), Fiji (1997), Finland (1992), Ghana (1992 and 2001), Guinea (1999), Hong Kong (1990, 1994 and 1998), Hungary (1991 and 1998), Iceland (1994 and 2000), India (1993 and 1998), Indonesia (1991, 1994 and 1998), Israel (1994 and 1999), Jamaica (1998), Japan (1990, 1992, 1995,1998 and 2000), Kenya (1993 and 2000), Korea, Rep. of (1992, 1996 and 2000), Lesotho (1998), Macau, China (1994 and 2001), Madagascar (2001), Malaysia (1993 and 1997), Mali (1998), Mauritius (1995), Mexico (1993 and 1997), Morocco (1989 and 1996), New Zealand (1990 and 1996), Namibia (1998), Nicaragua (1999), Nigeria (1991 and 1998), Norway (1991, 1996 and 2000), OECS-WTO Members (2001), Pakistan (1995), Papua New Guinea (1999), Paraguay (1997), Peru (1994 and 2000), the Philippines (1993), Poland (1993), Romania (1992 and 1999), Senegal (1994), Singapore (1992, 1996 and 2000), Slovak Republic (1995), the Solomon Islands (1998), South Africa (1993 and 1998), Sri Lanka(1995), Swaziland (1998), Sweden (1990 and 1994), Switzerland (1991, 1996 and 2000 (jointly with Liechtenstein), Tanzania (2000), Thailand (1991, 1995 and 1999), Togo (1999), Trinidad and Tobago (1998), Tunisia (1994), Turkey (1994 and 1998), the United States (1989, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1999), Uganda (1995), Uruguay (1992 and 1998), Venezuela (1996), Zambia (1996) and Zimbabwe (1994).


We have had two days of frank and constructive discussion on the OECS-WTO Members' trade policies and practices. Jointly and individually, these Members made forceful presentations of the special challenges they face due to their small size and populations, diseconomies of scale, high infrastructure and social costs, and vulnerability to external shocks. As a result, and despite the number of Members attending the meeting itself, I am certain that all WTO Members will have gained a better appreciation of, and will no doubt pay greater attention to, the problems and difficulties of these economies. Members noted that, even given such difficulties, OECS-WTO countries had shown strong economic performance in recent years. However, the Members under review pointed to the still significant number of people living in poverty and the pressing need to address this problem.

Many WTO Members attributed much of the overall economic accomplishments of the OECS-WTO countries to their general openness and historical participation in international trade, a well educated labour force and stable, well-functioning institutions. WTO Members encouraged these countries to continue in their path to diversify their economies, particularly with a view to reducing their vulnerability. Some WTO Members considered that continued emphasis on developing the service sector offered the best growth opportunities, while other Members considered that agriculture would, and should, remain a key sector of the economies.

Members of this Body recognized the efforts made by OECS-WTO Members to further liberalize their economies, particularly through tariff reductions in the framework of their participation in CARICOM. Concerns were expressed, however, with respect to the persistence of quantitative restrictions, wide-spread import licensing requirements, and the use of safeguard measures. Members also noted that, although reduced, tariffs remained relatively high, but took the point that this was mainly for revenue purposes; some suggested that a more simplified tariff structure might be more appropriate. Some Members also suggested alternative revenue sources, with a Member proposing the adoption of a Value-Added Tax, the feasibility of which OECS countries are already studying. Members also invited OECS-WTO countries to lower their tariff bindings to rates closer to the currently applied rates, and thus improve the predictability of their import regimes.

Members were appreciative of the effort and progress made by OECS-WTO countries to meet their WTO notification requirements and bring their domestic legislation into line with WTO Agreements. Several Members also encouraged the countries under review to improve their commitments in the WTO with respect to services, putting them at a level comparable with their current, relatively liberal practices. Concerns were voiced with respect to the negative economic effects of being singled out as tax havens in other fora.

This Review has made clear the extent to which complying with WTO rules is constraint by limited human resources. In this regard, I believe this review has played an important role in helping OECS-WTO countries conduct their own internal reviews of the trade-related policies and practices they follow, and of the resources at their disposal to carry them out. Although, as a result, means might be found to make a more efficient use of those resources, including through ongoing initiatives for greater regional cooperation, the inescapable conclusion is that at this juncture the countries under review need the support of the international community to participate more effectively in the multilateral trading system. Acknowledging this, there were widespread expressions of support from Members for additional technical assistance to OECS-WTO countries. I hope the work undertaken throughout this review to identify the trade-related needs of these countries will lead to concrete steps to address these, including through a permanent presence in Geneva.

Several Members were understanding of the request by the OECS-WTO Members for special consideration for them, anchored in the principle of special and differential treatment granted in the WTO to developing countries. While noting the problem posed to OECS-WTO Members by the erosion of preferential margins, some Members expressed support for an early granting of the waiver from WTO rules for the Cotonou Agreement.

Specific questions were also asked the OECS-WTO Members' on:

  • compliance with WTO notification requirements;

  • improvements to customs valuation and administration;

  • import licensing procedures;

  • use of quantitative restrictions;

  • administration of price controls;

  • binding of "other duties and charges" in the WTO;

  • export assistance and promotion activities;

  • harmonization of standards and standards bodies;

  • the role of commodity boards;

  • transparency in government procurement;

  • protection of IPRs;

  • investment incentive schemes, and their coverage; and

  • legislation, access conditions and incentives in specific service sectors.

Apart from the questions addressed to the OECS-WTO Members as a group, specific questions were directed to individual OECS-WTO countries, including:

  • to Antigua and Barbuda, on incentives schemes, free trade zones, imports of reconditioned vehicles, telecommunications and the functioning of the International Ship's Registry;

  • to Dominica, also on incentives schemes;

  • to Grenada, on tariff bindings and the application of the general consumption tax;

  • to St. Kitts and Nevis, on labelling standards and the functioning of the International Ship's Registry;

  • to St. Lucia, on investment limitations in certain sectors; and

  • to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on incentives for non-hotel tourism activities.

Members appreciated the oral and written responses and explanations provided by the delegations of the OECS-WTO countries.

We look forward to receiving answers on still outstanding questions.

In conclusion, it is my sense that this Review has amply fulfilled its main objective of assessing in a collective manner the trade policies and practices of the OECS-WTO Members, particularly in the context of their development needs and objectives as well as of the external environment. The Members under review reaffirmed their full commitment to the multilateral trading system, and the presence of the six Ministers has been strong testimony to this. But we have also been made aware of the problems and difficulties hindering the fuller participation of the OECS-WTO Members in the system. Addressing these issues could be important for a greater participation of OECS-WTO Members in the multilateral trading system, which would not only help the Members reviewed take greater advantage of trading opportunities to foster growth and development, but also enrich and be of benefit to the system as a whole. In this respect, I am convinced the WTO offers the best framework in which these Members can participate as equal partners with larger economies in the global market.

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The WTO Members are: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.