4 and 6 November 2003

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

See also:
> Press release: Socio-political stability would help Haiti to benefit from its liberalization efforts

This first Trade Policy Review of Haiti has provided the opportunity for a better understanding and appreciation of its trade-related policies. Our discussion has been facilitated by the frank involvement of Minister Jean-Claude Roche and his delegation.

Members were encouraged by Haiti's unilateral reform efforts that have made it one of the most liberal economies in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, because of socio-political problems, the lack of institutional capacity, supply-side constraints and delays in structural reforms, the efforts are yet to show their full benefits. Members encouraged Haiti to tackle these impediments and to pursue its reforms. The new Investment Code might help attract the FDI needed to improve Haiti's economic performance.

Members commended Haiti on its active participation in the multilateral trading system. Noting that Haiti was also becoming involved in regional trade agreements such as CARICOM, Members enquired about the likely impact of the agreements and how Haiti intended to ensure their compatibility with its current trade regime. Haiti was encouraged to mainstream trade into its development and poverty reduction strategies. Some Members noted Haiti's technical assistance needs; they also remarked on Haiti's difficulties in taking advantage of preferential treatment and on the erosion of preferential margins.

Trade liberalization has been a main component of Haiti's reforms. Members praised Haiti for the simplification of its tariff structure; MFN tariffs average 2.9%, with about 67% of lines carrying the zero rate. However, inconsistencies were noted in the imposition of excise duties, and other duties and charges (inspection fees in particular) were deemed relatively high. Members encouraged Haiti to narrow the gap between bound and applied rates, to transpose its former tariff bindings into the Harmonized System, and to pursue its reform of taxation.

Noting that the waiver granted to Haiti to delay application of the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement had expired on 30 January 2003, Members sought clarification about its plans to implement the Agreement. They urged Haiti to start taking steps to bring its intellectual property regime into compliance with the TRIPS Agreement, and stood ready to provide the necessary assistance.

Some Members pointed out that structural problems, inconsistent policies, and exogenous factors (including bad weather conditions and unfair competition from foreign countries) had contributed to the decline of agriculture and manufacturing, and had further concentrated economic activities in services. The pursuit of the privatization programme might contribute to economic diversification by enhancing efficiency, reducing costs of basic services needed for production, and releasing resources for improvement of infrastructure. This might also promote Haiti's tourism subsector, which has largely untapped potential.

Members also sought further clarification on a number of issues, including trade policy formulation; import licensing; local-content requirements; export assistance; contingency trade remedies; standards and SPS; and the public procurement regime.

Members appreciated the replies provided by the delegation of Haiti and looked forward to receiving additional material.

I believe that this Review has highlighted the efforts made by Haiti to unilaterally liberalize its economy despite various difficulties. I am pleased that some Members identified areas in which they were providing trade-related technical assistance to Haiti, and take note of their commitment to continue their assistance. I urge that we follow through on this, particularly in the context of the Integrated Framework. Haiti needs this support to mainstream its trade-related policy into its development strategy, address its supply-side constraints, and diversify its economy. In sum, subject to socio-political stability, further assistance by major trading partners will be necessary if Haiti is to meet its development potential and fully integrate into the multilateral trading system.