Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

See also:

The second Trade Policy Review of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) WTO Members has allowed this Body to appraise in detail the evolution of their trade policies since 2001. I thank Minister Mayers, Minister Cort, Minister Straker, Ambassador Antoine, Mr. James and Mr. Berridge, as well as the other members of their delegations. I would also like to thank the discussant, Mr. Cliche, and Members who engaged in the discussion as part of this exercise.

Members noted that the six OECS-WTO Members reviewed faced economic challenges, many of which stemmed from their small size. This review has also shown how OECS countries have coordinated and pooled their resources, seeking to overcome their individual constraints. Their greater involvement in regional integration schemes was seen by some Members as the best and perhaps the only means to overcome human resource limitations. In this regard, the establishment of a joint OECS technical mission in Geneva was seen as important, as were ongoing efforts to set up an OECS Economic Union.

This Body warmly welcomed the OECS-WTO Members commitment to a rules-based multilateral trading system, and to the process of trade liberalization as a tool of development. The OECS-WTO Members outlined the difficulties they faced in taking full advantage of global trade due to their smallness and vulnerability to external shocks. Overcoming such difficulties would offer the opportunity to develop more diversified and robust economies. The Aid for Trade initiative could also play a central role in this respect, although there was no prioritization as yet.

Members noted that taxes on imports make key fiscal contributions in all the OECS countries reviewed. However, some Members questioned the OECS application of ad valorem customs service charges; although the OECS countries considered the charges necessary, they were in the process of reassessing these and other taxes. The OECS-WTO Members were also invited to consolidate their fiscal reform processes, including through the streamlining of their numerous incentives regimes.

OECS countries noted their progress towards meeting WTO obligations but recognized that some weaknesses persist. Participants appreciated the OECS-WTO Members' modernization and liberalization of their trade regimes. However, OECS countries were urged to give priority attention to making the policy and legal changes necessary to implement their WTO obligations. Areas where improvements were deemed necessary included WTO notifications, applied versus bound tariffs, customs valuation, non-automatic licensing, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and protection of intellectual property. In response, OECS-WTO Members expressed their intention to improve their levels of compliance but stressed the importance of having the time and assistance necessary to achieve this.

Members observed that economic restructuring in the OECS-WTO Members has been accompanied by the expansion of the services sector. Members commended the five OECS signatories to the ECTEL Treaty for their efforts to liberalize their telecommunications sector. Considering the importance of services for their economies, and the actual generally liberal nature of their service regimes, the OECS-WTO Members were invited to make deeper and wider commitments under the GATS. The countries reviewed provided replies to service-related questions concerning activities such as tourism and telecommunications.

In conclusion, Members acknowledged the progress made by the OECS countries reviewed in restructuring their economies, while recognizing the challenges they still face. Members offered strong encouragement to the six countries to pursue further reforms. They also urged them to enhance the transparency and predictability of their trade regimes by expanding the scope and improving the implementation of their WTO commitments. This would help the OECS-WTO Members to attract the foreign direct investment they need to strengthen their economies. Trading partners can support these efforts by providing appropriate technical assistance to support a greater OECS participation in the multilateral trading system. OECS-WTO Members could consequently take greater advantage of trading opportunities to foster growth and development.
8. I would like to close this review by thanking once again the delegations of the OECS-WTO Members, the Discussant, and the Members that took part in this meeting for contributing to an informative review. I would also like to express my appreciation to the delegations of the OECS-WTO Members for the responses provided during the meeting. We look forward to receiving the outstanding responses within the next month.


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