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September 13, 2013

33rd Meeting of the Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED)


The Thirty-Third (33rd) Meeting of the Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED) was convened in Georgetown, Guyana on November 17th, 2011 at the Princess Hotel, Providence, East Bank Demerara, Guyana. This marked the first COTED under the stewardship of the new Secretary-General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque. The two-day Ministerial session took place prior at a two-day preparatory session with trade officials discussing agenda items pertaining to progress on the revision to the Rules of Procedure for the COTED spearheaded by an Open-Ended Inter-sessional Committee chaired by Antigua & Barbuda, updates on the development of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), including the harmonisation of legislation relating to the rights of establishment, and developments in respect to the Caribbean Development Fund (CDF), CARICOM Rapid Exchange System (CARREX), and Treatment of CARICOM Nationals travelling in the Region. The preparatory meeting also discusses updates on the external trade and relations, including developments with the implementation of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), negotiations with the CARICOM-Canada Trade and Development Agreement, follow-up to Third China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum, and the status updates on projects funded under the 9th and 10th European Development Fund (EDF) – Caribbean Regional Indicative Programmes (CRIP).

At the Opening Ceremony of the Ministerial Meeting under the chairmanship of Barbados, SG LaRocque commented in his remarks that on his country visits, the collective articulation by stakeholders was that ‘the length of time that some issues remain unresolved and are constantly on the agenda of our meetings’. The SG further stated that in his view this occurrence was due to the capacity constraints in our Member States as well as within the CARICOM Secretariat. Therefore, the SG recommended that ‘perhaps the time has come for us to prioritise our agenda in a strategic manner … and for the Ministerial sessions of the COTED to be more strategic in its outlook.’ This was reiterated by the chair, Senator Maxine McClean, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados who emphasised in her remarks that the global economy is in difficult times and it is ‘opportune time for the COTED to review its performance, including its method of work since its beginning, and to strategize on its direction for the next few years taking into account the current global economic reality.

Within the meeting, Member States deliberated on restructuring the agenda of COTED. It was agreed that ‘the need for a new focus for COTED, and among the recommendations and suggestions put forward were the need to place in context the priorities of the CARICOM Heads of Government identified in their Retreat earlier this year; the highly volatile global environment; the impact of trade liberalization on Regional economies; and the nexus between trade and development.‘ The meeting also agreed that these initiatives should benefit from the input of national consultations with the recommendations to be discussed at the Thirty-Fourth COTED Meeting next year.

SG was stated that one of the key mandates coming out of the Retreat of the Heads of Government in Guyana earlier this year was to consolidate the gains of the CSME to meet imperatives to increase production and competiveness of regional goods and services to take advantage of the increased opportunities through our trade arrangements with third countries as well as boost job creation across the region. As a result, he recommended that COTED should consider placing ‘greater focus on the productive sector and its competitiveness.

To this end, SG reiterated the importance of the engagement of the private sector in achieving the mandate of the COTED. He stated from his interaction with stakeholders involved in the private sector that ‘there is a pressing need for us to review the governmental processes for the conduct of business which has a bearing on the cost of doing business in our Community. They are of the view that should this be addressed, as well as the harmonisation of those procedures across the Community; it would result in more active cross-border trading and investment and increase our overall competitiveness.‘ Minister McClean reiterated the point that private sector stakeholder play an important role in the development of the region and by extension, the work of COTED. She stated that ‘we must seek to regularize our interaction with the private sector. I recall the proposal from one of my colleagues, for the COTED to institute a mechanism for regular interaction with the private sector in order discuss matters of mutual interest in a constructive manner. I urge us to give due consideration to this proposal.

The meeting of the Council concluded on November 18th, 2011. Antigua & Barbuda was represented by Senator Hon. Joanne Massiah, Minister of State, and Ministry of Legal Affairs with the responsibility of COTED, Ambassador Dr. Clarence Henry – Trade Coordinator and National Authorizing Officer, EDF, Ms Barbara Williams – EPA Implementation Coordinator and Ms. Joy-Marie King, representative from the Division of the Trade, Industry and Commerce.

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