PORT-OF-SPAIN: Nirad Tewarie, Chief Executive Officer of the Trinidad & Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI), has called on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to act in relation to the recent Dominican Republic-Haiti citizenship situation, where over 210,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent have been rendered stateless.
Tewarie made the call during the TTCSI’s sixth Annual Excellence in Services Awards 2013, held earlier this month in Port-of-Spain.
In light of the retroactive ruling (that would essentially date back to persons born since 1929), Tewarie called for CARICOM to publicly and formally suspend its consideration of the Dominican Republic’s request to join CARICOM until its government has reversed its policy through legislative action.
After demonstrating the impact that this situation could have for the services industries in the affected countries and in the region, he also used it as a call for CARICOM to be more proactive.
In addition, Tewarie expressed support for trade in services liberalization, but reiterated the need for international trade rules to be enforceable to protect the interests of both large and small economies. He used the Antigua gambling dispute at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as an example.
Saying that it was shameful that Antigua’s development of a successful industry was shut down by U.S. actions, which the WTO has deemed to be contrary to international trade rules, Tewarie called on CARICOM to be more forceful in efforts to reform the international trading system to protect the interests of small economies.
Tewarie also advocated increased engagement and participation in the multilateral Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) that is being negotiated alongside the Doha Development Agenda. He said it would help to ensure that the special and differential treatment given to developing countries would become a critical feature of the TISA, which is expected to become part of the multilateral system in the future.
He warned that if no CARICOM country joins the negotiations and a deal is reached, entering after would be far more disadvantageous than participating at this stage in a bid to advance the region’s trade in services interests. He suggested that Trinidad & Tobago join the TISA negotiations and act as a liaison to the rest of CARICOM.
Tewarie also called for engagement in the renewal of the Caribbean Basin Initiative/Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBI/CBERA) trade preferences that CARICOM currently enjoys with the U.S. Upon renewal, stakeholders would like to see the expansion of these trade preferences to include trade in services.
While the benefits that the CBI has brought to-date cannot be underestimated, an expansion into services would take into consideration the structure of CARICOM economies, which are heavily skewed toward services trade and the importance of services to the countries.
To help achieve this goal, the TTCSI is spearheading an initiative called SOCA (Services of the Caribbean), which is expected to be launched in Washington, D.C. later this month. Tewarie, as chairman of SOCA, has since engaged both public and private sector stakeholders, locally and regionally to assist in lobbying the U.S. legislature to expand the agreement into services.
Because the CBERA was effected as U.S. legislation (and not a treaty) as of November 2013, SOCA, through the TTCSI, has submitted comments to the U.S. trade representative on the expansion of the CBI.
During his remarks, Tewarie emphasized it is essential for the region to not only identify and articulate its interests, but also speak out against injustice and strategically engage gatekeepers to attain its goals.