The political leaders of the 13-nation Caribbean Economic Community (Caricom) are likely to decide to impose higher tariffs on some imports as a way to boost trade within the region as they meet here this week.
The four-day meeting begins here today. Details of categories of products that are likely to be protected haven't been revealed, but would likely include imports of products which are being or can be produced by member states.The annual summit of Caricom, which is made up of the English-speaking countries of the region, follows a report from the organization's secretariat that intra-regional trade suffered its sharpest decline last year.
Trade between members of the community, including petroleum, declined last year by 33 percent, to an overall value of $290 million," said Roderick Rainford, secretary general of the community.
It's the fifth consecutive year of decline, but last year's fall was the steepest."
According to government officials attached to delegations here, the fall in trade has been caused by the delay by some members in implementing agreements which would dismantle barriers to imports from their neighbors.
Mr. Rainford confirmed that an agreement reached at a community summit in the Bahamas three years ago still hasn't been adopted by all countries. The agreement set targets for free trade between members.
The community was established to assist regional industry, with member states removing barriers to imports from their neighbors.
On several occasions in its 13-year history, however, the Caribbean Community has been hit by decisions of national governments to restrict imports as part of efforts to protect their national economies.
Government officials here said the mood of the summit has been lightened by the recent decision of the government of Trinidad and Tobago to remove a 12 percent stamp duty on imports from its community partners.
The government of the two-island republic is likely to be pressed, however, for further concessions, including the dismantling of a system for licensing imports.
The political leaders are considering a plan to provide financing for boosting regional trade through the establishment of a Caribbean Export Bank.
The $75 million facility was to have been inaugurated this week, but this was delayed because the community is still seeking about $50 million of the
The bank will provide post-shipment and pre-shipment financing for regional trade.
The community's leaders are also scheduled to review the region's use of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, a 12-year trade incentive, started January 1984, which allows designated countries to ship a range of products duty free to the United States.
Although they have welcomed the initiative, leaders have repeatedly argued that their small countries are at a disadvantage because of the omission of items such as garments and footwear from preferential treatment.