NEW YORk, New York–Thursday, October 15, 2020 — At the General Council of the World Trade Organization, the organization’s highest decision-making body, the Permanent Delegation of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), speaking on behalf of the CARICOM group, addressed several critical issues currently affecting Caribbean countries, including efforts by some WTO members to blacklist, CARICOM Member States.
In consideration of the economic and social havoc caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Head of Mission Stephen Fevrier stated that despite being responsible members of the international community, members of the CARICOM group possess a “limited policy toolbox, and do not benefit from the support of strong central banks able to issue and monetize debt at unprecedented levels.
To make matters worse, due to extended lockdowns and historic levels of unemployment in our source markets for vital financial remittances, members face an almost insurmountable challenge in the absence of external support.
”The OECS Delegation further stated that, notwithstanding the tremendous difficulties confronting public finances in CARICOM Member States, the “threat of, and continued unilateral, arbitrary, and nontransparent blacklisting strategy employed by some WTO Member States does not serve the cause of international solidarity, particularly at a time of unprecedented global uncertainty.”
The full statement has been reproduced below in its entirety:
While no WTO Member State has been spared from the upheaval brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is undeniable that developing countries, in particular, LDCs and SVEs are far less equipped to address the multi-layered threats and impacts of the pandemic.
Small vulnerable economies (SVEs), including those in the Caribbean, face an outsized, existential threat unlike any other confronted since the establishment of the multilateral trading system. The challenges faced by SVEs are particularly acute for those services-based Member States that are reliant on the inflows driven by tourism, capital investments and financial services
As responsible members of the international community, CARICOM Member States have taken, and continue to take extraordinary measures to safeguard our peoples and visitors from this borderless pandemic. While policy responses have resulted in the Caribbean maintaining one of the lowest caseloads of COVID-19 globally, this achievement has come at a high cost to social protection services and public finance.
As small, open-economies whose sustainable development is underpinned by international trade—with an emphasis on trade in services, such as tourism—restrictions on international travel driven by our own containment measures have placed members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in the invidious position of having no clear economic options to preserve and sustain our development aspirations.
Many SVEs have a limited policy toolbox, and do not benefit from the support of strong central banks able to issue and monetize debt at unprecedented levels. To make matters worse, due to extended lockdowns and historic levels of unemployment in our source markets for vital financial remittances, members face an almost unsurmountable challenge in the absence of external support.
Added to this, the threat of, and continued unilateral, arbitrary, and nontransparent blacklisting strategy employed by some WTO Member States does not serve the cause of international solidarity, particularly at a time of unprecedented global uncertainty. CARICOM Member States continue to cooperate in an effort to meet extra territorial demands, by enacting legislation, strengthening regulatory and enforcement regimes in- keeping with international standards and best practices, yet the goal post continues to shift beneath our feet.
There is a need for (1) effective consultations with states before blacklisting, (2) reconsideration of the rigidity of the methodology used to blacklist, (3) transparency in the methodology used, and (4) scope for open discussion with targeted countries to agree mitigating measures before blacklisting.
Continued extra territorial action aimed at alleged non-cooperative jurisdictions does not take into account the progress, good faith and best efforts already demonstrated by Members of the Caribbean Community.
While the WTO does not per se have standing in this matter, CARICOM Member States take this opportunity to reaffirm its interest in a strong, fair, rule-based international system.
The Group further reinforce our previous calls for multilateral organizations, including the WTO to empower members through respective bodies to assess and explore policy options that would support a strong exit from the crisis through targeted and collective actions.
CARICOM Member States remain committed to contributing to the preservation and strengthening of the rules-based trading system and calls on the support of all Member States to take concrete actions that will forestall the unravelling of the socioeconomic gains that have been achieved over the past three decades.