Caribbean countries of the Commonwealth met in Georgetown, Guyana this week to deliberate on how to respond to major shifts in the global trade landscape.
On 30-31 October, trade officials and experts from took part in a regional consultation on multilateral, regional and emerging trade issues, organised by the Commonwealth and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat.
Opening the event with a keynote address, Guyana’s Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, highlighted the positive impact of trade on communities, businesses and people.
Acting Head of International Trade Policy at the Commonwealth, Teddy Soobramanien underlined the importance of sharing experiences and building consensus among Commonwealth members around common trade issues.
Presenting the main findings from the 2018 Commonwealth Trade Review, Brendan Vickers, an economic adviser at the Commonwealth, said that Caribbean countries are the most dependent on services exports, with services accounting for an average 41% of their overall world exports.
“While there are major differences in the region regarding specialisation in goods and services, countries could consider more proactive policy measures to promote services exports, including through improved market intelligence and better services data”, he told participants.
A major focus of the meeting was the digital economy, including how to better harness new technologies to promote greater trade, investment and innovation, especially for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Commonwealth research indicates that increasing broadband coverage to all Caribbean citizens can boost the region’s GDP by US$7.4 billion. But to benefit from new digital trade opportunities, countries must find ways to cut broadband costs, improve ICT access, and strengthen regulatory and legal frameworks for e-commerce transactions.
Several Geneva-based ambassadors also shared insights on the current state of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation. Participants agreed on the importance of the multilateral trading system to Commonwealth members, especially to help Caribbean small states achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The outcomes of the meeting will feed into the trade work programme of the Commonwealth Secretariat, particularly in designing and implementing trade policies for member states.