By Shamkoe Pilé
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- Barbados and CARICOM member states have made strides over other small vulnerable economies (SVEs) in multilateral trading because the region ensures that, when trade negotiations are taking place, its voice is heard when there are issues of concern.
Barbados Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, made this assertion at the start of a regional advanced trade negotiations simulation skills course for Caribbean countries, which was held in Bridgetown on Monday.
The foreign trade minister explained: "Small Vulnerable Economies have sought to bring to the fore many of the issues which impede our full integration into the multilateral trading system. In this vein, we [CARICOM] have been able to achieve some flexibility which goes beyond that offered to other developing countries. We have succeeded in introducing language in many of the texts on the negotiating table which addresses our concerns and vulnerabilities. The challenge is to maintain such language in the said texts."
Noting that the importance of trade could not be underestimated, she told the participants that globalisation and trade liberalisation continued to present numerous challenges for policy makers at the national, regional and international levels.
Outlining that governments had to generate new employment opportunities, increase government revenue, reduce poverty levels and further develop economics, the foreign trade minister said: "We [CARICOM] must do this within the context and constraints of the realities of our small developing economies... narrow economic bases, our high level of indebtedness and our vulnerability to natural and other disasters."
She concluded that the region needed to devise national and regional strategies which involved both public and private sector participation. Furthermore, McClean pointed out that the development of the region's negotiation skills was one element of strategic response.
She urged the participants to take advantage of the workshop, stating that competence and capacity to negotiate effectively was clear and important.
Reasoning that trade negotiations were "intense and costly exercises", she emphasised: "However, the cost of failure or poor outcomes of our negotiations far outweigh these [trade negotiations] costs".
The week-long workshop is organised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Doha Development Agenda Global Trust Fund. Its participants comprise various governmental officials from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago.
Over the next few days, participants will undertake trade related training in agriculture, non-agricultural market access, trade in services and training rules.