Caribbean Community (CARICOM) trade and economic affairs ministers who met here over the last weekend have agreed to the immediate establishment of a technical committee to determine the list of goods to be considered for a suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET) over a two-year period.
A CARICOM Secretariat statement said the meeting of the CARICOM Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED) took the initiative as part of the efforts to deal with the soaring costs of fuel and commodities on the region.
It said the ministers also agreed that the good to be considered for CET suspension “must have significant weight in the consumer price index, and must not be produced or have a close substitute in the region”.
In addition, the technical team will determine the reduction or elimination of the CET on some inputs and equipment used in food production and preparation with the aim of reducing the cost of production and delivery of food within the region.
The team is also tasked with formulating strategies to continue the protection of the region’s consumers, from exploitation, “given the adverse impact on member states resulting from the increased prices on commodities,” the statement noted.
Oil prices reached US$115 a barrel in mid-March 2011, an increase of over 40 per cent from an average of US$80 a barrel in 2010.
As a consequence, the cost of regional and international transportation has risen significantly, also pushing up food prices that the Secretariat said increased by 52 per cent during the period 2007 and 2008.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Global Food Price Index surpassed the high level it reached in 2008 and there is speculation that food prices will remain at high levels for the foreseeable future.
The Secretariat said that the COTED meeting also agreed that urgent action should be taken to advance the implementation of policy actions such as the Jagdeo Initiative, the Common Fisheries Policy and the Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy (RFNSP). (CMC)