Representatives from CARICOM Member States have, from 23 to 27 February, further developed the guidelines for improvements in customs procedures across the Caribbean region, ultimately aiming to boost the region’s competitiveness and its standing as an attractive option for investment and doing business.
Five days of discussion in Antigua & Barbuda on regulations for a harmonised regional customs framework brought together customs officials, legal experts and CARICOM representatives, who have drafted legislation aligned with modern international best-practices and standards.
This was the penultimate meeting, in a journey supported by the ACP Business Climate facility (BizClim), to finalise the harmonised customs regulations, which will be put forward for approval by two CARICOM bodies and then adopted for implementation by each member state. The final meeting will take place in Trinidad & Tobago, at the end of March 2015.
These regulations, the basis for customs procedures, cover all areas of customs policy management. The proposed regulations are expected to bring about increased predictability, thereby significantly reducing hindrances and frustrations to both regional and international traders.
CARICOM Director of External Trade, Mr David Hales, posits that the application of this legislation “will be of benefit to other aspects of the CSME such as the movement of persons, the movement of capital and right of establishment; all of which can stimulate production integration.”
Having achieved the key objective of this meeting — amendments to the first draft of customs regulations — another important outcome was observed. Despite the tendency of customs officers to draw on their established ways of operating in their respective countries, they consistently gave way to best practices uncovered in the course of deliberations.
Given the level of cooperation demonstrated, it is anticipated that consensus and sign-off on the harmonised customs bill in its entirety will be secured exactly one month from now, by the close of the Trinidad & Tobago meeting. The move toward customs harmonisation represents a critical stride in fulfilling the mandate of regional economic integration (Art 95, Treaty of Chaguaramas).