Caricom Chairman Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell is demanding flexibility from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in dealing with small states attempting to rebuild after a disaster.
Prime Minister Mitchell says the 6th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and Cuba in Antigua this week, must send a clear signal to the WTO.
The Grenadian leader made his comments in an address in the Antiguan capital ahead of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Falling on the eve of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, it is prudent for us to send a political signal about the need for ‘WTO Flexibility’ for Small States, during the phase of reconstruction,” the Grenadian Prime Minister declared.
“Such flexibility would require that the WTO Rules and Disciplines must not stand in the way of reconstruction for affected Small States and Small Vulnerable Economies, such as those of the Caribbean.”
Prime Minister Mitchell, who also chairs the World Small States Forum, has been leading the fight for countries, donors and international lending agencies to be less stringent in their support for small states seeking to rebuild in the wake of natural disasters.
Earlier this year, a number of powerful hurricanes bulldozed several Caribbean islands claiming lives, causing massive destruction and turning back economies.
“Having grappled with the trauma of post-hurricane devastation and a Structural Adjustment Programme in Grenada, and having witnessed first-hand the scale and intensity of the destruction in Dominica, Barbuda, and other Caribbean Sates, I’m clear that this ‘demand’ stands as the most significant outcome for Small States, from the upcoming WTO Ministerial,” Dr Mitchell insisted.
“As heads, we must all immediately instruct our delegations to work towards this ‘outcome’ at the WTO Ministerial. We must use the platform of our meeting today, to clearly transmit this signal to the world.”
The 6th Cuba-Caricom Summit is expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Science and Technology Cooperation as well as a Memorandum of Understanding on Disaster Risk Reduction, between the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and the National Civil Defence General Staff of Cuba.