CASTRIES, St Lucia — Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) member states are to undergo a review of their trade policies by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in June 2014 and their preparation for this is being boosted by assistance from the OECS Secretariat’s Geneva Technical Mission and its Trade Policy Unit.
Programme officer at the OECS Secretariat Alicia Stephen said the trade policies of the OECS member states are reviewed by the World Trade Organisation every six years.
“The assistance that we give to the member states helps to co-ordinate their participation because the review process involves extensive data collection on trade policy, trade performance and it goes through a range of issues such as standards, health and food safety, competition policy, price control, investment, sector policy, tariffs, non tariff measures, etc. So we assist the member states by helping them to gather all this information as well as mobilizing resources and accessing technical assistance so they can provide the information and participate in the drafting of the final report which is the review of their trade policy,” Stephen said.
The trade policy review for OECS member states is one of the requirements of WTO membership and is meant to assess the compliance of countries with WTO rules and integration in the multilateral trading system. The last review was conducted in 2007.
Stephens spoke about the benefits of such a review to the OECS member states.
“The good thing about the review is that it is not the basis for any sort of action to be taken against member states if they do not comply. What the review does for our member states is that it gives them an assessment of where they are in terms of their ability to implement the commitments that are set out when they signed on the WTO and it also gives them a global view of their trade performance not just in terms of figures but in terms of the reforms they have undertaken since their last review. The review also looks at emerging issues such as competition policy and trade facilitation which are not yet within in the ambit of the WTO but is there to signal to the member states in a certain way what their state of preparedness is to engage in those other issues. It also reviews specific sectors that are important to the OECS member states such as tourism, agriculture and manufacturing services, and assesses what the policy environment is for businesses within those sectors,” she explained.
The OECS Trade Policy Unit said each OECS member state is required to prepare a statement on its trade policies. The OECS Secretariat also prepares a regional trade policy report while the WTO prepares a statement on each member state’s policies as well as the OECS trade policy. To date, member states have identified focal points for the review and have begun collecting data for the country statements.
The OECS Secretariat is to convene a regional preparatory meeting in St Lucia from May 28-29 2013 towards agreeing on a plan for the review by the WTO.