Statement delivered by Deputy Chief of Mission Chris Wilson
January 27, 2015
Thank you, Chair.
The United States is pleased to welcome Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Ms. Maxine McClean, Ambassador Marion Williams, and the other members of the delegation of Barbados to the third Trade Policy Review of Barbados. We would also like to express our appreciation to the WTO Secretariat and to the Government of Barbados for the reports provided in advance of this meeting. And of course, we appreciate the remarks by the discussant, Ambassador Tan Yee Woan (Singapore).
As we noted during the 2008 trade policy review, Barbados is a valued hemispheric partner of the United States, and the commercial relationship between our countries is vibrant and growing. The United States is Barbados’ top trading partner, and total two-way goods trade during 2013 was $508 million. Despite the difficulties during the 2008 and 2009 global financial crisis, U.S. goods imports from Barbados rebounded quickly and by 2013 had increased nearly 70 percent from their low in 2009, totaling US$55 million in 2013.
Barbados is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative, which aims to facilitate the economic development and export diversification of the Caribbean Basin economies by providing countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for most goods. Further, most of Barbados’ exports enter the United States duty-free.
The Secretariat’s report describes the tourism sector as of vital importance to Barbados’ economy, contributing over 50 percent of the country’s GDP, with government and financial services accounting for most of the rest. The United States continues to be one of Barbados’ principal sources of tourist arrivals with travelers from the United States representing more than 20 percent of arrivals in 2013.
We note that the Secretariat reports that Barbados has made considerable progress with respect to the adoption of trade facilitation measures. We welcome the adoption of such measures, as well as the statement by Barbados that trade facilitation is an important issue. As Barbados is currently in the process of scheduling its TFA commitments, we look forward to Barbados’ TFA notification, and eventual acceptance of the TFA, and we stand ready to support Barbados with the scheduling process where we can.
We applaud Barbados’ initiative, as outlined in the Secretariat’s report, to consolidate its sanitary and phytosanitary regulatory functions under a single government agency and to bring its plant and animal health and food safety systems in line with international standards. We look forward to learning about how these changes will affect the requirements for exporters shipping to Barbados.
As noted in the Secretariat’s and the Government reports, Barbados has faced challenges with persistently high budget deficits, which will need to be addressed through a mixture of expenditure reduction and increased revenue collection. We therefore encourage Barbados to pursue these needed reforms in a transparent manner and in consultation with the private sector. We concur with the assessment in the Secretariat’s report that Barbados should use the opportunity provided by these reforms to streamline its tariff and tax system and to boost its economic competitiveness.
While we applaud Barbados’ continued progress integrating into the global economy, we notice that many of the issues identified during previous Trade Policy Reviews have not been fully addressed. For example, the Secretariat’s report notes that during the review period Barbados reduced the number of products for which import licenses are required, but yet licenses are still required for a wide range of agricultural and industrial goods and often require approvals from multiple ministries. We encourage Barbados to consider ways to streamline its import permit processes.
The report also notes that there were no major changes to Barbados’ intellectual property rights legislation during the review period, and we urge Barbados to review its legislation to make it compatible with WIPO treaties. We look forward to working with the Government of Barbados bilaterally and through CARICOM to address intellectual property issues, particularly copyright-related, raised in our written comments.
Finally, as was the case during the 2008 Trade Policy Review, Barbados is not a party to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. We look forward to the results of the proposed reforms to Barbados’ government procurement regulations described in the Secretariat’s report. We have submitted a short list of questions about specific issues in Barbados’ trade regime. We look forward to reviewing Barbados’ responses.
In closing, we would like to welcome the statement by Barbados that it sees international trade as an engine for its growth and development. As Barbados noted, liberalization and globalization of trade have provided opportunities for small economies to participate in the generation of increased trade that ultimately contributes to the growth and development of such economies. The United States therefore looks forward to further deepening our trade and economic partnerships with Barbados and the other members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). As a founding Member of the WTO, we commend Barbados for its longstanding commitment to the multilateral trading system. We remain committed to continued cooperation with Barbados to deepen our relationship bilaterally, in regional fora, and in the WTO.