The OECS Delegation was led by The Honourable Everly Paul Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Antigua and Barbuda and Chair of the OECS Council of Trade Ministers. Other OECS representatives included Honourable Keisal Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Some OECS WTO Members were represented by their Senior Trade and Government Officials. Dr. Didacus Jules, Director-General of the OECS, also participated and was ably supported by other senior officials from the Commission of the OECS.
During the TPR exercise, Minister Greene noted that since the last Review, OECS Member States have been beset by several significant external shocks, namely hurricanes and other climatic events, volcanic eruptions, the COVID-19 pandemic, global economic challenges and geopolitical disruptions. Nonetheless, he noted that the OECS remained resilient and committed to deepening its integration into the global economy, as well as pursuing sound economic and developmental policies at home.
Specific to trade policy, Minister Greene indicated that the primary objective for the formulation, development and implementation of OECS trade policies continues to be the need to expand and diversify exports; the need to enhance trade competitiveness in order to achieve this; and the need for OECS countries to benefit more from their trade agreements and arrangements.
Adding to the dialogue, Director General of the OECS Dr. Didacus Jules stated:
“It is no secret that the multilateral trading system has faced unprecedented challenges in the past few years. Nonetheless, OECS Members remain committed to the centrality of the WTO for an integrated, rules-based global trading system. They also remain supportive of all efforts that have been made to safeguard and strengthen the WTO for promoting development and inclusivity.”
In total, WTO Members submitted 196 questions to the OECS on their trade policies and practices, the majority of which were answered before the start of the TPR. Questions touched on the investment regimes in OECS countries, their levels of notifications under relevant WTO Agreements as well as the operation of the Eastern Caribbean Economic Union (ECCU). The number of questions submitted, as well as the overall level of engagement in the OECS TPR by other WTO Members, demonstrated a keen interest in the region as a trade and investment partner.
On the margins of the TPR, the OECS also held substantive meetings with several individuals and entities. There were productive exchanges with Members of the Ottawa Group, led by Canada and comprising 14 likeminded WTO Members (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, European Union, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) with the objective of reforming and modernising the WTO. The OECS also met with the Office of the WTO Director-General, including Deputy Director-General Anabel González and Chief-of-Staff Dr. Bright Okogu. Senior representatives of the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) also met with the OECS Team.
During its engagement at the TPR, with the Office of the WTO Director-General as well as the Ottawa Group, the OECS took the opportunity to reiterate its commitment to trade multilateralism with the WTO at the core. The OECS also expressed its dedication to work actively and constructively with all WTO Members to achieve meaningful outcomes in a range of areas, such as Development, Fisheries Subsidies, Agriculture, Electronic Commerce and WTO Reform, including Dispute Settlement Reform, at the next Ministerial Conference in February 2024 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.