Caricom legislators focus on WTO rules

Legislators from around the region are meeting in Port of Spain to discuss their experiences in economic and trade policies in relation to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) is partnering with the WTO and the T&T branch of the CPA for three three-day workshop currently taking place at the Hyatt Regency.

In her welcome remarks. House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George said this was the second occasion that the Parliament of T&T had the opportunity to host such a workshop. The first occasion was in 2003.

Annisette-George praised the WTO’s current drive which emphasized a wider role which parliamentarians play in bringing international organisations and people closer together, especially as it pertains to the trading system.

Speaker of the Montserrat Legislative Assembly and vice chairperson Shirley Osborne stressed the vital importance of Parliaments around the region working collectively towards a broader and deeper understanding of the WTO. This sentiment was echoed by the Head of External Relations at the WTO, Bernard Kuiten, who placed the central importance of trade at the heart of the discussions and underlined the need for immense interactive and in-depth participation and dialogue among the delegates.

In the keynote address, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon reaffirmed T&T’s commitment to the multilateral system and to the WTO. She said this country has been a strong proponent of multilateralism and the work of the World Trade Secretariat since its establishment in 1995.

Gopee-Scoon said Government is looking to expand and enhance market access into Central America, Africa and Asia as part of efforts to diversify T&T’s economy away from dependence on oil and gas.

She said Government plans to pursue several diversification and competitiveness initiatives targeted at the services and non-energy sectors.

“The area of manufacturing remains a priority. We are committed to support an improved business environment as well as firms abilities to sustainably produce goods and services at a competitive price and quality,” she said.

The minister said sectors which are showing growth potential have been identified for development, including agriculture, maritime, creative, tourism and finance.

“It’s government intention to expand and enhance market access for these areas: traditional and non-traditional export markets in north, south and central America, Europe, Asia and Africa.”

Gopee-Scoon said T&T is also collaborating with other Caricom countries on a co-ordinated approach to implementing the agreement with assistance from the World Bank Group.

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