TIMES CARIBBEAN-Belize and the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis this week settled a trade dispute that had been ongoing in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) over trade in brown sugar.
Belize had sued Saint Kitts-Nevis, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and CARICOM, alleging that the two CARICOM member states were importing brown sugar from countries outside the Single Market without imposing the 40% Common External Tariff (CET).
Belize alleged that because of this treaty violation, Belize Sugar Industries Ltd. (BSI) and Santander Sugar were losing sales to these countries. It was also alleged that the CARICOM Secretariat had failed to ensure that the CET was imposed by St. Kitts and Trinidad & Tobago, which by extension facilitated trade by the two respondents in which they did not apply the CET.
The suit against St.Kitts-Nevis arose out of a decision way back in 2014 by the previous Dr. Rt. Hon. Denzil Douglas led administration to stop paying the Common External Tarrif as mandated by CARICOM . According to the St.Kitts-Nevis Government’s Minister of Trade Hon. Wendy Phipps the previous Denzil Douglas led administration took a decision to remove the application of the 40% Tarrif to sugar from Non Caricom states.
In a statement during the recent Budget Parliamentary debates Hon.Phipps said “In 2014 for reasons unknown to this present gov’t , a decision had been made by the previous administration to do away with the 40% CET on Non Caricom sugar coming into the federation . As a result the 40% had not been paid.”
Shortly after being notified of the legal action taken by Belize in the CCJ, the Government of Saint Kitts-Nevis commenced discussions with Belize on a possible out-of-court settlement. After targeted negotiations led by the Office of the Solicitor General, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration and BSI, Saint Kitts-Nevis and Belize reached an out-of-court settlement on conditions satisfactory to Belize. The settlement does not include any payments to the Belize gov’t and as such did not cost the St.Kitts-Nevis gov’t anything as far as direct financial payments or commitments.
It is unclear why the Douglas led administration took the decision to violate the CET agreement and why Caricom themselves failed to properly enforce said agreement.