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A.C.P. Caribbean Region Begins W.T.O. Seminar

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By Richmond Felix

September 27, 1999 - Delegates from around the Caribbean region began a 4-day Seminar Monday in preparation for the ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization to be held in Seattle, Washington this November.

In the past, participation of developing countries in the W.T.O.s ministerial conference negotiations had been restricted, leaving them basically standing in the corridors of the negotiating process. It is hoped that by having some input African, Caribbean and Pacific states will be able to reduce the risk of marginalization in the future. The ACP has therefore organized a series of eight seminars in various sub-regions to strengthen the capacity of its members before the next round of multilateral negotiations.

Speaking at the opening ceremony Peter Gakunu of the ACP Secretariat said, "The agenda for the new round should ensure that developing countries are effectively assisted in overcoming difficulties encountered in implementing existing commitments, that the new round supports sustainable development, that it reinforces cooperation by encompassing measures aimed at addressing human, financial and institutional constraints and that the W.T.O. rules and obligations are implemented in a flexible manner to take account of the development needs of developing countries."

Meanwhile Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Earl Huntley, welcomed the move by the ACP calling for the next round of negotiations to focus on development and on the need for the W.T.O. to consider that not all countries have equal capacity to take part in free trade. He noted that for St. Lucia and the other banana producing states in the Caribbean, the experience with the W.T.O. has been a very bitter one, but in a sense, this has been brought on by complacency. "It has been our fault because when the negotiations were taking place for the establishment of the W.T.O. countries like ourselves were not there or if we were there we were just barely there," said Huntley.  He added "I have been saying that you do not attend now but when the negotiations are over you pay for not attending and this is what has happened. This conference and those seminars which are being organized are in fact extremely helpful to help us prepare for the next round. Fortunately, I can say that the mindset which I have been speaking about seems to have changed at least in the Caribbean and from this seminar across the A.C.P."

Approximately 80 participants from 14 Caribbean Countries and officials of international organizations are attending the seminar, which is being sponsored by ACP General Secretariat, the European Commission, the W.T.O. and the UNCTAD Secretariat.


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