Monday, September 22, 2003 - Another call has been echoed here for the
levelling of the playing field in relation to trade liberalization issues. It
has come from St. Lucia’s Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,
Senator the Honourable Calixte George, who returned to the island last week. He
expressed disappointment over the breakdown of the latest round of World Trade
Organization (WTO) talks which took place in Cancun, Mexico. These negotiations
were seen as critical in advancing the regional position on the DOHA Development
Minister George who was a significant member of St. Lucia’s delegation at the
talks said he was dismayed at the level of non-compliance on the part of the
larger countries to issues confronting smaller and less developed states, like
special and differential treatment.
“In my speech to the Plenary,” said Minister George, “I emphasised the point
that in St. Lucia’s case we were virtually disabled, inherently incapacitated
compared to other countries. Therefore if one is incapacitated you cannot be
treated as a normal person and I alluded to the fact that you cannot have a man
with one leg competing with a normal athlete and therefore we should have our
own Special Olympics that deals with the disabled countries.”
Minister George said that his disappointment was further compounded by what he
termed “the lack of transparency which characterized a large portion of the
talks.” Another vexing concern he explained were issues of particular interest
to the developed world which were pushed high up on the agenda, issues such as
competition, trade facilitation and government procurements.
“These were issues that were raised a long time ago and they were supposed to
have had some explicit consensus on moving forward with those issues. However
the modalities for moving forward had not been worked out so there was no way in
which we could enter into negotiations on those matters. Yet they wanted us to
enter into negotiations on those issues, for example, government procurement.
This is a matter that’s very ticklish in terms of how you allow virtual freedom
to any nation entering your procurement processes.”
Senator George went on to dismiss as unfounded claims from the developed
countries that the Caribbean’s position on many of the issues at the Mexico
meeting, emanated from aid agencies and powerful non-governmental organizations.
He said instead that the Caribbean made significant contributions to the general
African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group along with the Group of 77 on the
issues to be dealt with.