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Caribbean must provide input in new WTO rules

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Contact: John Emmanuel

Monday, April 07, 2003 - An urgent call has been echoed for Saint Lucia, the OECS and by extension Small Island Development States to have a greater say in the formulation of the procedures governing the rules of dispute settlement of the World Trade Organization (WTO). That plea has emanated from Legal Trade Consultant, Dr. Katy Ann Brown.

Dr. Brown, who was recently on island to hold high level talks with key government officials and private sector representatives, is of the view that the region is placing too much emphasis on attaining compliance with the existing WTO rules as oppose to having a critical say in the formulation of new rules of engagement. The beauty of the present time and the importance of being aware of what we can do to make a difference in our own lives is that we are now in the process of renegotiating the rules. The rules which have caused us a lot of difficulties are the very ones on the table for us now to revisit, she said.

She said in an exclusive interview with the Government Information Service, I think we are a bit too concerned with compliance. Im not saying that you didnt want to be compliance with the WTO rules but quite frankly a number of these rules were not created with us in mind. According to Dr. Brown the region has been presented with its first real opportunity to incorporate flexibility and policy space within the rules to adequately address the interest of small states. That opportunity she noted should be seized with the private sector as the engine of growth leading the change.

Dr. Brown remarked, We are at a time of change, and the private sector has to recognize that they are at this critical juncture. In light of that, the private sector has to be proactive in finding export markets in an era of diminishing preferential margins and has to look for alternatives for diversification to buttress the economy.

Government in the meantime she explained needed to negotiate the rules that would ensure that the private sector has a fair basis on which to export and develop the domestic sector.

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