ITC assists Eastern Caribbean states with services trade strategy

14 December 2015
ITC News

The International Trade Centre (ITC) is providing technical assistance to countries in the Eastern Caribbean region to review their approach to opening their services markets autonomously and through bilateral and plurilateral trade negotiations.

The services sector has emerged as the dominant contributor to GDP in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). With an eye to maximizing the sector’s contribution to growth, employment creation and sustainable development, the OECS Commission in June asked ITC for a technical assistance to review the current domestic and regional policies for the development of its nascent services sectors and to provide policy guidance prudent approaches for advancing bilateral and plurilateral services negotiations with third countries.

Since September, ITC has been conducting a thorough assessment of regulations, legislation and institutional capacity in priority sectors in the seven OECS Protocol Member States (Antigua & Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines). The priority sectors - three to four in each country - were identified by public and private services stakeholders, with support from the OECS Commission, based on their importance to the respective economies. The identified sectors include professional services, financial services, educational services, and tourism.

One of the goals of the process is to identify trade-restrictive measures in each sector and develop policy options to resolve them. ITC is currently consulting with the public and private sectors in each country to understand the regulatory requirements that govern the operation of key services sectors and to address trade restrictive measures and brainstorm possible responses. Additionally, ITC is working to equip the OECS Commission to carry out such assessments independently in the future.

ITC is simultaneously conducting an extensive review of OECS Member States’ approach to scheduling and liberalizing commitments in bilateral and plurilateral trade negotiations. The policy implications of both ‘positive list’ (in which governments identify sectors for market-opening) and ‘negative list’ (in which markets are opened in all sectors not explicitly excluded) approaches are being studied in detail to assess their effectiveness in the region and the policy implications of moving from one to the other.

The Director of International Trade in Saint Lucia, Nigel Edwin, expressed full endorsement of the initiative, and indicated that exploring alternative modalities for scheduling services commitments would equip the OECS members with information to guide them in future negotiations.

Ultimately, the project will aim to streamline national regulations in the OECS to develop an integrated services market and provide clear directives to OECS Member States on prudent negotiating options while safeguarding the group’s ultimate objective of a single market for services.

Note to Editor

About the International Trade Centre: ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the UN Global Goals.