OECS countries closer to removing barriers to trade
The commission for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), based in St Lucia, says the subregional group is closer to removing all barriers to free trade and strengthening its customs union.
The commission said it has completed a series of regional capacity building consultations which provide a clearer understanding of the new era in domestic, regional and international trade for the seven OECS protocol member states.
It said the consultations considered the removal of import formalities on goods traded within the customs union and the harmonisation of border and regulatory procedures with respect to goods imported from countries outside of the region.
"To date, the commission has held consultations in St Vincent & the Grenadines, Dominica, Montserrat, and St Kitts & Nevis on the work undertaken to establish the Customs Union and Free Circulation of Goods," said OECS Director General Dr Didicus Jules.
"These are the next steps towards advancing the implementation process and augmenting the role of the OECS Commissioners and National Working Groups in facilitating the operations of these regimes at the national level," he added.
The commission said that stakeholders are also engaged in "open and fruitful discussions" on managing revenue on goods imported into the Customs Union and building capacity of national border and regulatory agencies to facilitate the free circulation of goods; including trade in fish and other marine products.
Additionally, stakeholders have been on ongoing initiatives to enhance intra-OECS transportation logistics for trade in fresh produce and agro-processed goods, and proposals for building the capacity of farmers and manufacturers to better participate in the single OECS domestic space.
The OECS Commission said it will continue consultations in other member states, before updating its strategic plan for the establishment of the Customs Union and free circulation of goods regime.
The free circulation of goods in the OECS Economic Union is intended to enhance the development of the region's economies by providing an environment where businesses can trade their goods, un-inhibited, to a wider regional market and consumers have access to a broader range of quality products at more competitive prices.
It is expected that this regime will lead to increased intra-OECS trade and investment, greater customer satisfaction, and improvements in the quality of life for OECS citizens.
The OECS groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, and St Kitts-Nevis.