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Trinidad passes off US-made oil as its own … benefits from duty-free access to CARICOM markets

Published:Wednesday | October 29, 2014 | 12:00 AM

RAMESH Ramdeen, CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers' Association, said yesterday that no one should be allowed to flout regional trade rules, which, in effect, means that all goods that meet the CARICOM rules of origin are traded duty-free throughout the region.

"The rules are there and everybody should be following the rules. No manufacturer of goods from Trinidad, Jamaica, or wherever should breach the rules and be allowed to get away with it," Ramdeen told The Gleaner in a telephone interview from Trinidad and Tobago yesterday.

Ramdeen's comment follows a revelation in the House of Representatives by Jamaica's Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton that five of nine lubricants imported from Trinidad and Tobago have been found to be in breach of the rules of origin requirements of CARICOM.

The lubricants, which were exported by Trinidad and Tobago's state-owned National Petroleum, according to Hylton, were found to have originated in the United States and were being passed off as CARICOM goods.

Under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which provides the legal basis for the operation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, Jamaica, together with other member states, applies the common external tariff (CET).


Ramdeen said he would need to conduct his own investigations in order to determine whether five of the nine lubricants have actually breached the trade framework. He said, however, that his association "totally supports the rules that are there for engaging in trade".

"If any country or any company of any country [is] found in breach of such, we think that they should be reprimanded," Ramdeen told The Gleaner.

Last May, Hylton noted that there had been persistent complaints by members of Jamaica's private sector about unfair trading practices employed by Trinidad and Tobago-based companies. He said the Government has applied interim charges equivalent to the charges that would be applied if there was no CET to the imported products.

The funds were first placed in an escrow account, but were later transferred to the Consolidated Fund.

Hylton, responding to questions from opposition MP Gregory Mair, said the monies collected from the four products that were found compliant with the rules would be paid over to Jamaica Customs, which will, in turn, reimburse the importer.

He said products that have failed to comply with the rules of origin will not receive a refund of customs duties deposited, and the companies that imported these products may be subject to an audit to recover the duties that should have been applied to previous import shipments.