Minister of Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, EP Chet Greene, who also has responsibility for foreign trade, led a team of OECS delegations to attend sessions at the World Trade Organizations (WTO) in Geneva during 3-5 May 2023.
The sessions were meetings which comprised the Trade Policy Review (TPR) of the OECS member states, an exercise which must be undertaken by all WTO members.
The OECS undertook the review of their trade policies jointly because of their status as an economic union.
Four of the six independent OECS states sent delegations to Geneva for the TPR, including two led by ministers (Minister Chet Greene of Antigua and Barbuda and Minister Keisal Peters of St Vincent and the Grenadines) and one by an ambassador. Minister Greene, in his capacity as current chair of the OECS Ministerial Council (Trade), led the combined delegation and spoke on behalf of the group.
A team of senior trade officials from the OECS Commission Secretariat also participated in the sessions, led by the OECS Director-General Dr Didacus Jules. Also forming part of the combined OECS delegation were Ambassador Colin Murdoch, head of the OECS mission in Geneva, and Mr Joel Richards, trade counsellor at the mission.
Under the TPR exercise, the OECS presented its trade policies to the assembled WTO members and these policies were then examined by a discussant and subject to comment by WTO members, who were also entitled to submit questions which OECS was required to answer. On this occasion, the assigned discussant was Ambassador Nadia Theodore of Canada who gave a generally positive assessment of OECS trade and economic policies.
In his statement to the WTO membership Minister Greene said: ‘Some of the main objectives of the OECS Economic Union are economic growth, development and international competitiveness by the convergence and coordination of the economic policies of OECS member states … essentially our vulnerabilities, the challenges associated with our small size, as well as those emanating from the uncertainty and turbulence that characterize the external environment, have framed our macroeconomic performance and outlook. It is out of these experiences spanning several decades that we decided to pursue a deeper form of regional integration through the establishment of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) in 2011.’
Over two dozen delegations took the floor in response, largely complimentary of the OECS trade policies and of the role played by the OECS mission to the WTO in Geneva. More than two hundred written detailed questions were submitted, to which the OECS trade officials submitted written responses.
Afterwards, Minister Greene said: ‘I count this mission a success, as it shows how effectively engaged we are with the multilateral trading system, and how we are held in high regard by our WTO partners.’