Belize minister urges Caribbean to unite against unsympathetic EU, US trading partners

CARIBBEAN Community (Caricom)
Negotiators yesterday embarked on a two-day round of talks, determined to strengthen its trading position against what Belize's Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Eamon Courtenay described as its uncaring American and European counterparts.


Primary commodity producers - in sugar, citrus and
bananas - hold tremendous political clout, with
politicians responding to these preferences. Thus,
Belize did not prioritize its services sector in the
1990s. Others note that this may still be the case.
'Belize has yet to define what it wants to be', says
David Gomez, managing partner of Launchpad Consulting
in Belize, who was deputy permanent representative at
Belize's Mission to the UN-WTO in Geneva in 2001-2.
Furthermore, investment laws in Belize are not
specific enough, giving politicians tremendous leeway
and making the system clientelistic. Officials and
industry representatives cite several instances of
ministers making commitments internationally without
technical input or consultations...

In Belize, no industry consultations were undertaken
during the Uruguay Round. The telecommunications
negotiations were different: the government was
interested in eventually liberalizing but recognized
BTL's monopoly until 2002. Even a status quo binding
with marginal liberalization in a few sub-sectors was
then a good precedent. The Trade Ministry sent over
the schedule of specific commitment to BTL officials
to fill out. 'The WTO commitments were a no-no to us.
At that time, it didn't occur to us that we wouldn't
get another fifteen-year licence', says Robert Young,
director of telecommunications, Public Utilities
Commission, Belize, who formerly worked at BTL.
However, it is unclear whether the limited
liberalization bindings made in sub-categories
reflected input from BTL, trade ministry officials or
external agencies, according to Gilbert Canton
(chairman) and Robert Young of the Public Utilities
Commission, Belize...

There is also no evidence that the tourism industry,
the biggest service export sector in both Costa Rica
and Belize, was consulted during the Uruguay Round
negotiations. As explained later, this reflected the
state of organization of the tourism industry in each
country and the inability of various tourist service
providers (hotels, restaurants, tour guides, transport
operators, etc.) to view themselves as service
exporters.(13) Even when they do so they may not seek
foreign markets and may be protectionist towards their
own. Both countries, however, have industry
associations and government bodies that are involved
in prioritizing tourism.

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