Belize has agreed to an out of court settlement with St Kitts and Nevis following a trade dispute that had been lodged at the Caribbean Co urt of Justice over brown sugar trade. St Kitts and Nevis is one of three parties being sued by Belize’s government. The other parties are the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caricom Secretariat. Both St Kitts and Trinidad were circumventing the trade agreement and had been acquiring its brown sugar from Guatemala without paying the required forty percent common external tariff. As a result, Belize Sugar Industries and Santander Sugar were losing sales. Minister of Foreign Trade, Senator Eamon Courtenay explained to Love News what the settlement with St Kitts and Nevis entailed.
Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration: “The case that has been advanced by Belize against these countries is that they have been allowing their private sector to buy sugar from outside the region, bring it into their country and not impose the 40% tariff. That has two effects, first of all it means that that sugar is cheaper than it should be within the region because the sugar that it has bought is on the dumped market, it is below the cost of production and they are simply trying to get rid of excess stock so it is for that reason that the Common External Tariff is to be imposed. When it is not imposed the second issue arises. It means that Belize Sugar Industries or Santander have lost the opportunity to sell sugar to a member state and so we went to court asking the court first of all to order these countries to disclose how much sugar they have been importing from outside the region and prove that the Common External Tariff of 40% has been imposed on it. That’s the first aspect of the case and I’ll confine my comments with respect to St.Vincent to that. Once we filed the case against them St.Kitts saw to engage the government and we were elected to power and we had those in the discussion. In essence we have settled with St.Kitts because Belize and the sugar producers in Belize are satisfied that St.Kitts has disclosed to us their position, we are satisfied with the information that they have produced to us, secondly they have assured us that they have now put in place the regulatory regime to insist that the 40% tariff is automatically imposed on any imports of brown sugar from outside the region and most importantly the third element of this success for want of a better word- settlement to be more accurate- is that the private sector of Belize and the private sector who import sugar in St.Kitts and Nevis have had at least one meeting with a promise to have further meetings in terms of trying to share information to order sugar from Belize into St.Kitts and Nevis. So we are very satisfied that first of all Belize will have an opportunity again to export sugar to St.Kitts and Nevis. Secondly we have the assurance from the Government of St.Kitts and Nevis that any sugar that is brought in from outside the region will be faced with a duty of 40% which makes our sugar very competitive.”
Negotiations between Belize and St Kitts & Nevis were led by the Office of the Solicitor General, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and the Belize Sugar Industries.