ADDRESS BY THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, COMMERCE AND TRADE, SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES,
THE HONOURABLE SIR LOUIS STRAKER
AT A SENSITIZATION WORKSHOP ON SERVICES NEGOTIATIONS IN THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION (WTO)
AT THE CONFERENCE ROOM OF JOACHIM AND ASSOCIATES,
WEDNESDAY 21ST JULY, 2010.
Ladies and Gentlemen, a pleasant good morning.
First let me welcome you the Service Providers in St.Vincent and the Grenadines to this three (3) day sensitization workshop on WTO Services Negotiations.
It would be remiss of me as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Trade of the Government of St.Vincent and the Grenadines if I did not, on behalf of my Government, express my heart felt thanks to the ACP – EU Project Management Unit for responding so quickly to our request for assistance under the Project “Integration of ACP countries’ into the Multilateral Trading System”.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this Project is designed to integrate the ACP countries like St.Vincent and the Grenadines into the multilateral trading system and support them to reap the benefits of open and freer regional and global markets.
The project’s main purpose is to enhance the participation of the ACP countries in the multilateral trade negotiations and support the implementation of existing WTO Agreements.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this workshop was conceptualized and developed by the Trade Department in my Ministry with strong support from the Commonwealth/EU Hub and Spokes Project’s Trade Policy Analyst, Mr. Gibriel Bah attached to the Ministry.
The relevance of the issues to be discussed over the next three (3) days are issues that support the strengthening of the socio economic development of St.Vincent and the Grenadines in general and the Services sector, in particular, and must be underscored.
Ladies and Gentlemen, delivering today’s address is gratifying to me for many reasons, chief among them are –
(i) The Services Sector is the fastest growing sector in St.Vincent and the Grenadines and it is the Sector where we have the greatest competitive advantage. The annual contribution of the combined Services Sector to the GDP of St.Vincent and the Grenadines has been increasing. For example, in 2004 the contribution was about EC $625. 1 Million or 65%. In 2008, the contribution increased to about EC$855 Million or about 70%;
(ii) On 24 June 2010, my Ministry in collaboration with the OECS Export Development Unit conducted a workshop entitled “Target New Markets – A Strategic Approach to Exporting Your Services”. The main objectives of the Workshop were to increase the awareness of how to identify new export opportunities, assess readiness to export and advise on how to become export ready;
(iii) The National Coalition of Services Industries (CSI) of St.Vincent and the Grenadines with the support of my Ministry and the Chamber of industry and Commerce is expected to spearhead the drive to promote Services as an essential component of St.Vincent and the Grenadines exports.
I therefore expect the CSI and all the other Stakeholders to take full advantage of the information exchanges and the value and content of the deliberations over the next three (3) days.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the current global trading environment is so dynamic that Small Vulnerable Economies (SVEs) like St.Vincent and the Grenadines are challenged to the extent that they are heavily impacted. Hence, this three (3) day workshop is timely in that it gives you the opportunity to -
(i) Be updated and sensitized on the current status of the Services negotiations in the Doha Round of the WTO;
(ii) Review and analyze the market access requests and offers tabled by Member States of the WTO, to establish commercial opportunities for St.Vincent and the Grenadines Service Suppliers;
(iii) Discuss the importance of establishing Standards and effective Regulations on Trade in Services in order to establish commercial opportunities for St.Vincent and the Grenadines Service suppliers;
(iv) Discuss the role and benefits of Services Coalitions;
(v) Understand the important contribution of the Services Sector to the socio- economic development of St.Vincent and the Grenadines; and
(vi) Enhance your fuller and effective participation in the current negotiations between CARICOM and Canada of a Trade and Development Agreement.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the “New World Order” of globalization and trade liberalization has dominated world economies and present challenges and opportunities that underpin all major policy and strategic initiatives globally.
My Government recognizes that the realization of its key development objectives of generating sustainable employment and poverty reduction depends considerably on the enabling environment for trade and investment which also consequently tackles the growing balance of trade deficit. The National Economic Transformation Programme embarked on by my Government sets the broad development policy objectives.
The fundamental pillars are -
(i) Aggressive export promotion
(ii) Private sector led development and
(iii) An outward approach to trade development (by institutional strengthening and fuller participation in trade negotiations)
Ladies and Gentlemen, my Government in responding to the new economic environment has intensified its diversification thrust from predominantly traditional Agriculture to Services. For example in 2004, the contribution of the Agriculture Sector to the GDP of St.Vincent and the Grenadines was EC$75.98 Million or 8.1% and by 2008, the contribution was EC $91.3 Million or 7.3%.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my Government’s commitment to Services development in St.Vincent and the Grenadines is further demonstrated by the passage of various pieces of Legislation namely -
(i) the E-Transaction Bill
(ii) the E-Evidence Bill
(iii) the Privacy and Freedom of Information Act
(iv) the Investment Incentive Legislation and
(v) the New Tourism Incentive Legislation.
Additionally, a National Small Business Development Bill has been developed to support small businesses in St.Vincent and the Grenadines.
Ladies and Gentlemen, St.Vincent and the Grenadines ability to fully maximize the opportunities, and hence exploit the benefits afforded by trade liberalization in the context of the WTO, the CARICOM Single Market and the Economy (CSME), the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM and the European Community, the OECS Economic Union and the proposed CARICOM/ Canada Trade and Development Agreement is a testimony of my Governments’ conviction and commitment to fuller and deeper integration at the sub regional, regional and multi lateral levels.
This Workshop is well placed to harness your capacity to exploit these opportunities.
Ladies and Gentlemen, once again I implore you to participate meaningfully in the discussions.