Posted: Monday, October 19, 2020. 1:02 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: A Government Minister from St. Kitts and Nevis has confirmed that Belize has sued it and Trinidad and Tobago in the original jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as of September 30, according to the St. Kitts and Nevis Observer.
The matter was discussed during a meeting of that federation’s national assembly on October 15.
Minister for International Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Wendy Phipps, told the Assembly she was informed of the lawsuit by Solicitor General Simone Bullen-Thompson ten days before on October 5 after the Solicitor General received the case e-File, originating application and notice of service from the CCJ Deputy Registrar and Marshall.
Under Articles 2-11 Subsection 1 Part A; 13 and 16 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas; Articles 12A, B, and 16 of the Agreement establishing the CCJ; and Part 10 of the CCJ Originating Jurisdiction Rules 2019, Belize accuses St. Kitts and Trinidad of importing between them 975 metric tons of sugar from Guatemala and Honduras without applying the Common External Tariff (CET) between November 2018 and June 2020, allowing it into the country duty-free.
But according to Minister Phipps, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis does not itself import sugar and has not done so since it closed its supply office in 2015; and any such imports are based on private sector trading arrangements between wholesalers, retailers and overseas suppliers.
As part of its defense against the suit, the Minister said she instructed her Director of Trade, Shawn Lawrence, to investigate with the country’s Customs and Excise Department all data on sugar imports over the past three years and awaits that report. She committed to providing further updates as the case continues.
The matter of gaining access to CARICOM for Belize’s number one export has been high among the priorities of outgoing Food and Agriculture Minister, Senator Godwin Hulse, and colleague Trade Minister Tracey Taegar-Panton, not to mention Belize’s chief sugar producer, Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR).
Belize hosted critical meetings last October and November involving regional sugar producers from Jamaica to Guyana and the Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED) Agriculture Sub-Committee as well as the main COTED meeting, at which Belize got commitments to impose the CET on extra-regional imports, as well as to buy more brown sugar once the quality standards are met.
As Hulse put it at the opening of this year’s crop season in January: “There is no reason if we could put it in Coca-Cola, put it in our cake, put it in our ice creams, and soft drinks, and drink it in our tea that they can’t. There is no reason why.”
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