By Aaron Humes: Last week the Caribbean Court of Justice reserved its decision after two days of testimony and argument in an original jurisdiction case between Belize and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
The latter is accused of failing to apply the Common External Tariff (CET) on brown sugar entering Trinidad and Tobago from extra-regional sources in violation of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC).
In a statement, the Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) says it commends the Belizean government for taking the matter to court. It alleges that the practice “has drastically diluted the value and demand of the CARICOM market for regional sugar producers.”
Belize’s legal team led by Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck tendered evidence of more than 4 thousand metric tons of imported sugar without the CET, which would be 40 percent of the cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) value of extra-regional sugar, most notably from Guatemala.
Production of sugar cane is not only literally sweet for the region, according to SAC, but also helps with climate change – it is a significant sequester of carbon but also the source for the production of green, renewable electricity across the region, as seen with the BELCOGEN plant in Belize.
The SAC stated, “Protection of the brown sugar market as set out in the RTC is one small contribution to maintaining this industry’s viability and one that SAC believes should be strictly maintained and enforced.”
Commenting on Belize’s decision not to press for compensation for the lost opportunity in the regional market, SAC Chairman R. Karl James said, “This case was not primarily about compensation, it is about ensuring that protections set out in the Treaty, and reinforced by numerous decisions of COTED, are abided by. Otherwise, the CSME would have very little relative value for any of its members.”