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Consolidating the OECS Economic Union through Trade Capacity Building and Positive Spill-overs to CARICOM

Posted on: July 15, 2021

The OECS Grant Action entitled, “Consolidating the OECS Economic Union through Sustainable Trade Capacity Building (STCB)”, is EU-funded programme under the grant component of the ACP TradeCom II  Programme, executed by the OECS Commission. The programme’s aim is to assist OECS member states and the OECS Commission to fully implement the OECS Economic Union in order to deepen regional integration and facilitate integration of members into global markets through greater participation in regional and international value chains.

Over the last few months, the action has made significant strides in advancing STCB efforts in the member states. These include increasing the number of trained and certified trade professionals in the member states, advancing its commitment to conducting value chain studies for unlocking the productive capacity of new and innovative products, developing technological platforms to improve access to trade information and enhance the data analysis and decision-making capabilities of member states as well as strengthening relations with the business community through trade engagement strategies which will be aligned with their needs.

In relation to increasing the pool of trained and qualified trade practitioners, the ACP TradeCom II programme has made a firm commitment to capacity building and demand-driven education. It is currently in the process of finalizing a programme of specialized short courses in Trade at the Border: for Customs Officials/Brokers, Trade and the Blue Economy, Trade and Sustainable Development Goals, Trade for Lawyers, Introduction to Trade for the Caribbean Business persons and Introduction to Trade Negotiations with the University of the West Indies through its Shridath Ramphal Centre (UWI-SRC). These courses, which cover a variety of issues critical to trade policy in the OECS region, are aimed exclusively at OECS policy makers and trade practitioners from the public and private sector who are desirous of honing their skills over a short period of time.

In addition to the short courses, this OECS project has offered scholarships to twenty-one (21) students to undertake studies at UWI-SRC in the area of International Trade Policy. This initiative has proven to be a resounding success with all of the students satisfying the completion requirements to earn a Master’s in International Trade Policy (MITP). Due to this success, an additional ten (10) scholarships are to be offered to students from the member states.

Further to this success, some of MITP students are currently undertaking internships within some of the OECS and CARICOM regional institutions where they are actively working on programmes and initiatives geared toward enhancing our integration processes. Such undertakings include contributing to the development of the value chain studies to unlock the benefits from production and exports of Roots and Tubers, Cocoa, and Fresh Fish from member states. This undertaking, which is scheduled to commence in August 2021, will be performed by an international firm and will supported by the aforementioned TIFP students. The findings of these studies will be essential in enabling the member states to identify their comparative advantage in the production and marketing of the identified commodities in both regional and international markets. It is expected that the studies will help member states determine market channels as well as help to uncover constraints, and examine income and job creation in the respective areas.

Recognizing the importance of readily-available statistics and intelligence data to informed decision-making, the TradeCom II programme has prioritized the development of a Trade Information and Facilitation Portal (TIFP) for the OECS region. This TIFP is geared toward (a) the aggregation and analysis of trade statistics and (b) the collection, management and publication of relevant trade-related information from each Protocol Member State. The portal will also serve to enhance and support the functioning of the OECS Customs Union and the Eastern Caribbean Economic Union (ECEU) as well as monitor the performance therein. The development activities are being conducted by the International Trade Commission (ITC) and the portal is expected to be completed by December 2021. Effective January 2022, comprehensive real-time information will be accessible to traders, policy makers, academia, and other interested parties on import, export and transit procedural requirements. 

Coupled with the development of this portal, the initiative has sought to embark on the development of a Private Sector Trade Engagement Strategy. This strategy will serve to broaden and deepen the engagement of the private sector in the development, negotiation, implementation and evaluation of national, regional and international trade policy as well as in strategic discussions on trade-related issues. It is anticipated that the strategy will take into account the diverse views and aspirations of all the relevant actors in the region and increase opportunities for private sector participation in the trade policy and decision-making mechanism in the ECEU. It is expected that Calls for Proposals will be published in September 2021.

As noted, there is a lot of expectations on this OECS action. Many opportunities exist on the horizon for persons to access valuable information, enhance academic capabilities as well as contribute to the development of select initiatives toward the advancement of the Economic Union.

Programme funded by European Union at the request of the Organisation of African Caribbean and Pacific States - Implemented by AESA CONSORTIUM