Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General, CARICOM: Interview

Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General, CARICOM

Interview: Irwin LaRocque

What actions are being taken to remove logistical and institutional barriers to regional trade?

IRWIN LAROCQUE: We are aware that we need to increase regional trade in goods from its current level of approximately 16% of the community’s total trade, excluding substantial trade in services. An Inter-American Development Bank study indicates that trade in goods could be doubled by addressing trade facilitation measures and transport. One of the measures we are taking is the establishment of a database of companies, allowing for matchmaking between buyers and sellers.

Second, steps have been taken to increase transparency and predictability in the conduct of trade, particularly with respect to agricultural products. We have established the Caribbean Animal Health and Food Safety Agency, which will strengthen the sanitary and phytosanitary regime, and the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality to promote standards and quality control. In addition, we are working to identify non-tariff barriers to trade in agricultural goods amongst member states, with a view to having them systemically addressed by the Council for Trade and Development. Third, we are harmonising Customs laws and regulations, which should be completed in the near future. Additionally, data collection to help guide trade policy is being enhanced with the installation of the electronic-based CARICOM Single Market Economy Application Processing System. This will improve our ability to capture information on the movement of goods, services, people and capital, and record data on the establishment of businesses in the single market.

Lastly, recognising the constraints to transport, a commission has been set up to work through the issues of air and maritime travel. Specifically, an agriculture-transport sub-committee is examining the issues involved in shipping agriculture goods across the region.

What is CARICOM’s sustainable energy policy?

LAROCQUE: CARICOM states have adopted an energy policy designed to provide energy sustainability and security. It also provides a direct focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency in the sustainable development of the region. Within that policy is the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy, with defined targets and actions to boost the efficiency with which countries produce, deliver and use energy. It also increases reliance on cost-effective, indigenous, renewable energy sources for electricity generation. Member states have committed to 33% and 47% improvements in energy efficiency and renewable power generation, respectively, by 2027. Some countries have been more aggressive in their strategies. The Eastern Caribbean states are pursuing geothermal energy, which is expected to provide most of their electricity generation. Others have been more conservative, but are nonetheless pursuing energy diversification with wind and photovoltaic energy. This is likely to include replacing more expensive, less sustainable fuels like diesel and fuel oil with liquefied natural gas (LNG), ethane or propane. This will improve predictability of pricing and supply.

How can Trinidad and Tobago contribute to the enhancement of energy capacity in the region?

LAROCQUE: T&T operates one of the three refineries in CARICOM and will continue to be a major regional provider of oil products like fuels and lubricants. The choice by some member states to integrate natural gas in their generation mix also provides an opportunity for T&T to leverage its gas supply and expertise with the proposed pipeline. Its LNG supply provides a basis for the construction of a CARICOM-based gas architecture, and will also shift the dependence of member states pursuing gas strategies from extra-regional to intra-regional. T&T’s commitment to supply gas resources regionally is a key element of this strategy.

A few member states are also exploring potential oil deposits. T&T could use its experience to provide technical assistance, advisory and decision support services to governments, and energy-related services for geology, engineering, legal and business development.

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