According to Caryl Monte
CURAÇAO MUST HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL TRADE FOCUS
To promote an integrated approach towards the international trade relations of Curaçao, the Government of Curaçao instituted the Permanent Commission for International Trade and Foreign Economic Relations by National Decree of September 15, 2017. The Permanent Commission, which reports to the Minister of Economic Development, has the important task of advising the Government of Curaçao on our membership of the World Trade Organization, as well as on certain important international trade and trade cooperation arrangements with regional countries and trading blocks.
The Permanent Commission is a multi-disciplinary government commission that consists of high-level representatives of the following Government ministries and institutions: the Ministry of Economic Development, the Department of Customs, the Directorate of Foreign Relations, the Ministry of Health, Environment & Nature, the Ministry of Labor & Social Affairs, the Bureau for Intellectual Property, the Bureau for Telecommunications & Post and the Fair Trade Authority Curaçao. The Permanent Commission has an independent president in the person of Mr. Caryl Monte, an economic, financial and legal expert specialized in national and international public affairs with a significant track-record in international trade relations and regulations, especially with respect to the position of Curaçao within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the European Union, the Latin-America and Caribbean Region, and the World Trade Organization. Mr. Monte, a former high-level Economic Diplomat with responsibilities for the relations of the former Netherlands Antilles with the European Union in Brussels, the World Trade Organization in Geneva and their member states, leads the large team of carefully selected specialists from the above-mentioned government organizations to place Curaçao on the international and regional trade map.
The most important international trade mandate of the Permanent Commission is to prepare, negotiate and realize an independent membership of Curaçao within the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. In a more regional context, the Permanent Commission has also initiated consultations with several larger regional countries and areas with the objective to prepare and negotiate the necessary bi-lateral trade agreements, as instructed by the Government of Curaçao.
Mr. Monte believes that due to the vulnerabilities connected to its smallness and considering its economic challenges, Curaçao must have an international trade focus. According to Mr. Monte, Curaçao faces many challenges and needs to step up its game plan to be able to increase its exports and consequently its economic base. “We are a small island with a small local market and practically no natural resources, our country has endured severe fiscal challenges in the last decades and our economy has been practically stagnant for more than a quarter of a century.
We are a country which is not a member of any of the regional trade block and which is severely affected by unilateral actions by its larger trading partners and international organizations.“ Furthermore, we face strong regional competition in vital sectors such as tourism and international financial services, and we lack the necessary funding to make bold economic moves. But within these challenges also lie opportunities”, says Mr. Monte. He continues: “Therefore, with coherent long-term policies, we need to enlarge our total market through regional bilateral trade agreements and by developing a vital export sector to export more goods and services to the other relevant markets in the region”. Currently, the export products of Curaçao are eligible for preferential treatment within European Union based on the EU-Decision for Overseas Countries and Territories of its Member States (“the OCT-Decision”), which comes to an end in 2020. Discussions and consultations are currently being held to prepare a new OCT-Decision. In addition, since December 2013, Curacao is eligible for preferential treatment of its export products under two preferential trade arrangements of the Caribbean Basin Initiative of the USA, namely: CBERRA and CBTPA. These trade arrangements of the USA will also be evaluated prior to 2020 and it is uncertain what is going to happen after they come to an end. Therefore, the Permanent Commission will play a key role in advising the Government on the way forward after 2020. In this regard, Mr. Monte indicates: “In any case, the preferential trade arrangements of the European Union and the USA should be supplemented with new trade agreements with other countries in the region. In the new international economic battleground, market enlargement through bi-lateral trade agreements, and participation in regional distribution activities due to continuing massive worldwide growth in E- commerce, may provide exceptional opportunities for small nations such as Curaçao if the proper policies are timely carried out”.
On the final question which the three priorities of the Permanent Commission are, Mr. Monte indicates: “Curacao must be an independent member of the World Trade Organization to properly take care of its international trade agenda in accordance with its status as a developing nation. In addition, because it doesn’t have a large local market, Curaçao must expand its economic base through the conclusion of new bi-lateral trade agreements and the increase of its exports of products and services. Finally, we must learn to see where the international market is going to make sure we don’t lose the connection with what is happening in the world around us. In that regard, we must also learn to adapt quickly to any changes in the preferential trade arrangements with the EU and the USA or face the consequences”.