Historic presentation of Curaçao at the World Trade Organization
Curaçao’s journey to become an independent member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) started from the establishment of the organization in 1995. In the last three years this desire got more support and, in her quest, to improve economic opportunities for Curaçao, the former Minister of Economic Development Mrs. Giselle Mc William presented a petition for an independent membership during WTO’s General Council meeting last December.
In her presentation, the Minister clarified Curaçao’s interest in becoming an independent member. It was the first time that a minister of Curaçao gave such a presentation for the General Council. Membership of WTO, the world organization that regulates international trade, provides several trade benefits for the island. Besides that, it also creates the passage for Curaçao to realize trade agreements with other countries, especially in the region.
There are very few multilateral organizations like the WTO, with the power to influence international trade. The fact that Curaçao as a small Caribbean island has expressed its interest to become a member has an important strategic value for the WTO. During her presentation for the ‘General Council’ of the WTO, Minister Mc William indicated that Curaçao being a small island in development like St Lucia, the Dominican Republic, and Barbados will continue to take the necessary steps to realize its ambition to integrate economically in the region.
This membership is expected to increase the export of the island, which is an important step to achieve economic growth. The Minister specified that although Curaçao is small, it should have the tools to defend its interests the same way as its kingdom partner located in Europe. The Minister explained that at this moment the European Union (EU) attends the interest of the Netherlands in the WTO. As Curaçao does not form part of the EU, in many cases its interests are different.
A benefit of an independent membership is its effect on the regional economic integration efforts of the island. Curaçao’s integration in regional economic developments can be possible only if it becomes an independent member of the WTO. The international trade legislation is attended on this platform and all the countries in the region handle and trade according to this legal framework. The island has already started negotiations with Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad & Tobago for that matter.
The expression of interest of Curaçao to become an independent member of the WTO shows the relevance of this organization. The WTO has two types of requirements for membership. The country should be completely independent or have a separate customs territory. Curaçao’s access to an independent membership is unique because it’s the first time in the history of the WTO that a country applies as a separate customs territory.
Access to the WTO also means that Curaçao has to structure its trade legislation, policies, quality controls, and information transparency. It must create competitive markets for its companies and investors and improve its services. These are some of the benefits that admission to the WTO will bring about.
WTO gives technical support to governments of countries who apply for membership. In Curaçao, the Ministry of Economic Development (MEO) has already started the process to develop a National Export Strategy (NES) with the support of the International Trade Center (a subsidiary of the WTO and the United Nations).
This will help to prepare the island to enter the international commercial arena as this requires all participating countries to adhere to the WTO trading conditions and regulations which will improve Curaçao’s exports. This is crucial to push the economy of the island forward. The NES is the vehicle to realize this.
During the December meeting in Geneva, the EU asked for more time to study the petition and the United States asked for some details to be able to enhance their support. Trinidad & Tobago and Uruguay immediately gave their support. Curaçao’s delegation at the WTO meeting thanked these countries for their support.
After the meeting, the Curaçao delegation approached the advisors of the USA and the EU to clarify the queries that they had regarding Curaçao’s application.
By February 2020 all the consultations with the countries of interest were ready so that the application of Curaçao to become an independent member was placed on the agenda and was accepted in the General Council of the WTO of March 2020.