PS: Barbados' trade sanctions on TT a breach of Caricom Treaty
BY RIA TAITT www.newsday.co.tt
No one needs to remind Barbados Prime Minister Owen Authur that trade sanctions, such as those being contemplated by Barbados on Trinidad and Tobago, are in breach of the Caricom treaty, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Patrick Edwards stated yesterday. He said Arthur was aware of the fact that under the revised Treaty, goods of Trinidad and Tobago origin are allowed to enter any member state free of duty. In a departure from protocol, Government's response to the Barbados Prime Minister's recent pronouncements came through the public servants. Three technocrats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a news conference to update and inform the media on the technical aspects of the fishing agreement. But they were placed in the invidious position of having to answer political questions, arising out of Arthur's threats to impose duties on Trinidad and Tobago's exports to Barbados.
In an apparent criticism of Arthur, Edwards said Trinidad and Tobago would, as a matter of policy, use quiet diplomacy to resolve the fishing dispute. "We do not believe that diplomacy should be practiced over the airwaves or the media," he said. Saying that Government would adhere "scrupulously to the traditional norms of diplomatic propiety and behaviour," he stressed: "We are not going to be running around and shouting, putting things in the media." "If the Government of Barbados deems it in their interest to pursue a particular course and operate in a particular way, so be it. We in Trinidad and Tobago would also operate in a manner that would preserve and protect the interests of Trinidad and Tobago and our business community. But we would not be following that sort of behaviour or operating in a manner which we think is not in the interest of Trinidad and Tobago," he stated. Gerald Thompson, Chief Technical Advisor, referring to the arrest of the Barbados fishermen last week, said during the negotiations over the fishing agreement it was made clear to Barbados that there would be no moratorium on the arrest of fishermen operating illegally in Trinidad and Tobago waters.
But he said Trinidad and Tobago could not act "pre-emptively" in responding to Arthur's threats (of sanctions). He said the (political) authorities in Port-of-Spain would have to decide how to respond if Arthur made good these threats. He said the issues separating both sides included the number of boats, the length of boats, the duration of the season, the quantum of the access fee which each vessel is required to pay and the issue of the purchase of fish by Barbados fishermen from Tobago fishermen. Thompson said that the flying fish was a very vulnerable resource and Government decided as a matter of policy that no "undue pressure" should be put on the national resources. This is why it wanted to limit the size of the fishing boat.
Thompson said Government also wanted the fledgling fishing industry in Tobago to develop. It therefore proposed that Barbados fishermen be allowed to fish from February 1 to July 31st, giving Tobago fishermen an opportunity to do some fishing at the start of the season, which begins from November 1. Although there was "sporadic contact," the discussions for a new fishing agreement (following the expiration of the last one in 1991) officially started in 2002, Thompson said. There have been four rounds, the first started in March 2003. He said there has been "movement" or progress with each round and he had confidence in the negotiation process. The fifth round begins in Port-of-Spain at the end of this month.
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