Brown Sugar Challenge CCJ Decision

The Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) notes with interest the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the case taken by Belize against Trinidad and Tobago for alleged non-application of the Common External Tariff (CET) on brown sugar entering T&T from extra regional sources. Non-payment of the 40% CET on imported extra-regional brown sugar is a direct violation of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC). SAC saw distortions in the regional sugar market and started collecting data to track sugar flows, particularly, into the region. After analyzing and sharing the information, collected over the past three years, and recognizing the downward trends in the market, Belize saw the need for a legal challenge.

The CCJ ruled that the evidence presented to support the claim was insufficient to shift burden to T&T. Much of the evidence submitted by Belize had come directly from websites containing exact information of shipment details and was supported in some instances with copies of Bills of Lading. In the hearing Trinidad showed that they had not diligently followed up on the evidence provided. However, the Court said it would not recognize the evidence from Belize since it was unauthored. In the end, Belize did not press the claim for compensation, since it was difficult to prove potential losses, but signaled that it was content for the Court to provide a firm ruling on the requirement for member states to properly enforce the CET.

SAC commends the Court for this statement. SAC believes that if the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) will not work for sugar, it will not work for anything. SAC producers have noticed increasing opportunities to market their brown sugars within CARICOM as a result of this case and will continue to monitor carefully extra regional imports and community pricing. Protection of the brown sugar market as set out in the RTC is one small contribution to maintaining the regional sugar industry’s viability.

After the CCJ announcement, SAC Chairman R. Karl James said, “This case highlighted the lost opportunity in the CARICOM market for regional sugar producers and signals to everyone that SAC will continue to actively monitor the CARICOM markets sugar flows.” He continued, “SAC views the CCJ decision’s statement on the CET as a call for CARICOM Member States to honor the policies set out in the RTC, and let the CSME work as envisioned to the benefit all Member States.”

SAC also implores the Community to operationalize the Monitoring Mechanism agreed at the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) for regional sugar flows that will help to provide veracity to the CSME policies regarding sugar.

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