President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Justice Adrian Saunders on Monday said regional free trade provisions are meant to support the Caribbean private sector.
But if business persons believe they aren’t adequately benefitting or if they believe those free trade provisions are being contravened, then Justice Saunders encourages persons to take their grievances to the regional court.
Justice Saunders spoke at a business breakfast hosted by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) at the Marriott Hotel in Kingston, Georgetown.
At that meeting, the CCJ President posited that the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), which promotes free trade within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), is expected to be private-sector driven.
And according to him, the CSME would work more effectively if the private sector were to “test it” by seeking redress for grievances. Doing so can involve the CCJ.
“We’re in a different regime so there’s just no scope to sit by and to see your rights being compromised, if you think they are being compromised by the decisions of a state and grumble about it.
“The Court is there to receive applications and to process those applications,” Justice Saunders highlighted.
Justice Saunders explained that CCJ, in its original jurisdiction, can adjudicate matters under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which is CARICOM’s central treaty that, among other things, caters for the CSME.
But of the 37 pronouncements the Court has made in its original jurisdiction, only seven of those have come from or involved Guyana.
With Guyana expected to ramp up its trade within the region in coming years, the CCJ Judge said the local private sector should be more aware of the rights afforded to them under the treaty. And they must be aware of the ways they can seek redress, including using the CCJ.
“…. The more cases that are brought, the wider the volume of jurisprudence gets and the more the people of the community build up a culture of respect for the rules of the game,” he said.
At the business breakfast, private sector players seemed keen on this.
Reference was made to Guyana’s long standing honey export issue with Trinidad and Tobago. A decades-old law in that country, the 1935 Beekeeping and Bee Products Act, blocks the transshipment of honey originating outside the Windward and Leeward Islands.
Private sector players have long complained that this violates the CSME and the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Director of External Trade at CARICOM’s Secretariat’s Directorate of the Caribbean Single Market and Trade, Dr. Chantal Ononaiwu acknowledged the concerns raised but said there are other avenues to address the matter.
She noted that taking matters to the CCJ is an option that exists but added the Good Offices process with the CARICOM Secretary General, arbitration and other engagements can all be used to resolve the honey issue and other matters too.