August 14, 2009
CCJ dismisses TCL claims against Caricom


In an historic ruling delivered on Monday, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) dismissed claims by Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) against Caricom’s decision to suspend the Common External Tariff (CET) on cement imports.{{more}}

At the court’s Henry Street, Port of Spain, Trinidad headquarters, president of the CCJ Justice Michael de la Bastide granted TCL a declaration that Caricom be ordered to pay 50 per cent of TCL’s legal costs.

The matter involved TCL and Guyana over the removal of CET taxes on imported cement.

Arguments were heard on March 31 and April 1, where TCL challenged the decision of Caricom Secretary General Dr Edwin Carrington to grant the suspension of the CET on cement in Jamaica and also the decision of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) to suspend the CET on cement in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.

During the case, it was noted that Carrington received a formal request from Jamaica for the suspension of the CET on cement for the period September 10, 2008, to September 9, 2009.

After seeking feedback from other member states, Carrington received a “no objections” response from the competent authority in Trinidad and Tobago and authorisation for the suspension of the CET was subsequently granted.

TCL complained that it was not consulted before the decision was made.

TCL claimed compensation for loss of income suffered in its capacity as 80 per cent shareholder in its TCL Guyana subsidiary in the amount of US$532,214 for the period January to December 2007 and continuing.

The CCJ declared that Carrington was wrong to accept as sufficient answer to his enquiry the response of Trinidad and Tobago that it had “no objections” to Jamaica’s request.

Apart from the declaration on Carrington’s procedures, the CCJ dismissed all other claims for relief made by TCL and highlighted that TCL acted properly in bringing the action before the CCJ.

Attorneys led by former St Lucian prime minister Dr Kenny Anthony, along with Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan represented Caricom, while the Jamaican government was represented by attorneys Douglas Leys and Candice Rochester.

Senior Counsel Dr Claude Denbow, along with Donna Denbow and Kelvin Ramkissoon, represented TCL.

In an initial response to the decision yesterday, TCL Group Investor Relations and Corporate Communications manager Alan Nobie said the company would immediately be reviewing the judgment in consultation with its attorneys for further insight to the basis for the ruling, but was heartened by the fact that it provided for procedural clarity in relation to the decision-making process pertaining to waivers of the CET.(Trinidad and Tobago Express)