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Negotiations, hurricanes and agriculture

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EDITOR: Agriculture in Grenada is totally destroyed; its critical nutmeg industry will need more than a decade to recover! Agriculture is seriously set back in the Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica! {{more}}
The recent recoveries in major agricultural export industries and gains in food security have been virtually erased by Hurricanes Frances and Ivan.
Hurricanes place heavy economic and social burdens on our small and vulnerable economies, and will worsen our agricultural sectors already weakened by trade liberalization.
For the Caribbean, the disruption in economic activity and the destruction of agriculture will lead to significant loss of employment, income and exports. The possible diversion of food, agricultural and other products from commercial trade into food aid and other relief efforts will reduce the region’s purchasing power and food security. A similar diversion of scarce resources from growth-generating investment into recovery efforts will further set back our several weak economies and could stress the support systems of our stronger regional neighbours.
With all this going on, we are still expected to fully engage in the simultaneous World Trade Organization (WTO), Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EU-EPA) negotiations to reduce tariffs on imports, remove protection for domestic industries and reduce support for agriculture. Our ability to support agriculture is already limited, much less to allow us to fully recover from natural disasters.
While the WTO Agriculture Agreement, which explicitly allows support for relief efforts, includes a provision of food aid and assistance to repair environmental damage from natural disasters (Annex 2), we must ensure that these negotiations result in effective support and genuine commitment from the international community to enable our recovery and sustainable growth.
Hurricane Ivan is just the latest cross that we must bear, as a region! It is another wake-up call to solidify regional cooperation for the negotiations. Favourable outcomes in the negotiations are critical to strengthen our own capacity to rebound and “grow” competitive industries, in agriculture and other critically linked sectors, such as tourism, which are central to our economic growth, national security and social stability.

Submitted by I.I.C.A.