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Oct 25, 2019

Belize Prepares for UK’s BREXIT

Godwin Hulse

The Senate met in Special Session for about an hour this morning in Belmopan to ratify the Economic Partnership Agreement between the CARIFORUM States and the United Kingdom. This is in preparation for the highly expected exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The EU is expected to agree to the UK’s request for a Brexit delay although it remains unclear whether the new date will be on the thirty-first of January 2020. In any event, lawmakers here in Belize are making sure that trade agreements with the UK remain stable if and when BREXIT occurs. The senate today ratified the economic partnership agreement to secure the agriculture trade with the United Kingdom. Senator for Government Business Godwin Hulse says the agreement mirrors the existing partnership that is shared between the UK and CARIFORUM and the Dominican Republic.

 

Godwin Hulse, Senator for Government Business

“We have a member of the CARIFORUM states which is the whole Caribbean and the Dominican Republic an agreement with the European Union with our trade, fundamentally and I don’t want to get it more complicated than that. That has been working really well for our bananas, citrus, sugar, everything. With the United Kingdom moving out now that agreement will fall away with respect to them but the United Kingdom is one of our biggest trading partners. So we need to mirror the same agreement with the United Kingdom so when they move f they move we continue with business as usual. We don’t know when and if and how they will move or if they will have a referendum. That s not our call but we wanted to be prepared. So the CARIFORUM got together with the UK and negotiated this agreement which as I said mirrors the existing agreement and so each country has to go through their ratification process. In Belize as you the Senate is the authority, it is the institution that ratifies this agreement. Now that we have done this, it is legal in this country, it is the country’s law and we are good to go if and when the UK exits. If they don’t exist we still good to go. If they exist, we good to go.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

Mark Lizarraga, Senator for Private Sector

“I rise as well in support of this treaty before us because we are pre-empting even though today we don’t k now if BEXIT is a yes or no or steer or go because we hear so many things in the news. We don’t know if they are going to a new election or BREXIT is going to be going back to the populace to a referendum but nevertheless but what the Leader of Government Business has expressed s that we have mirrored the existing agreement and we have prepared ourselves in the event. I believe that it is a good thing that we are doing today.”

 

Louis Zabaneh

Dr. Louis Zabaneh, P.U.P. Senator

“I rise to make some short comments. We on this side are in support of this economic partnership agreement. It says no party of signatory CARIFORUM state may introduce any new subsidy program which is contingent upon export or increase any existing subsidy of this nature on agriculture products destined to the territory of the other party. Now there is a footnote that speaks to a annex to the WTO agreement for which we would have needed sometime to go an look carefully at that annex. But as we look at for example what is occurring in our agriculture sector, let’s say we look at what is going on in citrus. Let us say that in the wisdom of the government it is decided that a new subsidy might be necessary to bring the citrus industry back to the level of export that it was at. Then what are the implications here. Those are some of the things that I am sure our experts have looked at but while we read this is a rush manner we don’t have the opportunity on our own accord to be able to get answers.”

 

Godwin Hulse

“The annex referred to the subsidy deals with white sugar. As you would recall there was a WTO ruling with respect to the export of white sugar from CARIFORUM states particularly Belize, Jamaica, and Surinam etc. Because the challenge back by Thailand, Australia and Brazil was successful and the European Union at the time ruled that the preferential price must be discontinued they introduced what is called an accompanying measure for sugar and there was also one for bananas. That accompany ones for sugars ran out by 2017 when we know that the liberation process took place and Poland and those countries in the EU would not be okay to produce sugar again. We were given from 2001 to kind of 2017 to get our act in order and so there all sorts of things in the sugar belt to try and enhance it. As you well know there is going to be no subsidy with respect to Belize sugar any further. In fact we have advanced is so much so that Belize now the leader in the CARICOM region with respect to sugar production.”


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