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The Caribbean Court of Justice at Henry Street, Port-of-Spain.

As Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) judges deliberate on the legal action brought by the Government of Belize against the Government of Trinidad and Tobago concerning an alleged violation of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, the Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) has commended the action taken by Belize.

In an official statement issued today, the SAC observes that several times over the past few years, it has red-flagged the issue of T&T failing to apply the Common External Tariff (CET) to brown sugar entering the country from extra regional sources.

The following is the official statement issued by the SAC on the matter…

The Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) commends the Government of Belize for taking action in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) against alleged non-application of the Common External Tariff (CET) on brown sugar entering Trinidad and Tobago from extra regional sources in violation of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC).

Over the last three years, SAC has repeatedly raised its concerns about this practice that has drastically diluted the value and demand of the CARICOM market for regional sugar producers. Lawyers representing the Government of Belize provided evidence of more than 4,000 metric tons of sugar imported without any record of CET being paid. This evidence was underscored by a dramatic fall off in prices for brown sugar during the same period.

Brown sugar.

SAC has long contended that the level of pricing demanded by sugar importers to Trinidad & Tobago as well as some other CARICOM Member States, could not be supportive of full implementation of the CET, which is set at 40% of the CIF value of sugar entering from extra-regional sources.

The Court heard that as the Governments focus on the serious issues confronting the world on dangerous climate increases at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, it is fitting to focus on sugar cane, a regenerative agricultural crop that not only is a significant sequester of carbon but also the source for the production of green, renewable electricity across the region. Most global industries enjoy the benefits of protected domestic and regional markets. Protection of the brown sugar market as set out in the RTC is one small contribution to maintaining this industry’s viability and one that SAC believes should be strictly maintained and enforced.

Commenting on Belize’s decision not to press for compensation for lost opportunity in the regional market, SAC Chairman R. Karl James said:

“This case was not primarily about compensation. It is about ensuring that protections set out in the Treaty, and reinforced by numerous decisions of COTED, are abided by. Otherwise, the CSME would have very little relative value for any of its members.”

The Judges will now consider their decision the evidence and law presented.