Hon. Wendy Phipps, Minister of International Trade, Industry & Commerce announced on Thursday February 18, 2021 in Parliament that the government has now applied 40% Tax on imported Brown Sugar, which will significantly increase the cost.
This announcement follows the lawsuit settlement with Belize last month. Belize had sued St. Kitts and Nevis, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and CARICOM, alleging that these ++*-CARICOM member states were importing brown sugar from countries outside the Single Market without imposing the 40% Common External Tariff (CET) in 2019. Belize alleged that because of this treaty violation, Belize Sugar Industries Ltd. (BSI) and Santander Sugar were losing sales to these countries. It was also alleged that the CARICOM Secretariat had failed to ensure that the CET was imposed by St. Kitts and Trinidad & Tobago, which by extension facilitated trade by the two respondents in which they did not apply the CET.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis began discussions with Belize on a possible out-of-court settlement following news of the lawsuit. After targeted negotiations led by the Office of the Solicitor General, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration and BSI, St. Kitts and Nevis and Belize reached an out-of-court settlement on conditions satisfactory to Belize.
This out-of-court settlement is a major victory for the sugar industry of Belize, which has been disadvantaged by imports of sugar from non-CARICOM sources, including Guatemala, as this sugar is displacing regionally produced sugar from the CARICOM Single Market. The sugar industry is now assured that it will get the trade policy support that it is entitled under the Revised Treaty, including application of the CET, and a renewed opportunity to fully enter the market of Saint Kitts-Nevis.
The case continues in the Caribbean Court of Justice against the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and CARICOM.