The apparent threat to this region's rum industry was high on the agenda when the 42nd Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (External Trade) convened in Port of Spain, last week.
Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment and Minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Economy Vasant Bharath, oversaw the discussions that included what was described as the "pressing 'rum' issue".
The issue: Washington's generous excise-tax rebates that are used to subsidise rum production in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
The Washington-based ambassadors of all 15 Caricom member nations visited Capitol Hill, pleaded their case with the administration, and brainstormed on ways to get US policymakers to pay attention to the impending threat.
On Wednesday during the trade meeting in Port of Spain several options were explored, among them what may be available within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) system.
At the end of the discussions there was a commitment from member countries to return with a final position to the Caricom Secretariat within three weeks following individual country consultation.
The other agenda item was the slow progress of negotiations with Canada for a new Trade and Development Agreement.
"This Agreement is needed to ensure continued preferential market access by regional producers and service providers beyond December 2013. This is important in light of the pending expiration date of the current WTO waiver for the Caricom-Canada Agreement. It was agreed that the Chair will dispatch a letter to the Canadian Minister of International Trade formally requesting a meeting with the Caricom Ministers of Trade," a release stated.
Caricom member states participating in the meeting were Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, Suriname and T&T.