Caricom must wade in to defuse growing soap warThursday, December 24, 2020
The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas consisted of 240 articles as well as other rules and schedules. The intent is to define the conditions for good governance in Caricom between the 15 member states as a means to regional integration and to function as a body of unified states. Including in these articles of rules and schedules is the process for trade amongst states in the region.
I read an article in The Gleaner, under the heading 'Caricom Soap War, Round 2 — Jamaican manufacturers lose duty-free access to regional market', dated December 11, 2020. The issue, as I understand it, surrounds a dispute between Jamaican manufacturers of soap and Dominica Coconut Producers Successors Limited (DCPS) of Dominica over the purchasing of soap base raw material and the manufacturing of soap. The contentions are as follows:
1) Jamaica manufactures of soap have lost the battle for duty-free export to the Caricom market. This was successfully argued by the Government of Dominica on behalf of DCPS, the sole producers of soap base raw material products (animal fat and palm oil base noodles, etc) in the Caribbean.
2) DCPS is contending that it has long been held that Jamaican firms were breaching the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which governs trade amongst the 15 member countries.
3) DCPS wants to lock Jamaican companies into buying those raw materials from them, rather than buying from Indonesia. DCPS also bought similar soap base material from Indonesia.
4) DCPS is contending that Jamaican soap producers are not manufacturers, they are traders.
5) One Jamaican soap manufacturer is contending that the soap base material from Dominica is of substandard quality and a shipment bought previously had to be dumped.
6) DCPS was successful in its bid for the Jamaican Government to stop issuing certificates of community origin to Jamaican soap makers who used noodle base sources from outside the Caricom region.
7) Jamaican producers have said that products from Dominica do not allow them to compete competitively in the Caricom market.
I found that in the Treaty of Chaguaramas articles 78, which addresses the trade policy; article 187 which addresses how disputes are to be settled; as well as schedule 111, which deals with the development of the oil and fat sector were most relevant to this dispute and would hope that the process is being allowed to work amicably. However, Jamaican firms have been accused of breaching this treaty over the years.
If this is a fact, why was the breach allowed to continue and has not been addressed. If not a fact, then the relevant body needs to refute the allegation forthwith.
I am alarmed that DCPS can say that Jamaican firms are traders and not manufacturers, and such a statement is not addressed aloud. However, while it is good that the media has highlighted this issue, I would hope, therefore, that the issue(s) will be fully addressed and ratified through the relevant medium and institutions of Caricom as we try to build and sustain a unified region.
It has been stated, however, that the Jamaican Government is examining the issue to prepare a response.
Christopher Bryan has read for master's degrees in government and national security and strategic studies. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.