Barbados’ caution

Barbados is on board with the effort to integrate environmental and trade policies, but Government is wary about the potential negative impact of measures like carbon border taxes.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kerrie Symmonds voiced the concern yesterday while reinforcing the country’s commitment to a global trading system that protects and preserves the environment in accordance with sustainable development, and its support for trade-related actions to address the environmental, health and economic impacts of plastics pollution.

He was speaking on Day 2 of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussion (TESSD) is one of the agenda items at MC13. It focuses on trade and environmental sustainability, complementing the work of other WTO committees and bodies.

Speaking during a TESSD-related press conference, Symmonds said that as a small island developing state vulnerable to the climate crisis, Barbados believed it was important “to associate ourselves with some of the work that TESSD is doing”.

However, he made it clear that “we still feel very strongly in the CARICOM Community, for example, that climate measures in trade have to be treated very cautiously.

“We are still very wary, for example, of the emergence of carbon border taxes. While one understands the environmental concern, one is afraid of the glacial creep. It begins there, but where does it end? What we do not want is a new form of protectionism to arise,” he cautioned.

The minister also stressed the importance of countries like Barbados being able to afford the introduction of measures to mitigate the negative effects of climate change.

He pointed to the Barbados-led Bridgetown Initiative “to have reform of the Bretton Woods institutions, the financial institutions, so that they become more fit for purpose.

“It means that they are in a better position to respond to some of the needs of small states such as ours, particularly with respect to climate financing and the granting of financing for vulnerable economies.”

Symmonds said these and related issues “are things that can only be treated to if you are at the table engaging in the give and take of the conversation and negotiating in the best interest of the various states involved”.

Yesterday at MC13, Barbados, Australia, China, Ecuador, Fiji and Morocco, as the six co-coordinators of the Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade, issued a ministerial statement which “outlines trade-related actions to address the environmental, health and economic impacts of plastics pollution”.

Symmonds told a separate press conference on this matter that Barbados was conscious of the need “to avoid ocean pollution because ocean pollution by plastics often leads to contamination and suffocation of the very delicate coral reef ecosystem.

“Beyond that, there is the danger, which is consequently caused upon the death and destruction of the coral reefs and that ecosystem, of the destruction of low-lying coastal communities and the reduction of the ability of persons who live in those areas to have a sustainable livelihood,” he said.

“Beyond that, there is the question of the fact that there is no land for us to appropriately dispose of plastics.”

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