BRADLEY Felix, Minister for Commerce, International Trade and Consumer Affairs yesterday addressed public concerns over the recent increase of prices in consumer goods. The increase comes after the January 1st “Implementation of the Extended Article 164 Regime of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.”
“I am here to address some misconceptions as it relates to the implementation of Article 164,” Minister Felix began.
“Unfortunately, Article 164 seems to have gotten a bad rap, not sure from what sector. We must note that the true intention of Article 164 was to protect our local industry. Article 164 was never meant, in any form or fashion, to have a price increase on goods that would affect the average individual,” the Minister said.
Felix emphasized that the intention of Article 164 was to enhance the competitiveness of local manufacturers and that of Less Developed Countries (LDC) within CARICOM by imposing tariffs on imports of like products from the More Developed Countries (MDC).
The article currently covers 15 product groups across 36 tariff lines for a specified period of time. Two out of the 15 are curry powder and pasta and they will be affected by the tariffs for a period of five years. The remaining 12 products will be affected for a 10-year period and they include flour; aerated waters; malt; beer; stout; animal feed; oxygen and carbon dioxide; acetylene; paraffin wax-candles; domestic solar water-heaters; paint and vanishes. All 15 product groups are currently manufactured in Saint Lucia.
Because of the implementation of Article 164, prices of a number of goods outside the 15 product groups were also affected by tariff lines due to their classification. The minister stressed that this was not the intention of the article.
To address this issue, Felix stated, “The intention is that we will be going to Cabinet to suspend a number of these other products until we can address this from a quoted level.”
In the meantime, the Department of Consumer Affairs will monitor the price changes of products covered by Article 164 to ensure that only products within that bracket are impacted by the regime.
The Minister reiterated that the goal of article 164 was to give local manufacturers the competitive edge against foreign manufacturers. He also indicated that the article also ensures that the goods produced by local manufacturers are of the best quality and highest standards.
The Minister remarked, “I have every confidence in what is manufactured locally. I have visited the various plants which fall under my purview and I am very satisfied with the process. I have every confidence that what is produced locally is of a high standard.”
The Minister said that it was important to build a diversified and resilient economy and that is why the government was so committed to improving Saint Lucia’s productive capacity by supporting the manufacturing sector.
On that note, the Minister stated, “One of our main foreign exchange earners is the tourism industry. Even now we recognize how fickle that industry can be with the advent of Covid-19. It is a responsible government that must ensure that we continue to put focus on other sectors, in particular our manufacturing sector.”