Let me thank the Government of the Dominican Republic and the WTO Secretariat for their Reports and welcome the typically insightful comments of our most distinguished Chair and also our Discussant, Ambassador PAGÁN, Ambassador of the United States of America, fresh from her own nation’s TPR.
Let me start by saying, we commend the Dominican Republic on their GDP growth rates between 2014-2019, exceeding the historical average at 6.2% and that we appreciate the Dominican Republic’s responses to our 18 Advance Written Questions. We were interested to know more about customs procedures, import measures in particular tax stamps, technical requirements, and single investment windows. These highlight the granular interest which we and British companies place in effective trading relations with the Dominican Republic. As with other Members, we also raised questions regarding the agriculture sector, in particular exemptions for import licenses.
The Secretariat’s Report for this TPR indicates that over the review period, the Dominican Republic’s economy had a remarkable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, with a contraction in GDP of almost 7% in 2020 followed by growth of over 12% in 2021.
We were also pleased to note the shift towards sustainable agriculture practices during the review period and how these practices have contributed towards increased food security, rural jobs, and agricultural exports. The UK is keen to hear more about developments within Dominican Republic’s agriculture, health and safety system.
However, as the Secretariat Report also identifies, since their last review, where Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures were deemed unfit there has not been much marked progress, as there is still no centralized mechanism for the preparation of SPS measures. We therefore encourage the Dominican Republic to pay particular attention to these key areas.
We are grateful to the Government of the Dominican Republic for being one of the first countries to ratify the CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement in April 2019. The UK appreciates Dominican Republic’s continued collaboration in the implementation of the CARIFORUM-UK Agreement and we look forward to working together to fully implement all areas of the agreement.
The first meeting of the Partnership’s Trade and Development Committee was held in October 2021, which was an opportunity for parties to provide updates on relevant trade policy developments in the United Kingdom and in the Caribbean region, and to reaffirm their desire for a prompt ratification of the Agreement.
We also discussed matters of joint interest including tariff liberalisation, trade in Goods & Services, and Geographical Indications. The parties noted with satisfaction that the Agreement had secured continuity of a trading relationship worth almost £4 billion in 2021 and expressed their wish to further develop sustainable and inclusive trade.
Turning to exogenous challenges, Members representing Small Island Developing States and Small Vulnerable Economies rightly highlight the increasing threat presented by extreme climactic events.
According to an ongoing research programme by the EU’s Global Climate Change Alliance Plus Initiative, the Dominican Republic is the 11th most vulnerable country to climate change in the world. In a region of intense cyclonic activity, the Dominican Republic is one of the WTO Members most threatened by hydrometeorological events. The impact of these extreme events has provoked economic losses in the order of almost $10 billion, not to mention the impact on human and natural life.
Relatedly, Global Supply Chains, the bedrock of free and fair trade and the conduit to its benefits are also increasingly threatened by extreme weather, from damaged infrastructure to disrupted logistics and the rippling knock-on effects. It’s a reminder that, as a Membership, we must accelerate efforts to modernise the international trading environment, such as through harmonised standards and digitised customs procedures.
We recognise the challenge for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to diversify considering their vulnerability to external shocks and the impacts of climate change and natural disasters. Indeed, SIDS are important partners for the UK. In our International Development Strategy, we set out our vision that SIDS will be more climate and economically resilient by 2030. And we salute the constructive role played by the Dominican Republic in representing the interests of SIDS in a whole range of multilateral fora, in Geneva and beyond.
Just last month, alongside Canada and the Alliance of Small Island Sates, we launched the Principles for Improved Aid Impact in SIDS at the Effective Development Cooperation Summit here in Geneva. We hope that the Principles will be a useful tool in improving the quality of aid and ensuring that development partners align with SIDS’ own priorities.
We look forward to working with the international community to drive action on SIDS climate and economic resilience ahead of the pivotal UN SIDS Summit next year. The UK is committed to delivering the promises of the Glasgow Climate Pact, including action on the scale of finance, considering vulnerability in our finance decisions, and addressing loss and damage.
Chair, to conclude, we wish our colleagues from the Dominican Republic well and a successful 5th Trade Policy Review. Thank you, Ambassador.