CCJ’s integrity in cement saga

CCJ’s integrity in cement saga
Published: 21 October 2009

Since the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) dismissed the case brought against the Caribbean Community by Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) in connection with the application of Caricom’s Common External Tariff (CET) on cement imports in August there have been a few developments of significance.

The court had ruled that while there was a "procedural flaw’’ in the authorisation by the community’s Secretary General and its Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) to suspend the tariff to facilitate cement imports by Jamaica in 2008 from sources other than TCL, it could not find a basis for treating Caricom’s decision as illegal.

COTED, meeting in Barbados earlier this month, considered a set of proposals presented by Caricom’s Secretary General, arising from the court’s observations about guidance when decisions are to be made by ministerial councils.

However, within six weeks of its ruling in favour of Caricom, the CCJ, which serves as a final appellate institution for some community states, and with original jurisdiction for all participating countries in the settlement of trade disputes, was to authorise the Guyana government to reimpose, within 28 days, the CET on cement imported from non-Caricom countries-an action the country had taken some years ago.
TCL, as a regionally-based company, had applied to the CCJ for such an order, contending that since it has the capacity to satisfy the cement needs of Guyana, there was no justification for the government in Georgetown to suspend the CET to permit cement imports from other sources.

By October 15, faced with what head of the presidential secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon, described as its dwindling options, the Guyana government announced that it would abide by the CCJ’s ruling on reimposition of the CET on cement imports from non-Caricom sources.

That decision was to take effect even as this column was being written. However, the case of contempt filed by TCL remains in force and Guyana’s attorney general said that they would respond to the application filed.

Now, therefore, while we await the outcome of the contempt of court matter, the question arises as to whether both parties-Guyana Government and TCL-will consider moving towards a healing process rather than maintain a hostile relationship.