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Importer wants CET on cement suspended
In the midst of the increase of the retail price of cement, a request has been made to the Ministry of Trade for the Common External Tariff (CET) to be waivered. According to a government source, Howard John, chief executive officer, Global Materials Incorporated Management, last week applied to the Ministry of Trade for the 15 per cent CET on cement to be suspended for the next two months. This would, in effect, lead to a reduction in retail cement prices locally as it would open up the market to other players to import cement. TCL is the only manufacturer of cement in the Caricom region. Its monopoly of supplies to the region is maintained by the 15 per cent CET. TCL produces cement from plants in Barbados, Jamaica and T&T.
The issue of the suspension of the CET on cement is expected to be discussed at a meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (Coted) at the end of March. Coted is a meeting of ministers of trade or economic development.
“John argued in the letter that he is not getting cement from TCL at the price he would normally get it and the market is at a different place. He justified it by saying that he is looking out for the interest of the consumer. The irony is that TCL has been trying for quite a long while to get the CET increased. This is to make it difficult for other competitors to get into the market,” the source stated. However, the official stated that getting the CET suspended is not a straighforward issue. The official said even if T&T were to go and ask for suspension of the CET, Barbados and Jamaica could supply that cement shortfall and they could object to the suspension. The government source referred to the Treaty of Chaguaramas and reasons given in it for suspension of the CET in Article 83.
The CET can be suspended or altered by Coted for three reasons:
• A product is not being produced in the Caribbean Community (Caricom)
• The quantity of the product being produced does not satisfy the demand of the Community
• The quantity of the product being produced in the Community is below the Community standards or a standard the use of which is authorised by Coted
“T&T has stopped producing cement, can the cement be supplied from Jamaica and Barbados? If the answer is yes and the governments are convinced, then suspension is okay, if the answer is no, it gets quite complex.” The source also said that TCL may be having discussions with Howard’s company and others. “Whether that is true or not, we will find out in due course. There are other companies now with the wherewithal to import cement,” he said, mentioning the name of a large contractor.
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