The implementation of the new tax rate on aerated beverages by the Customs Department that will significantly affect traffickers did not take place on March 1 as expected as government seeks a meeting with regional Trade Ministers to review the rates.
This was disclosed by Minister for Economic Development, Planning Trade and Cooperatives, Oliver Joseph who is the elected Member of Parliament for the Constituency of St. David.
The traffickers have expressed fears that the proposed 70% rate on aerated beverages and 40% on aerated water can force them out of business.
Hundreds of Grenadian traffickers depend on the importation of goods mainly soft drinks and foodstuff from Trinidad and Tobago for their livelihood.
A group of traffickers approached this newspaper and expressed fears that government was taking action against them in order to protect the interests of local manufacturers of soft drinks and other beverages.
Minister Joseph told reporters that a meeting with the traffickers revealed that the problem is not to pay the tax but the amount that has to be paid.
He said in order to get a change of the rates, it must be decided upon by all of the Lesser Developed Countries (LDC’s) of the region based on the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
“We’re into a free trade arrangement where all goods produced in Caricom should enter duty free. However, this article says in instances where the LDC’s are negatively affected by the imports of MDC’s, the LDC’s can come to the Council for Trade and Economic Development and seek a suspension in order to apply duty”, he said.
“You’re not supposed to apply duty but if you want to apply duty you must go to the Council for Trade and Economic Development with a list of products and say on this list you want to apply duty,” he added.
According to Minister Joseph, this is not a decision to be made solely by Grenada on the issue of the lowering the rate of the tax to be imposed on the traffickers.
He said: “When we met with them (traffickers) they asked us to review the rates but we cannot do it on our own as I said because it’s not a Grenada decision, to do any amendment to the rate we must go back to the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) and we have to go back as a group”.
The senior government minister disclosed that he has written to the Director General of the OECS asking for a meeting to be held via video conference where all the OECS members could discuss the matter.
“So the implementation date has been delayed, we have not implemented it on the 1st of March as we had planned to – we will only implement it after we reach the common solution with the rest of the OECS,” he remarked.
Minister Joseph assured traffickers that after the COTED meeting involving the various Trade Ministers, they will be informed of the decision arrived at on the tax rate.