Michael Roberts is part of a World Trade Organization delegate

A two-member delegate from the World Trade Organization (WTO) is presently on the island to meet with stakeholders to hold discussion geared towards a more intimate understanding of the impact of natural disasters on the ability of Member States to trade.

The delegation consists of Head of the Aid-for-Trade Unit, Development Division at the WTO Michael Roberts, and Consultant Dr. Masahiko Haraguchi.

On April 26, 2018, the Government of Dominica presented a Statement detailing the impact of Hurricane Maria on its ability to contribute to the global trading arena at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After that, a symposium was held in Geneva to explore the relationship between trade and natural disasters.

Speaking at a press conference held at the Ministry of Trade, Energy and Employment conference room on Monday, Roberts said that trade plays an extremely important role in the economy of Dominica.

“A lot more needs to be done to be able to understand the trade impact from natural disasters, particularly small economies such as that of Dominica,” he said.

He went on to say that more needs to be done to understand the economic and trade impacts, particularly for smaller economies.

“That’s really the work we will be doing here in the next couple of days and we can try to sort of understand it in three key dimensions,” he explained. “One, the role trade plays in the immediate response in an actual disaster… then the commercial relationships, re-establishing those commercial relationships…and the final point, I think, is that of the role that trade can try to play in economic resilience.”

Meantime, Director of Trade Matthan J. Walter believes strongly that strengthening a country’s trade regime before a natural disaster can result in the increase of this country’s resilience to them.

“Some proactive measures which can be taken include, but not limited, to more liberalized sectors within our services schedules…taking more commitment, liberalizing more of our service sectors,” he stated.

He said further that this can allow for greater provision of much needed services such as, “medical services, insurance and ITC, improve custom procedures to allow the procedures to be cost-effective, to allow them to be timely, to allow of ease of movement of goods across bothers and consistent international standards effected here on island in a thrust to develop disaster resilience infrastructure.”

Walter mentioned also that this intervention by the WTO is not only timely, but necessary, “if we are to move forward in a manner that allows us to more speedily recover from natural disasters.”

He pointed out that disasters cannot be avoided they are there and it seems that they are going to become worse, “so we have to put measures in place to mitigate against them and at the same time when it is over to very quickly recover.”