Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative to the WTO David Shark at the Second WTO Trade Policy Review of Suriname
World Trade Organization
June 10, 2013
*As Prepared for Delivery*
During its first TPR in 2004, Suriname indicated that the decision to participate in the TPR process had not been easy – but that it recognized its commitments under the WTO. Hopefully its first TPR provided a valuable opportunity for Suriname to both recognize its accomplishments and provide further insights into its regime. We recognize that Suriname faces added challenges with regards to its participation in the TPRs and other WTO activities given that Suriname does not maintain a permanent mission in Geneva. We therefore commend Suriname on its willingness to engage with the Secretariat and Members and appreciate its participation today.
Turning to developments since its last TPR, we note that Suriname enjoyed solid economic growth rates averaging five percent from 2005 until the financial crisis in 2008. Suriname’s intensive participation in the world economy contributed significantly to these growth rates as well as to Suriname’s recovery from the crisis. As the Secretariat stated, trade clearly plays an important role in an economy with imports and exports equal to 100 percent of GDP. Further, according to the Secretariat’s report, while Suriname experienced setbacks to its exports and its economy during the financial crisis, Suriname’s merchandise export strength supported a steady current account surplus from 2006 through 2012 and merchandise exports have more than doubled during this period, along with Suriname’s GDP. We note that the sectors in which Suriname’s services imports are concentrated – transport and engineering – further enable and support Suriname’s merchandise exports.
The United States and Suriname enjoy a solid trade and investment relationship. The Secretariat reports that the United States imported approximately 10.7 percent of Suriname’s exports in 2011. In the review period, Suriname exports to the United States, led by minerals and fish exports, increased by 75 percent, and U.S. exports to Suriname increased by 71 percent. The Secretariat reports that the United States is also among the top four sources of foreign direct investment in Suriname.
The United States commends Suriname on its efforts to expand trade flows and further integrate its economy into the world market. The Caribbean Community establishes the groundwork for the CARICOM Single Market and related commitments on competition policy, services, transport policy and agricultural policy, among others. Suriname’s participation in CARICOM is therefore a significant step towards improved trade flows within CARICOM and with third countries. Enhanced integration within the Caribbean is key to Suriname’s and other Caribbean countries’ effective integration in global markets. Suriname’s participation in the European Partnership Agreement with CARIFORUM further demonstrates Suriname’s long-term commitment to an open trade regime. However, as CARICOM reduces internal barriers among its members, we urge Suriname to also keep in mind its WTO commitments, in particular with regards to its WTO bound rates. For example, we are concerned by the statement in the Secretariat report that nine percent of Suriname’s tariff lines are above its bound rates.
The United States commends Suriname on the reforms undertaken since its last review. In that regard, we support the establishment of the Suriname Standards Bureau (SSB), but would also encourage Suriname to notify the SSB to the WTO as an enquiry point as soon as possible. We also look forward to learning more about the important improvements to the port in Paramaribo, which the Secretariat indicates has considerably reduced the time needed for ports and terminal handling.
We note the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s objective “to improve doing business” in Suriname. However, while Suriname has made noteworthy strides to improve its trade regime in recent years, there are areas that pose a significant challenge to this stated objective. As the Secretariat indicated, both the investment law and customs laws would benefit from being updated. We encourage Suriname to adopt and implement a modernized customs law to improve customs efficiencies and amplify the benefits realized by the investment that has already been made in the Paramaribo port. We would also be interested in learning about Suriname’s reasons for recently establishing new preshipment inspection requirements.
The protection of intellectual property is another critical area of legislation that has not kept pace with Suriname’s development. Intellectual property protection falls short of Suriname’s TRIPS commitments, international standards, and Suriname’s other reforms to improve the business climate, attract foreign investment and diversify the economy. Effective protection of intellectual property underpins a secure and rules-based business friendly climate.
We submitted written questions which highlight our concerns in this area, as well as a few other areas where we would appreciate further information. We thank Suriname for its responses, which we are reviewing carefully.
In closing, we would like to emphasize that we value our trade and investment relationship with Suriname and value the opportunity to work with Suriname both bilaterally and within the WTO to facilitate trade and investment between our two countries. We continue to hope that the Government of Suriname finds value in this important process. We thank the delegation of Suriname for its participation in this review, and welcome the opportunity to engage with Suriname and other delegations in a discussion of Suriname’s trade and investment regime.