During the second day of the National Export Awareness Week 2020, the significance of Curaçao’s prospective independent membership within the WTO (World Trade Organization) was a noteworthy discussion. Curaçao’s membership in this organization is important for several reasons:
1. The WTO creates a level playing field for international trade.
2. The WTO’s multilateral trading system provides the basic principles for international, regional, bilateral, and common market trade agreements.
3. It provides the opportunity to build international trade knowledge, adopt best practices, and build capacity for export.
4. The WTO’s multilateral trading system provides a system of special and differential treatment for developing countries, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Curaçao.
5. The WTO Community grants Curaçao access to an extensive network of high-level connections in all relevant countries and regions of the world.
But Curaçao can only fully take advantage of these benefits if its trade delegation identifies the benefits and interests early on. These benefits and interests should also be reflected in their negotiating strategy and must also be favorably disposed to the island’s national export strategy. An assessment of the trade-related legislation and practices must also be carried out to determine Curaçao’s conformity to WTO rules. And, perhaps most important of all, a study must be conducted on how to improve Curaçao’s economic resilience through WTO in the post-COVID-19 world.
How services can transform the future of Curaçao was also given ample attention. The example of Ecuador was mentioned. In that country, services export was namely made an important part of their development strategy. Several countries in the Caribbean have also established services coalitions to support the development of the non-traditional services sector in the Caribbean region. A coalition like this would be a good instrument for Curaçao to promote its services sector, thus diversifying through structured service provision and export of services.
Another important topic of the day was import substitution, which is a strategy under trade policy that limits or reduces the import of foreign products and encourages production in the domestic market. The purpose of this policy is to change the economic structure of the country by replacing some foreign goods with domestic goods.
Import substitution has several advantages: employment creation, import reduction, and savings in foreign currency that in the end reduce the pressure on foreign reserves and the payment balance. For Curaçao, increased import substitution will lead to a reduction in foreign currency expenditure.