The primary objective of the meeting was to establish a general framework and a schedule for negotiations of a Partial Scope Agreement between Belize and the United Mexican States.
Today we sat down with CEO in the Ministry of Trade, Investment Promotion, Private Sector Development and Consumer Protection Michael Singh, who is also a member of the Belize Trade Delegation. He told us that while the negotiations are going amicably, the two countries expressed fundamental differences in their approach at these negotiations:
“Well, what we did in Mexico was to set a timeline. Normally, the way these agreement work is through a lot of protocol involved where we really have to be very specific as to what the timetable will be; what are the principles upon we will negotiate we have to look at the structure among many of the Trade Agreements. We proposed that we do a partial scope agreement. They would like to do a free trade agreement”.
Reporter Emanuel Pech: “Sir, is there any particular agreement for the different point of views; Mexico wants to do a Free Tade Agreement while Belize wants to do a partial scope agreement”.
CEO Michael Singh: “They don’t have in their mechanism for a partial scope. So, it would be something that they would have to modify. So, what is their proposal is that we do a Modified Trade Agreement, which is already accommodated in their law where we can get some assymetrical treatment that we are looking for”.
According to CEO Michael Singh, the agenda that the Belize Trade Delegation is proposing is aimed at opening the border for Belizean products to access Mexican markets
CEO Michael Singh: “The hope that we have is that we open the market for Belizean goods to be able to access Mexican markets (again) on an asymmetrical basis, which means that Belize would either have a time advantage or a tariff advantage or it could be both, where Belize would have access of markets that we don’t have right now, through reduced tariffs of what they call fito-sanitary issues. It could be reduction of what they call technical barriers whether it is just procedural. All those things would then open a market for Belize to access on an asymmetrical basis, giving us a time advantage, say ten years, twenty years…whatever it is that we negotiate together into our goods into the Mexican market”.
However, it is much more complicated than opening our borders since Belize has a negative Trade balance with Mexico not only due to the large influx of imported goods but also due to the large number of Belizeans that buy goods in Quintana Roo, Mexico, .
CEO Michael Singh: “On the other hand, we have to be on the defensive over the items that would come to compete against those products. Clearly, we cannot just open our borders for the Mexican goods to come freely. We have to give a period of time for application for zero-tariffs for Mexican goods. There are two reasons: we have too fragile industries in Belize that we have to ensure that we are able to compete at such point in time that we do allow parallel access. Secondly, we have to look at the impact at the government revenue, because as we reduce tariffs to zero, it means that the revenue that Belize earns from those imports, will be eliminated”.
In other words they are very fragile negotiations that could either benefit Belize or place Belize in a very vulnerable position since Mexico could easily saturate Belize’s market with certain products.
Nevertheless, according to CEO Michael Singh, he has confidence in capabilities of the Belize Trade Delegation. It is envisioned that the negotiations will conclude in August of this year.