On Friday 10 May, Director of Trade of Dominica, Matthan J. Walter, delivered comments on behalf of the Commonwealth of Dominica at the Third Symposium on Trade and Natural Disasters organised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Mr. Walter spoke on the topic “Impacts of Natural Disasters on Trade – Dominica Post Hurricane Maria”.
In his remarks, Mr. Walter highlighted the severe impact that Hurricane Maria had on Dominica, having caused damage in excess of 220% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While acknowledging the debilitating impact on the island, Mr. Walter also emphasised that the focus has since been on recovery and rebuilding. In particular, he noted that the Government has developed a commitment to make Dominica the first climate resilient island in the world. In this regard, Mr. Walter noted that the Government has been rebuilding and renovating homes to ensure resilient housing; creating specially constructed emergency centres; improving the communications infrastructure; strengthening and modernising the Air and Sea Port Authority; improving the readiness of the Customs and Excise Division; and supporting the agricultural sector to implement measures for disaster risk reduction.
Mr. Walter made several recommendations to the WTO to assist small island developing states such as Dominica to boost their resilience and respond to natural disasters. Mr. Walter called on the WTO membership to give consideration to special derogations for developing countries to suspend certain WTO obligations to assist with disaster recovery efforts; to allow for certain types of prohibited subsidies to be provided to relevant sectors and to apply variable tariffs on imports to sectors dislocated in the aftermath of natural disasters.
The symposium was attended by senior officials of the WTO Secretariat, academia and senior government officials from WTO Membership.
During his time in Geneva, Mr. Walter also participated in sessions of the WTO General Council – the organisation’s highest-level decision-making body, including a special session which was addressed by the United Nations Secretary General.