Gov't ordered to reverse cement tax increase

GOVERNMENT has been told to reverse a decision to increase the import duties for cement to 50 per cent.

The order came from the Caribbean Court of Justice on Friday as it ruled on an interim measure application by local cement importer Rock Hard Distributors and its St Lucia-based parent company.

The interim measure means that the five per cent Common External Tariff on imported cement remains in place until the court determines Rock Hard’s challenge of the increase on import duties.

In reading out the court’s order, Justice Jacob Wit said the Government “shall not enforce the statutorily rate of duty applicable' on other hydraulic cement, as far as it exceeds the Common External Tariff (CET) of five per cent.”

Wit also ordered Rock Hard to indemnify the Government as well as Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) against any loss or damage sustained by them if it can be proven at the substantive trial that the loss was caused by the interim measure.

A case management hearing of the matter on March 3.

CCJ judges Jacob Wit, Winston Anderson and Maureen Rajnauth- Lee heard arguments on the interim order this month.

Rock Hard has applied for special leave to start proceedings against the Government of TT to have reviewed the decision of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) of Caricom to grant TT’s request to suspend the Common External Tariff (CET) of five per cent on imports of other hydraulic cement and impose the 50 per cent rate, starting January 1.

It has also applied for the hearing of the originating application to be expedited and asked for an interim injunction to restrain TT from imposing the new rate.

Rock Hard filed a similar challenge in the High Court, which is expected to be heard later this month.

Apart from the imposition of the 50 per cent duty on cement imports for one year, the Ministry of Trade, on December 7, 2020, announced it was introducing an import licensing regime, a registration system as well as a three-year quota restricting cement imports with 75,000 tonnes in the first year.

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