Dec 14, 2018 Last Updated 3:27 PM, Dec 12, 2018

CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica has urged the  ‘head on’  tackling of complex issues during the Special CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting on the CSME, taking place in Trinidad and Tobago.

The two-day meeting, which wraps up on Tuesday, is addressing the rate of implementation of the CSME and making sure its benefits are available for Community nationals.

“The issues slated for discussion at this Special Meeting of the Conference are of varying complexity,” Prime Minister Holness noted.

“Some will no doubt evoke different, even conflicting views but we must confront them. We must also tackle ‘head on’ the imperatives if we are to make this important regional integration process deliver on its promise,” he urged.

 

 

 

See the Chairman’s full Statement:

I bring greetings on behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica and I welcome this opportunity to say thank you to my colleague, Prime Minister Keith Rowley for the warm hospitality and excellent arrangements that have been put in place for this Special Meeting.

You would all know of course that our colleague, President Granger will not be joining us this morning.  I know it is the wish of all Heads of State and Government and of this entire gathering that our best wishes be conveyed to him, his family and the people of Guyana, for the strength to hasten his recovery and return to full service of the country he loves so well.

Colleagues,
Having just come from the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, where I represented our countries  in the capacity of Chairman-in-Office of CARICOM, I am pleased to report that it was a  fruitful process of engagement.  I had the opportunity to speak in the Plenary to two topics that  are of critical importance to our Community – those being, the issue of the vulnerability of the small developing states of the Caribbean, especially the island states to the effects of  Climate Change and the need for transition to clean and sustainable sources of energy, particularly renewables, mindful among other things of the correlation between extreme climate phenomena and emissions from  the predominant use of fossil fuels.

With specific reference to Climate Change, I was able to have my first meeting with President Macron of France, where we were joined by UN Secretary General Guterres, to discuss the modalities for leading our joint mandate to galvanize the US$100 billion committed almost 10 years ago by developed countries to deal with the issues of adaptation. In our case a parallel urgent need will be the building or resilience.  As we are all painfully aware, the need for developed countries to meet this commitment is of paramount interest to our region and, in fact, to all vulnerable small island developing states.  I will therefore keep you briefed as the process develops.

Colleagues,
Let me now turn to  the business that  has brought us here to Port of Spain. The issues slated for discussion at this Special Meeting of the Conference are of varying complexity.  Some will no doubt evoke different, even conflicting views but we must confront them. We must also tackle ‘head on’ what the imperatives if we are to make this important regional integration process deliver on its promise.

I am, however, encouraged by the fact  that our Community has a long  tradition of dialogue and compromise. For this reason, I remain convinced that our deliberations over these two days will culminate in  unity of purpose and consensus on a strategy to not only expedite the CSME implementation process across Member States but to also to make the CSME more effective.

I will soon conclude my Chairmanship of this Conference of Heads of our 45 year-old Community. I approach the end of my tenure with mixed feelings.  I feel a sense of pride in the renewed energy placed behind efforts to make good on our commitments to our estimated sixteen million citizens.  In some respects, we have sought to simply get things done by following through and implementing some critical decisions with a view to making the mechanisms within CARICOM rational and functional.  However, it cannot have escaped your notice that even with this renewed  energy and additional meetings, that implementation of our decisions remains uneven and less than optimal.

We took the momentum generated at the 39th Regular Session held in Montego Bay to activate work that had lain dormant since 2013.  We also took an important step to respond to the concerns of our Community Nationals that they want and indeed deserve to be treated better and with respect and dignity, when they are denied entry into a Member State.  We adopted the Procedures on the Refusal of Entry, which provide the much needed guarantee that the rights of Community Nationals will be safeguarded when Member States assess that they are undesirable and will be a charge on the public purse. I trust we have all taken the necessary steps to implement the Procedures at our respective ports of entry.

Some of us also demonstrated our firm commitment to ensure that the CSME Regimes not only work for the principal beneficiaries but also their families, through the signature of the Protocol on Contingent Rights.

During the course of this special meeting, we will be expected to push the boundaries even further by addressing other important areas that need our full attention. We will be called upon to examine in more detail lessons that can be gleaned from  the Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks – a Report, commissioned by me with the ultimate goal of not only determining which aspects of our regional engagements have not met their intended objectives to advance the regional integration process, in line with the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, but what changes we should make / what recommitments could ensure that the goals of the CSME be successfully achieved  in the interest of all our peoples.

I am gratified that the Conference, not only welcomed the Report as being an important analytical piece of work, in relation to  the objectives of the CSME but we also agreed that the findings and recommendations in that Report ought to be examined in detail to determine what could be of most benefit to achieving the objectives of Member States and the Community.

In this connection, we will, at this meeting, also be called upon to consider Some Salient Issues for Resolution in CARICOM – a Paper written by our colleague Ralph. As the longest serving Head of Government in our region and as the only Head of Government to have publicly commented on the contents of the CCRC Report shortly after its release, we are appreciative of the insightful  comments of Prime Minister Gonsalves.  We regret that he is not with us for this meeting, but we are sure that his Minister will represent him well presenting additional perspectives on how we can collectively and practically serve the interests of our countries and peoples.

Within the context of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CSME we have, with the determination and ingenuity of Prime Minister Mia Mottley, devised methods to improve stakeholder engagement and help create enabling support measures for a competitive Single Market. We have also begun a process of making radical adjustments to ensure the implementation of our collective trade and economic policies and to secure the consolidation of our single economic space.

But in all of this, we have uneven implementation and a fundamental question of commitment.  I could not close without recognizing the disappointing number of Heads of Government present today given the decision taken in Montego Bay and the expressed decision taken for us to have focused and pivotal discussions at this meeting.  I know that Ministers are undoubtedly empowered to represent their governments, and I welcome you all, but the signal of commitment, is again, less than optimal.

Colleagues,
I anticipate that there will be frank and even spirited discussions on all agenda items,  but  emanating hopefully in  constructive action,   given what is at stake –  a strong and prosperous CARICOM or a body lessening in credibility among the people who we serve. As we all focus on the attainment of the sustainable development goals at the regional level, we must act in concert to ensure that all the people of CARICOM can reap the benefits of regional integration process.

Let our deliberations begin.

By Elizabeth Morgan

THROUGH complacency, poor management and lack of vision the West Indies cricket team is now the sick man of cricket, struggling for a place at the bottom. It is said that the state of cricket in the Caribbean reflects the political, social and economic state of the region.

Since the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas was signed in 2002, complacency, insularity, lack of commitment, and poor management have led to stagnation and discontent in the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Consequently, CARICOM has had many missed opportunities to realise its potential.

CARICOM heads of government will be attending a special meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad, over two days beginning today, December 3. The meeting will be chaired by Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica as the current chair of CARICOM . The priority item on the agenda will be the implementation of the CSME. The decision to convene this meeting was taken at the Caricom Heads of Government Conference held in Montego Bay in July. This conference considered the report of the Bruce Golding Commission on CARICOM and CARIFORUM which was a call for action.

Barbados has lead responsibility for the CSME in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet. New Prime Minister Mia Mottley, in her maiden address, stated her commitment to moving the CSME forward. She demonstrated that commitment by convening a meeting of the Prime Ministerial Subcommittee on the CSME in Barbados in September. She has made her position clear – the countries of CARICOM need to stand together and the time for implementation is now.

It was while attending the CSME meeting in Barbados that the President of Guyana David Granger reiterated his country’s commitment to the regional project and invited member states to join with Guyana as the country embarked on its journey as an oil producer. Granger wants Guyana’s oil to benefit the entire region.

CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque told the 47th Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), on November 16, that budding trade wars, Brexit, and threats to the rules-based multilateral trading system all had implications for Caricom. He stated that agreement on and implementation of regional trade and economic policies assumed greater importance if CARICOM was to safeguard its interest in the global arena and improve the lives of the people of the region. The most important immediate task for the region, as the secretary general saw it, was to advance the implementation of the CSME.

With the background of an uncertain global environment, CARICOM heads will be examining how the CSME can contribute to trade and development. Indeed, with recent developments abroad and in the region it should be clear to all that CARICOM has to stand together. Recall that CARICOM needs to focus more on trade as a means of implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

I have often wondered whether CARICOM ministers actually understand the importance of the CSME to the region. The focus tends more often than not to be on intra-regional goods trade, and on Trinidad and Tobago’s share of that trade. Trinidad and Tobago was primarily selling petroleum products within the region. The T&T State-owned oil refinery, PetroTrin, closed on November 30. That closure is likely to lead to a reduction of trade within the region from that source.

CARICOM member states are not each other’s principal trading partners. The principal trade partner of CARICOM countries is the United States. The CSME was intended not only to promote trade within CARICOM , but to place CARICOM in a position to increase its external trade as a region by creating the policy framework and infrastructure required. The failure to implement the CSME, to the full extent possible, has meant a failure to establish the policy framework and infrastructure for international trade.

CARICOM has not strengthened its sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) regime, its intellectual property rights regime, and its trade in services regime. There is little uniformity in policies and regulations within CARICOM . If the CSME is to contribute to the region’s trade and development, then heads must be paying attention to the following:

TRADE IN SERVICES

Trade is not just about goods; it is about the export and import of goods and services. Trade in services is particularly important for the region and is contributing a greater share to gross domestic product (GDP). Services include tourism, financial and accounting services (banking, insurance, money transfer); consultancy; business processing; education; transportation; postal and courier; distribution; creative and cultural industries; among others. It also includes movement of people.

Currently, services data is only collected for balance of payments purposes and this data is not disaggregated. Thus CARICOM actually does not know the value and volume of services trade which is conducted within the region or between the region and third countries. Trade in services data is not properly collected in CARICOM as a region or in individual member states.

A reason given in Jamaica for the inability to strengthen services data collection is that the private sector is reluctant to complete the required surveys. This lack of data affects planning and trade negotiations. Therefore, the implementation of the CARICOM services regime needs to be accelerated.

Antigua and Barbuda is the lead responsible for the services regime in the quasi cabinet.

EXTERNAL TRADE NEGOTIATIONS

Trade, as we know, makes an important contribution to growth and development. If Caricom’s principal trading partners are outside of the region, then consideration of external trade issues and developing a regional trade agenda/strategy should be important. As the secretary general pointed out, the rules-based multilateral trade system is under threat. Reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is being proposed. The Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) with the USA is up for renewal in 2019. Brexit requires an examination of trade with the UK, the Commonwealth, African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, and the EU27.

CARICOM needs to re-examine trade with Latin America and the Caribbean and its neighbours. CARICOM ‘s trade agenda/strategy has not been reviewed since the suspension of the trade negotiations with Canada in 2015. Much has happened in global trade since then. The lead prime minister responsible for external trade negotiations in the quasi cabinet is Jamaica. A CARICOM trade agenda and strategy need to be formulated at the earliest opportunity.

There should be a mandate coming out of this special heads meeting to address these issues as a priority. The members of the quasi cabinet all need to play their part in driving the CSME implementation. Besides Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Jamaica, others needing to give support, including Grenada, responsible for science and technology as well as information and communications; Dominica responsible for labour, including intra-CARICOM movement of skills; Guyana, responsible for agriculture; St Vincent and the Grenadines responsible for transportation; and Trinidad and Tobago, responsible for Energy and Security.

As demonstrated in cricket, it takes a good, committed, well-managed team to achieve consistent positive results.

 

Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade and politics.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government were challenged to move the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) forward by Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley.

Speaking this morning at the start of their 18th Special Meeting which is focused on the CSME at the Hilton Hotel in Port of Spain, the host Prime Minster posed the question, “if not now, when; if not us, who?”

The two-day meeting is looking at increasing the rate of implementation of the CSME and making sure the benefits are available for Community nationals. The meeting is being chaired by the current chairman of CARICOM, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness.

 The first item on today’s agenda was an engagement between the CARICOM Heads of Government and representatives from the regional Private and Labour sectors. This encounter was the brainchild of the lead Head of Government for the CSME in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet, the Hon Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados.

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