Jun 24, 2018 Last Updated 6:30 PM, Jun 21, 2018

The House of Representatives on Tuesday (June 19) adopted the Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks.

The Commission was charged with evaluating the effects of Jamaica’s membership in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on the country’s economic growth and development, with particular reference to trade in goods and services, investment, international competitiveness and job creation.

In his address to the House, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, said that since tabling the report in February of this year, the entire region has awaited the Government’s final position on the document.

“I think it only appropriate that they be granted the requisite bipartisan consideration, so that they may be duly shared with my CARICOM colleagues for discussion at the upcoming Regular Meeting of the Conference in July,” the Prime Minister said.

He informed the Lower House that the Report has 33 key recommendations, which boldly project a way forward in addressing aspects of regional relationships that are not fully meeting their intended objectives.

“Our extensive review of the report has identified recommendations at various stages of readiness for implementation, including some that may not be within our reach at this time for various reasons,” Mr. Holness said.

Among the recommendations in the report are full free movement of people throughout the Community, subject only to exclusions for security and public health reasons; harmonisation of customs laws, regulations and procedures, especially in the treatment of perishable goods; and agreed protocols on sanitary and phytosanitary standards and procedures.

On the matter of integrated capital markets, the Prime Minister said it is believed that an agreed protocol for cross-border regulatory cooperation is essential to any custom union.

“In this regard, we support the view that this recommendation is attainable within the next three years. However, we are also mindful that many member states are currently at various stages of reform to bring their regulatory landscape in line with institutional standards. Consequently, there may be need to apply some flexibility with respect to the timeline for full implementation by all member states,” Mr. Holness said.

 

On the right of establishment, as well as the services market, Mr. Holness said these recommendations are well-founded, as member states participating in the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) have an obligation to remove restrictions on the right of establishment and the right to provide services across the region.

“In relation to the right of establishment, all member states are to pass the requisite Regulation to facilitate the movement of managerial, technical and supervisory staff. Jamaica is also assessing its implementation of the regime, to ensure that no further restrictions exist. Jamaica has enacted the Caribbean Community Establishment, Services, Capital and Movement of Community Nationals Act 2004,” Mr. Holness noted.

“From a legal perspective, the Commission’s proposal… on the full free movement of persons throughout the Community, which is subject only to exclusions for security and public health reasons, is quite feasible and consistent with the rulings of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ),” he added.

The Prime Minister explained that it will now be a matter for the organs and bodies of CARICOM, in consultation with the respective members states, to decide whether these goals may be attainable within a five-year time period.

As it relates to the removal of all non-tariff barriers to trade, Mr. Holness said CARICOM has done considerable work in its efforts to implement a myriad of harmonisation protocols and policies to minimise obstacles to trade in this area.

These, he said, include the establishment of various regulatory mechanisms, namely the Caribbean Agriculture, Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) and CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).

“Notwithstanding the existence of these mechanisms, as well as the various monitoring frameworks, there are still significant challenges being experienced as manifested in ongoing disputes among member states,” the Prime Minister argued.

For his part, Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, also welcomed the report, noting that it is an “extensive and representative national effort,” which involved widespread consultations, not only within Jamaica but across the Caribbean.

“I think it represents an important and good starting point, and what I would propose is that it become the template that we should ask the assembled Heads of Government of CARICOM to utilise, as they collectively embrace the need to move forward to implement the single market and economy, and to review other aspects of the CARICOM experience,” Dr. Phillips said. (Jamaica Information Service Press Release)

Is the architecture on which the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) was built appropriate today? Is the CSME overly ambitious? Is there political will and courage to continue the progress on the CSME? Why is there a deficit in the implementation of decisions?

Is the Region taking account of the global context? Are we ready for the changes that are coming? Is the capacity of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States adequate to put in place the infrastructure necessary for the CSME?

These were some of the questions that were raised on Friday as the Stakeholder Consultation on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) began at the Ramada Princess Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana.

See more photos here

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, and Director, Economics Department at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr. Justin Ram set the tone of the two-day Consultation. They positioned the CSME as critical to the sustainable development of the Community and honed in on implementation as one of the major elements that needed to be tackled.

“The major focus should be on implementation”, Dr. Ram advised.

He added that new ways and a greater level of accountability needed to be found to tackle the implementation deficit. There also needed to be planning laboratories, and plans and budgets had to be communicated to the regional populace to elicit feedback and buy-in, he underscored.

Ambassador LaRocque said that while there was progress on the regional flagship programme, the agenda needed to move along much faster.

The time it was taking to get things done was a cost to the Region’s private sector and to the credibility of the Community, he pointed out. He advised that regional positions had to be adopted rather than national stances. He said the Consultation needed to produce concrete recommendations to put to Ministers and Heads of Government

A high level discussion on fixing the CSME featured presentations by Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves and former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr. Bruce Golding. (More details to follow).

The Consultation is being held with the support of the CDB.

The well-attended opening session that was live-streamed drew reactions from persons across the Region and in the Diaspora who weighed in on what they considered the challenges to the CSME and regional integration.

Panels throughout the day examined matters such as what the CSME objectives and priorities should be and the private sector and labour. Tomorrow, the Consultation will focus on free movement of persons and public awareness.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat this week engaged regional institutions based in Barbados on the processes for Free Movement of persons under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Representatives from the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF), the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), and the Caribbean Export Development Agency among others met at the CSME Unit of the CARICOM Secretariat in Haggatt Hall yesterday, 7 March, 2018.

The half-day meeting discussed the right of CARICOM nationals to enter another Member State; the right of six months’ automatic stay, the issuing of the CARICOM Skills Certificates, the right of establishment, and the provision of services among other areas. The exceptions to such rights and the CARICOM Complaints procedure were also addressed.

Some of the exchanges focused on monitoring CSME implementation and the need for increased advocacy and outreach on the CSME at the national level.

The exercise is part of the Secretariat’s on-going efforts to sensitise persons within the Community on the CSME and regional integration.

The Caribbean Community’s development of a Single Market and Economy has been given a boost with the launch of four new on-line platforms aimed at promoting trade and improving the ease of doing business.

The CARICOM Secretariat, with support from the European Union, on Monday launched the CARICOM Online Companies Registries; Labour Market Information System;  Community Public Procurement Notice Board; and the CARREX Platform and On-Line Public Portal, at a ceremony in Barbados.

The CARICOM Online Companies Registries provide a region-wide electronic platform for online name searches and name reservation,  business and company registration, public access to records, e-payment and e-signature, among other features. It will also facilitate a better overview of the prevailing business climate in the Region, helping for example, to identify areas of saturation, those with growth potential, and even the role of the informal economy.

The EU’s Dr Stephen Boyce, in remarks at the launch, said at least one recent high profile example illustrates the critical importance of this platform.

“A few years ago, the inflight magazine on LIAT was rebranded as LIME. This was just a few weeks before a telecommunications giant in the region acquired a similar moniker.  The result was a further rebranding to Zing to avoid any conclusion. A regional register would have avoided this,” he noted.

The development of this platform required automating the more than half of the national company registries in CARICOM which were still paper based, upgrading those already automated, and providing a functioning web software/application information system.

With the Labour Market Information Systems there is now a central depository for data on the labour markets in participating CARICOM Member States. This allows for better matching of skills with available positions at the regional level, and will thus facilitate movement of skills in the region and better management of labour migration within the Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Additionally, the launch was told that the system can guide the education system, helping it to meet market demands through academic, technical and professional development programmes designed to build and repurpose those already in the workforce and those about to enter.

The Community Public Procurement Notice Board should help both the private sector and governments by facilitating the exchange of information on procurement opportunities and contract awards. Governments, in particular can, through improved coordination of their public procurement exercises, maximise the potential economies of scale. Suppliers, including small and medium enterprises, can access opportunities both in their national space and engage in joint-bidding with other regional suppliers for opportunities across the region.  The platform can also facilitate the capture of statistics on specs, pricing and other areas which can be used for future tenders and budgeting.

The CARICOM Rapid Alert System for Dangerous (non-food) Consumer Goods (CARREX) Platform and On-Line Public Portal should help business-customer relations by serving as a source of public information on dangerous non-food consumer goods that pose serious risks to  the health and safety of consumers.

CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan, in remarks at the Launch, noted that significant strides have been made in advancing the CSME’s regional and sectoral policies but that more is left to the done. 

“These have been enumerated in the CSME Review considered by the Conference of Heads of Government and the Conference has approved the Implementation Plan for the CSME 2017-2019 in line with the CARICOM Strategic Plan which will see work progressing in these areas.”

The EU’s Dr Boyce stressed the need for building resilience in the system across the region:

“During the past three weeks, the path of devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria has reminded us of the fragility of our built infrastructure.  As our brothers and sisters across the region rebuild their lives and livelihoods, attention must also be paid to building a more robust and resilient digital infrastructure. At the regional and national levels, it will be vital to create technology recovery strategies as part of the business continuity planning process.”

Barbados Ambassador to CARICOM Robert “Bobby” Morris, speaking on behalf of the country’s Foreign Minister, stressed the importance of the CSME to regional development.

“The realisation of the CSME is seen as a major item in the advancement of the Caribbean and in recent times the COTED (CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development) and the Conference (of CARICOM Heads of Government)  have had the CSME and Freedom of Movement, in particular, under intense scrutiny in attempts to realise the full benefits of integration for the masses of our people,” he said

More information on the CSME can be found at  -   http://csmeonline.org/

The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is the Community's best response to the inevitable changes in its traditional markets in Europe, the prevalence of economic liberalisation and the emergence of economic blocs, Outgoing CARICOM Chairman, President of Guyana, His Excellency David Granger said Tuesday evening.

Speaking at the opening of the 38th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM at the Grenada Trade Centre in Grand Anse, the President of Guyana said the CSME is still the best vehicle to allow small states like those of CARICOM to compete in the global economy while promoting economic and social development. CARICOM Heads of Governments, who began the first business session of their two-day meeting on Wednesday, were expected to examine the findings of a comprehensive review of the CSME.

Describing the deepening of economic integration by advancing a single market and economy, as the “most ambitious project attempted by the Community,” President Granger said, “It must not become its most ambiguous.”

“The CSME, especially given the present uncertainties facing the Region's international relations, must be accelerated in order to create a single economic space” he said.

“The Community, with a total land area of 462, 352 km2, is larger than Sweden and, if it were a single country, would be the 56th largest in the world. Size matters...", he stressed. Given the accumulative land, the labour, the talent and the capital the Community possessed, it could guarantee food security for its citizens, the Guyanese Head of State posited. Within this context, he bemoaned the Community's annual food import bill, which he said exceeded US$4B. Noting that such a situation was “a notorious indictment,” the outgoing Chairman said non-tariff barriers continued to constrain trade in food. The need was urgent, therefore to re-examine how it can dismantle the non-tariff barriers to trade in agricultural products while generating employment for citizens,” he said. Emphasising the critical importance of removing barriers to foster more efficient intra-regional trade, he said: “Small internal markets consign states to high dependence on external trade. Intraregional trade, therefore, is important. The Caribbean Common Market was established to ensure markets for regional production, inter alia. Intraregional trade provides a basis for increasing national production, augmenting investment and generating employment. The environment is an inescapable economic reality.” As he reflected on his “semester” as Chairman of the Community, President Granger said current international realities provided ample opportunities for the Community to work together to protect vital interests at the levels of citizen, country and the community. Expressing confidence in the future he said, “With such a clear vision and commitment, CARICOM can confront the future with confidence.” The President of Guyana reminded his colleagues to keep citizens at the centre of the Community and to reject “the odious notion of 'statelessness'.” Providing a nexus between the rights of the citizen and the freedom of movement regime of the CSME, he said that the respect of the right of citizens obliged leaders to “dismantle restrictive immigration practices, which impede free movement.” Referencing the original Treaty of Chaguaramas, he said the Founding Fathers envisioned the strengthening of “bonds among the people of the Caribbean to fulfill aspirations for "…full employment and improved standards of work and living...” He also recalled that the Charter of Civil Society of the Caribbean Community established the respect for every citizen's fundamental human rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person. Therefore, he stated: “The perverse notion of a ‘stateless’ person is anathema to the Community’s concept of human dignity. The Community must never cease condemning inhuman treatment meted out to Caribbean citizens in the Dominican Republic or anywhere else.” The Guyanese Head of State said: “The Caribbean, our home, must be secure. It must remain a 'zone of peace' through our unstinting solidarity in defence of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of member states.” At the same time he said that security cooperation, under the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACs) and through international agreements such as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), which have helped to keep citizens safe, were not sufficient in an age of international terror. Underscoring the importance of advancing the Roadmap for a Single ICT Space, he said it could help the Region to “straddle the 3,200 km2 of sea space, which separates Nassau in the north from Paramaribo in the south, through information and communications technology.”

Secretary General of the Caribbean Community, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, is of the view that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is still the most viable way for sustainable development in the Region. He made this disclosure at the Opening Ceremony of the Thirty Eighth Regular Meeting of the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government on Tuesday evening in Grenada. He said the task now was to ensure the private sector fully utilises its provisions.

“We must move to strengthen the enabling environment to support their efforts. Trade facilitation and the ease of doing business at the regional level are at least equally important as fiscal incentives. We must come to a conclusion on issues such as government procurement, harmonisation of customs rules and regulations and transparent harmonised sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

Citing results from an Inter-American Development Bank study, the CARICOM Secretary-General explained that if the Region addressed challenges associated with regional transportation, inter-regional trade could be doubled. This, he said would have a positive effect on competitiveness and external trade as well as Member States’ ability to attract investment.  He also said that a new CARICOM Multilateral Air Services agreement – which will be an item on the Heads’ agenda – could result in reduced freight rates and passenger airfares and increase air transport services, leading to more options for consumers and expanded inter-regional tourism.

Another topic on the agenda for the Heads of Government will be the Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy. Secretary-General LaRocque said the Commission on Human Resource Development would present the Strategy, which will address the development of skills for the 21st century economy and society. He said that the important factor in education and training was providing employable skills, opening the mind to identify opportunities and encouraging the process of lifelong learning. According to him, the plan was to have a globally competitive innovative and seamlessly integrated education system for the Region by 2030.

Ambassador LaRocque also advised that an agreement for the establishment of a Caribbean Community Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, which will be headquartered in Barbados, will be open for signature at the Meeting.

Turning to the matter of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Secretary-General lamented the fact that the lifestyle and choices being made by the citizens of the Region were causing incidents of NCDs to reach almost epidemic proportions. He noted that while NCDs affected persons individually, there were repercussions that had adverse social and economic effects, regionally. As the Region commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Port-of-Spain Declaration on NCDs, He urged the Heads of Government to reassert their leadership and encourage regional citizens to accept responsibility for their lifestyles and what they consumed, especially since there remained areas of significant concern with regard to risk factors for NCDs, particularly childhood obesity.

Ambassador LaRocque also used his remarks to congratulate Ms. Shirley Pryce who was honoured with the Triennial Award for Women. He said the award recognised an outstanding CARICOM woman who had made a significant contribution to the economic development of the Caribbean.

“Ms. Pryce has earned this award through championing the rights of domestic workers in the region and around the globe. She is a true Ambassador and a global leader who is making a difference in the lives of so many women and marginalised workers! Congratulations Miss Pryce.”

Speaking to the matter of regional security, the Secretary-General said significant progress had been made on regional security instruments since the last meeting of the Conference. This, he said, would add to the arsenal in the battle to secure the Region. He also expressed hope that a CARICOM Arrest Warrant Treaty, which was approved by the Legal Affairs Committee (LAC), would be opened for signature at the Meeting.

In closing, the Secretary General did not miss the opportunity to invite everyone to Barbados for CARIFESTA XIII from 17 August to witness what he called the creative talents of our people and the bedrock of the Region’s creative industries.

“Come and have some fun. Come and celebrate the Caribbean civilisation”, Ambassador LaRocque said.

The Summit will conclude on Thursday 6 July, 2017.

 

 

 

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