CARICOM heads of government have agreed several measures intended to breathe life into the stalled regional integration process. However, doubts remain whether all member states will implement what was agreed or as they wish, encourage greater citizen support and awareness.
Meeting at a specially convened summit held in Port of Spain on 3-4 December, CARICOM Heads of Government issued a declaration intended to enhance free movement and address some of the issues holding back completion of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) first agreed in 2006.
In their ‘St Ann’s Declaration’ CARICOM heads said that they remained ‘committed to take action at a national level to advance the regional integration agenda’ and were ‘determined to ensure the equitable distribution …. of the gains realised through the regional integration process’.
However, it remains unclear how many states will implement measures of direct relevance to ordinary citizens and businesses relating to the free movement of labour and the mutual recognition of CARICOM companies registered in other member states.
Among the matters on which Caribbean Heads of Government agreed, were to:
- Amend the Treaty of Chaguaramas to establish a formalised, structured mechanism to facilitate dialogue between the private sector and labour and CARICOMs various Councils;
- Finalise the regime that permits citizens and companies of the Community to participate in the Public Procurement processes in Member States by 2019;
- Deliver the steps necessary to enable the mutual recognition of CARICOM companies across all member states;
- Develop appropriate recommendations for a regime of sanctions against members states as allowed for under the Treaty of Chaguaramas;
- Move towards full free movement within the next three years between member states ‘so willing’;
- Reinforce security mechanisms to enable the safe implementation of the free movement of CARICOM nationals;
- Examine the re-introduction of the single domestic space for passengers in the region so that eventually there would be a single security check for direct transit passengers on multi-stop intra-Community flights;
- Take steps to deepen cooperation and collaboration between the Secretariats of CARICOM and the OECS to avoid duplication and maximise the utility of scarce resources;
- Hold a special session on air and maritime transportation at the next CARICOM heads meeting in February 2019 to focus on how ‘the resolution of issues might contribute to regional integration;
- Establish a restructured high-level Commission on the Economy to advise on a regional growth agenda under the leadership of Professor Avinash Persaud.
Speaking to the media at the end of the summit about the decisions reached, the Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley was optimistic noting that at the meeting there “was the absolute commitment to push past …. Issues, and put progress on the regional project ahead of any division”.
“These are times which cause us not to know which side of the bed we are going to wake up on because of the difficulties related to trade wars and the rise of nationalism in the world today. We have therefore, against that background, to create stability and to be able to create predictability for our citizens wherever possible. We hope that by the actions that we have taken today that we have gone a long way towards giving Caribbean citizens the comfort that their leaders are taking this issue seriously,” Mottley told journalists.
However, in the light of statements made earlier in the year about the importance of the meeting, the participation of just 6 out of 14 heads of government in the summit suggests that implementation of what was agreed may be slow in coming.
Reflecting this at the start of the meeting, Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, who has been instrumental in focusing attention on the importance of addressing CARICOM’s failings through the commissioning of the Golding report, described as “disappointing”, the number of Heads of Government present.”
Given the pivotal nature of the discussions, he said, “the signal of commitment, is again, less than optimal.”
As a result, uncertainty remains about which states will implement and when not least because no timelines were published as to when the actions proposed were intended to be delivered: an idea central to the reforms promoted by the CARICOM Review Commission, chaired by Jamaica’s former Prime Minister, Bruce Golding.
Following the summit, it became clear that other issues not covered by the communique had also been discussed. In the press conference that followed Prime Minister Motley said that CARICOM leaders had expressed disappointment at the flow of information within the 15-member grouping and had agreed to a working group to examine the situation.
The final communique can be read at https://today.caricom.org/2018/12/04/st-anns-declaration-on-csme/
and the press conference can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P1ooDKFtuc
The members of the restructured Commission on the Economy advising Member States on Growth are: Chester Humphrey; Damien King; Georgy McGuire; Roger McLean; Wendell Samuel; P B Scott; Therese Turner-Jones; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; and the former WTO Director General, Pascal Lamy.
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