CARICOM Heads agree timetable for measures to enhance integration

CARICOM heads of Government meeting at their annual summit in Montego Bay, Jamaica, have agreed to several actions intended to accelerate the full implementation of the Single Market and Economy (CSME).

According to Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, the body’s pro tempore Chairman, the decisions taken will mean that:

  • Prime Ministers will give greater focus to advancing support for measures to make the CSME more competitive, including an agreed investment policy and investment code, an incentive regime, an integrated capital market, and securities legislation
  • The Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CSME will now meet quarterly beginning in September in Barbados “to give urgency to the implementation process”.
  • A special meeting of CARICOM Heads in November in Trinidad will focus solely on the CSME.

“As leaders, we expect that these matters will be ready for full adoption at the 40th meeting of Conference in July 2019. These mechanisms will enable strong support measures for a successful CSME,” Prime Minister Holness told a press conference.

However, scepticism remains in much of the region about CARICOM’s ability to deliver on what has been agreed. In response to journalists’ questions, Holness denied that this was yet another decision to ‘kick the can down the road’ and that regional leaders had dithered. “We left here today with major achievements which advanced the Caribbean Single Market and move us towards the CARICOM Single Market and Economy,” he said.

In his remarks, Holness stressed that he was committed to making CARICOM work and to taking decisive action. “I am resolved as the Chair to ensure that we take action. We must get things done to make a difference. We are resolved to now begin to implement the decisions we take to improve the perceptions, especially amongst our youth,” he said. “The leaders have a duty to bring together the Community, and I think that what we say today is that the leaders were prepared to go back, consult, debate, and then meet again.”

Speaking about the decisions taken on the CSME, Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, who was attending her first summit since being elected, noted that prior to the summit the Council of Finance Ministers (COFAP) had agreed that the integration of capital markets, a unified financial services architecture and a common policy for investment were critical to making the single market work more effectively for those who want to invest across the region.

Mottley said that she would like to believe that Barbados citizens with collective savings of just under US$4.5bn could have the opportunity to gain a larger return if there were investment opportunities in jurisdictions across the region. She said that the summit had mandated that such agreements must be in place for signature before July 2019.

Free movement

In a move aimed at trying to lessen inter-regional tension and citizen scepticism over migration and free movement, Caribbean Heads agreed that all member states will have in place by August 1, 2018, procedures on the refusal of entry of CARICOM nationals travelling across the region.

Noting that the refusal of entry to CARICOM nationals “is a matter of great importance to many”, Holness said the procedures will guide border officials on how they should treat nationals who are refused entry. It was also agreed that a harmonised form will be used by the country’s Immigration when refusing entry.

In addition, six CARICOM states – Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada, Suriname, Jamaica and Haiti – signed a Protocol on Contingent Rights allowing for persons who work across the region to have their spouses and children join them in those jurisdictions.

Overseas territories

In an indication of rapidly changing relations between the Overseas Territories in the region and the independent Caribbean, CARICOM Heads gave their full support to the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands in their fight with the UK Parliament over the establishment public company ownership registers.

CARICOM backed the territories concerned, noting that the ‘unilateral action (by the UK Parliament) to legislate in areas of domestic policy constitutionally devolved to the territories without the consent and involvement of their people’ …. ‘ran counter to an alternative arrangement to public registers earlier negotiated and agreed with the UK government’.

In addition to the attendance of the Premiers of the BVI and Cayman in Montego Bay, also present was the Premier of Bermuda, David Burt, who made a presentation about his territory’s regulatory platform for fintech and the ways in which it can be used to increase government efficiency. Reports in the Bermuda media suggest that CARICOM heads expressed interest in regional collaboration to take advantage of Bermuda’s use of ICT to improve efficiency in healthcare, social insurance and licensing.

Other decisions

Other significant decisions taken at the summit covered in the final communiqué include:

  • A recommendation that the region participates at the highest level possible at the Meeting in Poland in December of the UN Conference of Parties (COP 24) on climate change. CARICOM subsequently issued a Declaration on Climate Change providing guidance on the regional position.
  • Recognition that there is an urgent need to strengthen security networks across the region to improve information and intelligence sharing and the better use of ICT applications to tackle more effectively illicit trafficking in narcotics, firearms, trans-border criminal activities and cyber-attacks.

In Montego Bay particular concern was expressed about the inflow of guns from outside the and Member States were encouraged to urgently update all legal instruments required to combat crime and enhance regional security.

Cuban and Chilean Presidents address CARICOM

Attending a part of the summit as a guest, Cuba’s President, Miguel Diaz Canel, outlined to CARICOM Heads of Government several ways in which relations with Cuba might deepen.

On trade and investment, and in reference to the recently agreed but still to be fully implemented Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the CARICOM and Cuba, he said that such regional trade instruments must continue to be strengthened. He spoke about the need to do more to develop multi-destination tourism and to “make systematic” use of the region’s “few but powerful, shared advantages”. He also backed CARICOM’s rejection of their inclusion “in unilateral lists of alleged non-cooperative (tax) jurisdictions”; said that the region had to find joint responses to the challenges of climate change and needed fair, special and differentiated treatment; and said that Cuba supported “without hesitation, the legitimate demand for compensation for the horrors of slavery and trafficking”.

Also addressing the summit, the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, said that his country had an interest in entering into negotiations on a free trade agreement with CARICOM. He told CARICOM Heads that his Government was prepared to extend its assistance in building capacity in the areas of trade policy and trade promotion, to strengthen scientific and technical cooperation, and help in mitigating the impact of natural disasters.

Communiqué and reaction

Regional reaction to the summit was mixed.  Some commentators and media houses were prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to CARICOM heads and recognise their desire to try to fast track changes to the CSME in order to make it relevant to ordinary citizens and business. Others however remained concerned about the lack of transparency, the regional body’s propensity to delay delivery, and the continuing failure to publicly address the detailed concerns expressed in the Golding report published earlier this year.

The full summit communiqué is available at https://www.caricom.org/media-center/communications/communiques/communiqu-issued-at-the-conclusion-of-the-thirty-ninth-regular-meeting-of-the-conference-of-heads-of-government-of-the-caribbean-community

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