As CARICOM celebrates 37 years since inking the Chaguaramas Agreement, the regional grouping is stepping back to “take stock” of its most significant attempt to deepen cooperation – the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
The establishment of a Single Market was a critical juncture in the evolution of CARICOM since it was established in 1973 and, as the region’s leaders meet in Montego Bay for the 31st Heads of Government meeting, which starts Sunday (July 4), progress under the CSME is to be reviewed.
In 2008, the Heads mandated that a comprehensive audit be carried out to look at progress under the CARICOM Single Market, as well as highlight challenges and suggest ways for addressing them.
Assistant Secretary General, Trade and Economic Cooperation, at the CARICOM Secretariat, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, says a team was set up and a report submitted to senior CARICOM Government officials in 2009. The report was the subject of a regional public consultation in Barbados the same year.
Ambassador LaRocque says the recommendations of the audit are to be considered by the Heads in Montego Bay.
Among the findings of the audit were that: the single market aspect of the CSME is in fact operational; most of the legal actions necessary to give effect to the Single Market are in place; the structures necessary for implementation of the CSME are in place, but in varying degrees of operation; and that most of the mechanisms to ensure that citizens can exercise their rights under the CSME are in place.
However, Ambassador LaRocque feels that an area of weakness, which needs to be addressed, is communication.
“It’s interesting to note that when we had the regional consultations, a lot of the information about the work that we were doing, in terms of the CSME, was not well known and it was pointed out that that was something that we needed to address at the national level, in terms of keeping our constituents apprised of the work that we are doing and the various services,” he says.
The CSME is the product of the Grande Anse Declaration, and Work Programme for the Advancement of the Integration Movement in which Heads of Government expressed their determination to work toward establishing a single market and economy.
The CSME is intended to benefit the people of the Caribbean region by improving opportunities to produce and sell their goods and services, and to attract investment by creating one large market among the participating member states.
The main objectives of the CSME are full use of labour and full exploitation of the other factors of production, that is, natural resources and capital. It also aims to achieve competitive production, leading to greater variety and quantity of products and services to trade with other countries. It is expected that these objectives will in turn provide improved standards of living and work and sustained economic development for CARICOM countries.
The region’s susceptibility to global economic shocks was highlighted during the current global economic crisis, which also brought into focus the importance of deepening regional integration and trade. The loss of preferential access and the competitiveness of the global markets, also mean CARICOM countries may have to rely on their neighbours even more.
Economic Advisor to the CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr. Maurice Odle, believes the post-crisis economy will be even more competitive than the pre-crisis. He says that during next week’s meeting, the Heads will be presented with strategies for ensuring the region is not left behind, among them a suggestion for increasing regional trade.
“We have to intensify the regional integration process.Perhaps if we were trading more among ourselves and investing more among ourselves, we might have been a little more cushioned from the external shocks that descended upon us from the developed world,” he surmises.
Dr. Odle also proposes that the region seeks new markets for their products in emerging economies, such as Brazil, rather than rely on the traditional ones.
“Our economy is tied to the mature economies of the United States and Europe, in which it is forecast that the rate of growth will be pretty slow for the next five [to] 10 years. So, we somehow have to realign our economies, gradually I suppose, away from total dependence on Europe and the United States and more towards trading and investing with the rest of the world,” he says.
Ambassador LaRocque says the regional Heads are to receive a report on actions taken to operationalise the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA). The Agency was given the green light in Dominica, at the 21st Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in March, and inaugurated in Suriname a week later.
CAHFSA is expected to facilitate greater trade in agricultural products within the community. Its operations are seen as vital to fulfilling the provisions of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which called for the establishment of effective Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary regime and for the harmonisation of laws, administrative practices and procedures in respect of agriculture.
“We have been mandated to look at some elements of the agreement which might need tweaking. Probably some minor adjustments to allow the CAHFSA to operate much more smoothly.But, more importantly, we have to seek to mobilise resources for CAHFSA,” Ambassador LaRocque says.
He states that the Secretariat has begun engaging development partners, such as the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), for help in properly operationalising the Agency.
The 31st Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will begin on Sunday, July 4, in Montego Bay. Heads of Government from all 15 CARICOM states and Associate Member states, and other delegates and specially invited guests, including the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, are expected to attend.