JIS News

CARICOM must become a well integrated and co-ordinated grouping, if it is to get maximum benefit from the current round of trade negotiations of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Cotonou Agreement.
This was suggested recently by Dr. James Mathis of the Department of International Law, at the Amsterdam Law School of the University of Amsterdam. He was speaking on the topic, ‘Competition and Regulatory Policies in the WTO: Implications of a Multilateral Competition Policy Framework’, at the Shirley Playfair Commemorative Lecture, hosted by the Jamaica Fair Trading Commission (FTC), at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
Speaking to JIS News on how small island states can best benefit from the current round of trade negotiations, Dr. Mathis said: “Looking at the self interest of countries, I think the regional groupings that go on to become real territories, such as CARICOM and COMESA in East Africa, and go further to become a Customs Union, such as the European Union, this gives them power that is equivalent to the size of the region”.
The interest of individual countries of CARICOM is co-ordinated by the Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM) at the FTAA negotiations, even though each member state is represented. This means that they must have a well co-ordinated approach, whereby the RNM consults with the individual member states and vice versa.
Dr. Mathis said that CARICOM must go for deeper integration, such as the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which he said would drive the integration process further, so that CARICOM could become a Customs Union, and negotiate on behalf of its members, as if it was one territory.
Currently, because of its very high degree of integration – single currency, movement of labour, and now one visa – which was brought about by the Treaty of Rome in the 1950s and more recently, the Treaty of Venice, the European Union is the only grouping that is regarded as a Customs Union at the WTO. This means that they can negotiate under one very strong voice, given the collective population size of its members.
At the WTO, each member of CARICOM negotiates on its own, with only four of them in a real position to do so – Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, and now Haiti – as members of WTO. “But when CARICOM is fully integrated, it can negotiate under one voice, as if it was one territory, combining the population of all member states, resulting in greater negotiating power, particularly at the level of the WTO,” said Dr. Mathis.
The current round of trade negotiations, which commenced this month, has come against the background of other talks, regarding CARICOM’s interests in other trading blocks, such as the FTAA, and its membership in that body. The aim of the negotiations is to reach an agreement that would come into force in 2005.

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