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JIS News

Come January 23, 2006 the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) becomes the newest trade bloc, joining the approximately 194 other trade blocs in the fight to ensure market survival. These trade blocs enjoy special and differential treatment amongst themselves, in addition to the removal of trade barriers within the bloc and also have a common trade tariff for third countries.
In essence, regional trade blocs provide a protective hedge from the erosive winds of globalization, acting as a trade union protecting its member countries. Benefits include, a unified and louder voice in world trade negotiations and the economies of scale accrued to larger manufacturing and trading entities. In keeping with the global trend, CARICOM in January will inaugurate the CARICOM Single Market (CSM), here in Jamaica.
The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), which looks toward full implementation in 2008, seeks to go further than establishing a free trade area (FTA). It seeks to establish a Single Market and Economy, which will ultimately mean not only the removal of tariffs and special treatment amongst each other, but also harmonization of tax and social regimes for example. To achieve this goal, CARICOM has earmarked US$70 million to be used over a 10-year period.
As the gradual removal of traditional preferential trading arrangements with the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Community (EU) under the current World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime indicates, the CSME is even now more than ever, a vital organ for the survival of the Caribbean market.
The CARICOM Member States – Montseratt, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, The Bahamas and Haiti – have been aware of this reality since as early as 1965 when the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) was crafted by the Premiers of Barbados, British Guiana and the Chief Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. As the integration drive deepened, CARICOM was formed out of the1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas.
In 1989 at Grand Anse, Grenada, the decision was taken to further deepen the integration process by establishing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). It was also there that the Treaty of Chaguaramas was revised.
In essence, the CSME was birthed from the nine protocols or amendments to the Treaty negotiated at that meeting.
The nine protocols cover: 1. Institutions and structures2. Establishment, Services and Capital3. Industrial Policy4. Trade Policy 5. Agricultural Policy 6. Transport Policy7. Disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors8. Competition policy, consumer protection and dumping and subsidies9. Disputes Settlement
These nine protocols constitute the legal framework that establishes the CSME and therefore indicate necessary areas for integration.
As Senator Delano Franklyn, State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade told JIS News, these nine areas, which are further broken down into specific areas, have so far generated around 350 legal instruments to facilitate integration. Also, there has to be integration on the following areas, among others:
1. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) – launched in April 20052. The CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality3. National Standards and Competition Authorities4. Free movement of persons, services, goods and capital5. The transference of social security benefits (under free movement)6. Right of establishment for CARICOM-owned companies to establish and operate business in any CARICOM Member State7. Public education
Three important organs/councils of the CSME are: the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), made up of CARICOM Ministers responsible for agriculture, industry, tourism, trade and transportation; the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD); and the Council of Finance and Planning (COFAP), made up of CARICOM Finance Ministers.
CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr. Edwin Carrington tells JIS News that CARICOM is “a community which involves economic integration, foreign policy co-ordination and functional co-operation”. Since the greater economic integration under the Single Economy is earmarked for 2008, whilst Single Market integration is set for January 2006, there is now a greater focus on areas for market integration.
As the CARICOM Secretary General announced in his 2005 year in review, much of the preparatory work for market integration has been achieved, thus signaling a January 23 signing of the CSM in Jamaica.Senator Franklyn also tells JIS News that individual CARICOM Member States have specific areas of responsibilities, for which Prime Ministers give reports at the CARICOM Ministerial meetings.
“Guyana has agriculture; St. Lucia has justice and governance; St. Kitts and Nevis has health; Jamaica has external trade relations negotiations, with Prime Minister P.J. Patterson being the CARICOM spokesperson for the FTAA, and Trinidad and Tobago has security, for example,” the Senator outlines.In addition, Belize has responsibility for sustainable development, which includes environmental concerns; Antigua and Barbuda has responsibility for services, and Barbados has lead responsibility for the CSME.
Because of its internal political situation, Haiti has, for the most part, been outside of the ambit of CARICOM activities. Bahamas, although a CARICOM Member State, is not a signatory to the CSME.