WASHINGTON D.C — Prime Minister, the Hon Bruce Golding, says there is an urgent need for the United States and the Caribbean to re-engage in discussions relating to trade and development within the region.
“When I speak about the Caribbean, I speak especially about the CARICOM Caribbean, as we are a peculiar group of countries and people that have particular challenges, particular vulnerabilities and particular similarities that separate us from the rest of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) countries,” Mr. Golding said.
He was speaking to delegates at the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Forum on Caribbean Investments and Development, at the IDB’s headquarters on Thursday, June 9.
Mr. Golding said that the CBI was designed about 30 years ago, at a time when things were so vastly different, when the trading arrangements of the world were different.
“Much has changed. We now have a multilateral based trading system that cuts across the direction in which the CBI has sought to go. The CBI has its own deficiencies, in terms of the range of products that it provides, in terms of the difficulties perforated because of certain of the rules that have been imposed,” he said.
The Prime Minister noted that over the past ten years’ exports from CARICOM countries to the United States have grown by five percent per year, but even that has been outstripped by the increase in imports from the United States. He pointed out that ten years ago, trade between CARICOM and the United States was about US$3.4 billion, and last year it was US$6.5 billion.
Mr. Golding said that the CBI was not going the way it was intended to, and he suggested that it is time for CARICOM and the United States to become engaged once again.
“This engagement cannot simply be through the free trade agreement, since the free trade agreement is not a panacea as free traders proclaim it to be. We, as the CARICOM, face difficulties because we don’t have the capacity to trade, as we are not equally yoked. We have seen from the CBI experience that, even when the gates are opened, we are still unable to enter because we have not achieved the competitiveness to allow us to penetrate those markets that are open to us,” he said.
Mr. Golding suggested going back to the drawing board and designing a new trading arrangement between Caribbean states, but particularly between CARICOM and the United States.
He stated that CARICOM has encountered some resistance in its trading negotiations and, if the arrangement is to be beneficial and assist CARICOM countries to grow and develop, it has to be more than about trade.
“What CARICOM needs is not a one-legged stool, it needs a chair that must rest on three legs, trade being one, but investment and development being the other two. These are the essential components that have to be built into any sort of trading arrangement between CARICOM and the United States,” he explained.
He observed that CARICOM states have been reluctant to embark upon the necessary negotiations, because they are suffering from trade negotiations fatigue.
Mr. Golding was in Washington D.C. on a five-day official visit, which started on Sunday, June 5.
While in Washington he held bilateral talks with U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, had high-level discussions with eight members of the United States Senate (Foreign Relations Committee member, Robert Mendez, who hosted the meeting; Senator Majority Leader, Harry Reid; Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Frank Lavtenberg; Senators Christopher Coons, Benjamin Cardin, Marco Rubio, Robert Casey and Tom Udall.
He also held talks with the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Naoyuki Shinohara; President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Moreno; and President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick.
He lectured at the prestigious Brookings Institute, had lunch and held talks with a wide range of high-level US based investors, and attended a reception held in his honour and hosted by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Audrey Marks, where he had an opportunity to meet with a wide cross-section of Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica. He also launched the IDB art exhibition, which featured works of nine Jamaican artists.
By Derrick A. Scott, JIS Reporter